Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, right, drives against Utah Jazz’s Alec Burks (10) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo)
CLEVELAND, December 17 (AP): LeBron James’ numbers have done more than move the Cavaliers near the top of the Eastern Conference. He also has placed himself squarely in the discussion to win his fifth Most Valuable Player award.
James had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his 60th career triple-double Cleveland beat the short-handed Utah Jazz 109-100 on Saturday night
James had his fifth triple-double of the season and third in his last four games, passing Larry Bird for sixth on the career list. James had 10 points in the fourth quarter, was 9 of 15 from the field and 10 of 10 at the foul line.
James has been playing at an extraordinary level all season, prompting the MVP discussion. With his 33rd birthday approaching, he’s showing no signs of age.
“I feel good,” James said. “I mean, this is my 15th year, but this is one of the best years I’ve had as far as how I feel and I want to continue that. I want to kind of try to break the mold just for the next generation, just take the narrative out of, ‘You’re past your prime when you hit 31,’ or ‘You’re past your prime in your 12th year in the league,’ or whatever the case may be.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said following the game he discussed resting James in Sunday night’s game at Washington. His star player’s simple reply: “Nope.”
Cleveland has won 17 of 18 overall and 11 straight at Quicken Loans Arena.
Center Rudy Gobert (sprained ligament and bone bruise in left knee) and forward Derrick Favors (left eye laceration) were out for Utah. Both were injured during Friday night in a win in Boston.
Rookie Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 26 points, making 10 of 15 from the field. Utah made 17 of 34 3-point attempts.
Kevin Love added 15 points for the Cavaliers.
James scored six straight points after Utah cut the lead to 102-97 with four minutes left.
James scored or assisted on each of Cleveland’s first 13 points. A left-handed dunk off a lob pass from Jeff Green on a fast break late in the first quarter brought the crowd to its feet.
Korver scored 12 points, and Green had 11. Rookie Cedi Osman scored a career-high 10 points, including five in the fourth quarter.
Gobert had an MRI on Saturday and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. Favors had six stitches after being hit with an elbow against Boston and could return Monday.
Mitchell is Utah’s leading scorer and kept his team in the game while playing against his childhood idol.
“I’ve looked up to him my whole life, so the whole thing is crazy,” Mitchell said. “The first time I was matched up with him, I was like, ‘Wow.’”