PHILADELPHIA (AP) – LeBron James needed one simple slam to hit another major milestone.
James became the youngest player to reach 25,000 career points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers past the winless Philadelphia 76ers 107-100 on Monday night.
“It just means I’ve played with a lot of great teammates, a lot of great coaches,” James said. “I’ve been around some great groups and I’ve been able to reap the benefits. It’s a cool thing. I’ve got more work to do but it’s pretty cool to see where you’re able to kind of stop and look at it.”
James had 22 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds and rallied the Cavs in the second half against a scrappy Philly team that had built a 15-point lead. James, a two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, and the rest of the Eastern Conference champions had enough to push back the undermanned Sixers.
James scored the milestone basket on an alley-oop dunk with 8:07 left in the fourth quarter. He became the sixth active player with 25,000 points and the 20th overall, joining Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett, Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce of the Clippers.
James reached 25,000 career points – the dunk gave him 25,001 – at 30 years, 307 days. Bryant held the mark at 31 years, 351 days.
James’ biggest feat may have been giving 18,094 76ers fans a reason to cheer, and he was rewarded with a standing ovation.
“They are Sixer fans to death. But they know and they respect the game of basketball,” James said. “To get a standing ovation for reaching that milestone, it was very special.”
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James scored six points in the third quarter to help the Cavaliers start their rally against the 0-3 Sixers. He made 9 of 19 shots and had four steals.
But it was the latest major achievement that stuck with James, who went from Ohio prep star to the No. 1 overall selection by Cleveland in the 2003 draft.
“I’ve been able to stay healthy,” he said. “I’ve been able to play for two great organizations.”
Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick of this year’s draft, fought through foul trouble and led the Sixers with 24 points. Nik Stauskas scored 15 and Nerlens Noel 14.
Okafor and Noel are the building blocks of a franchise years away from contention. Okafor and Noel, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2013 draft, gave the Sixers a peek in the first half at just good they might be one day. Noel and Okafor powered Philadelphia to a 32-18 lead after one and a 54-49 edge at the break.
Good enough for a half, just not a full game, and one more reason for coach Brett Brown to wonder when he’ll see more return on their rebuilding.
“It is more difficult for me to remain positive in year three,” he said.
James and Kevin Love, who scored 15, got the Cavs rolling. Cleveland made 13 of 20 shots in the third to help put the game away.
Mo Williams scored 21 points for the Cavaliers.
Cavaliers: G J.R. Smith left in the first half with a right knee contusion. He averaged 6.3 points through the first three games. … Injured G Kyrie Irving (left kneecap) traveled with the team. He had a heavy workout on Sunday and had no planned workout on Monday, so he made the trip.
Sixers: F Robert Covington briefly left to get his left ankle taped. … Reserve G T.J. McConnell had 12 assists. “When we’re moving and passing and screening and taking shots, I think we’re pretty hard to guard,” McConnell said.
James likes the early returns on the developing Sixers.
“I think they have some young talent,” James said. “I think what hurt them a little is the injury of the big fella from Kansas (Joel Embiid, recovering from foot surgery). I know everyone is kind of waiting around to see how well he can play games.”
Until then, the Sixers will continue taking their lumps.
“Everyone wants instant oatmeal,” James said. “But it’s always a process. You got to put the time in. You got to build things from the ground up. This year, it’s about making a transition.
“It will happen. Hopefully, it will happen when I’m done.”
Okafor became the fourth Sixers rookie to score at least 20 points in two of his first three games. He made 11 of 21 shots and stayed in the game after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half. He helped the Sixers close the first quarter on a 21-3 run.
Cavaliers: Host the New York Knicks on Wednesday.
Sixers: Visit Milwaukee on Wednesday.
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