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Gooden is pretty good in victory



Published: Wed, October 18, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



LeBron James nearly had a triple-double in 30 minutes.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Drew Gooden is shooting over 80 percent from the field. That's absurd -- in any language.

Gooden missed just two shots and scored 21 points, LeBron James nearly had a triple-double in 30 minutes and the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away late in the first half for a 93-67 exhibition win over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.

Gooden, who missed the two previous games with a strained leg muscle, finished 9-of-11 from the field as the Cavaliers had an easy time with one of Europe's top hoop squads. Gooden is 17-of-21 in the two games he has played in the preseason.

Don't fix it

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "We'll just let Drew keep doing what he's doing."

Gooden spent the off-season refining his jumper and working on his game, and the extra time in the gym is paying off.

"I'm in a good rhythm right now," said Gooden, who signed a three-year, 23 million extension with Cleveland this summer. "My off-season program is helping me out. I'm feeling it, I guess."

James had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, Donyell Marshall had 19 points and Larry Hughes 12 for Cleveland, which outscored Maccabi 29-18 in the second quarter and held the reigning Israeli champions to just nine points in the third and 27 after halftime.

Hughes played in only 36 games last season because of an injured middle finger on his right hand, which required two surgeries and caused him to miss routine layups and short jumpers. The finger still isn't fully healed, and when training camp opened, Hughes revealed it may never be 100 percent.

But it's getting better, and so is Hughes' touch. So far, he has shown signs of becoming the kind of dependable scorer the Cavaliers had hoped when they invested 60 million in him as a free agent in the summer of 2005.

Better every day

"I'm getting better every day," Hughes said. "I'm ready to play."

Tied at 32, Hughes drained a 3-pointer and the Cavaliers went on a 23-8 spurt over the final 8:18 of the second quarter to open a 55-40 halftime lead. Hughes hit another 3-pointer in the third to put the Cavaliers up 69-47.

James, whose minutes are being closely monitored by coach Mike Brown, added three blocks before sitting the entire fourth quarter.

Maccabi dropped to 0-4 in its preseason with three of the losses against San Antonio, Phoenix and Cleveland. Last year, Maccabi defeated Toronto 105-103 at the Air Canada Centre, only the second loss by an NBA team since the league sanctioned competition against international teams in 1987.

"I knew they were going to play to win, and we decided to play this game to as opposed to taking a look at all the guys," Brown said.

Rodney Buford, who played at Creighton, led Maccabi with 19 points and former Georgia Tech guard Will Bynum had 13.




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