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NBA Boykins comes up big again against Cavaliers



Published: Sat, February 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cleveland native was at his best, scoring 20 points and leading Denver with eight assists.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- At just 5-foot-5, Earl Boykins still towered over every other player on the floor.

"He played big," Nuggets teammate Andre Miller said. "We were standing around, and he gave us a spark. He did his thing in his hometown."

Boykins scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half to overshadow another Carmelo Anthony-LeBron James matchup, leading Denver to a 106-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

Boykins, the Nuggets' pesky point guard, made the most of his second start this season -- after halftime -- as the Nuggets overcame a 35-point performance from James.

Playing in front of family and friends in his hometown, Boykins scored 12 points in the third quarter and then made several big plays down the stretch for the Nuggets, who trailed by 12 early in the third.

"He was the best player on the court in the third quarter," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "He gave us energy and confidence, and the passes he had for dunks were huge."

An important dunk

None bigger than the one to Nene with 1:01 remaining. With the Nuggets clinging to a 101-97 lead, Boykins drove the lane and around several Cavs defenders to feed Nene for a monster slam. It was Boykins' eighth and most important assist.

James hit a jumper and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added two free throws as the Cavs closed to 103-101 with 20 seconds remaining. But Miller made two free throws, and after James missed a long 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, Greg Buckner's free throw with 9.2 to go closed the scoring.

Last season, Boykins, who twice played with Cleveland in 1999, scored 18 points -- all in the second half -- as the Nuggets spoiled James' home debut as a pro.

"It always feels good to come home and play well and get a victory," Boykins said. "Just icing on the cake."

Kenyon Martin added 19 points, Nene had 17 and Anthony 14 on 5-of-12 shooting for the Nuggets, who outscored the Cavs 25-4 on fast-break points.

Nuggets contain James

On defense, Denver double-teamed James throughout the second half, cutting off his drives and frustrating him into rushing some shots. James got just one rebound and one assist after halftime.

"They got out and ran on us," James said. "They're one of the best fast-break teams in the league, and you can't let them go like that. They wanted the game a little more than we did tonight."

Ilgauskas finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who dropped to 18-5 at home.

James, who added six rebounds and six assists, played without a protective face mask for the first time since Dec. 29 when his left cheek was broken by an accidental elbow from Houston's Dikembe Mutombo. James said he didn't ask the club's medical staff for permission before shedding the mask.

"I don't need anyone to tell me how my face feels," said James, who said he was going to hang the plastic piece in his home. "I hope I don't have to use it again."

Boykins, who came in averaging 11.9 points, scored eight points in the final 1:38 of the third quarter as the Nuggets closed the period with a 6-0 spurt to pull within 75-76.




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