CLEVELAND — LeBron James says he’s never felt better, and it can be argued that the 15th-year pro has never played better.
James posted his second straight triple-double, third in the last four games, fifth this season and 60th of his career Saturday as the Cavaliers defeated the shorthanded but stubborn Utah Jazz 109-100.
James, who will turn 33 on
Dec. 30, finished with 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field and 10-for-10 at the line, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
“This is my 15th season and this is the best I’ve felt in my career,” the four-time league MVP said when asked if he wanted to win the award for a fifth time. “I want it all.”
The Cavs (22-8), who got coach Tyronn Lue his 100th regular-season victory, have now won four straight, 17 of their last 18 and 11 in a row at home, with James averaging a triple-double in those 11 at The Q.
“What he’s doing at his age, his 15th year, is unbelievable,” Lue said.
Rookie Cedi Osman had his best game of the season with a career-high 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting while playing a career-high 23 minutes, including the entire fourth quarter with the game on the line.
“I don’t know how to describe my words right now,” the 22-year-old said. “I feel real lucky that I’m part of this team.”
The Cavs had not developed any rookies since James’ return in 2014, and Osman recognizes that fact and the opportunity he’s being given.
“I’m trying to play my best basketball because of that,” he said. “I’m aware and I know what’s going on. The best part is that my teammates are trusting me and I’m getting confidence from them.”
Kevin Love had 15 points for the Cavs and Kyle Korver (12) and Jeff Green (11) also scored in double figures, but James was once again the story.
All he did Saturday was score 10 points in the fourth quarter, when he went 6-for-6 at the line. James has played in every game this season and is averaging 28.1 points while shooting a career-high from the field (.579) and 3-point line (.407). He’s also averaging 8.4 points and 9.1 assists.
Lue talked to his superstar about sitting out this evening in Washington, but James declined the opportunity to rest.
“I’m just out here to play,” said James, who credited his sons’ AAU games for improving his enthusiasm. “The love of the game is something that’s so pure.”
Said Lue: “He’s in a good rhythm. He’s in a good place. He said he wants to play.”
Utah (14-16), which won in Boston on Friday but lost big men Rudy Gobert (knee sprain) and Derrick Favors (eye laceration) in the process, got 25 points from shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who continued his outstanding rookie season.
Another rookie, Osman, gave the Cavs a big lift in the fourth quarter with five points, two rebounds and a key steal.
“One thing about this league, when you get an opportunity, you start gaining confidence,” James said. “Obviously, that’s what’s been happening with Cedi.
“He’s been playing professional basketball for a long time, just not in the NBA. ... He knows how to play.”
After his scoring pace slowed for the better part of two quarters, James finished the third quarter strong to help Cleveland take an 80-73 lead. The small forward had 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists at that point.
The Cavs’ lead fluctuated from eight to five points for most of the fourth quarter before James brought the team home once again.
“We’ve been playing good ball,” James said. “As the leader of this team, I’m just trying to do my part.”
James finished the opening quarter with 11 points, six rebounds and three assists — he had an awesome left-handed slam on an off-target lob pass from Green that forced him to reach way back — but Utah, which jumped to an 8-0 lead, was up 24-23 after one.
The Cavs bench forged a seven-point lead early in the second quarter, but Utah went 9-for-18 on 3-pointers compared to Cleveland’s 4-for-11 to stay within 51-48 at halftime.
James scored or assisted on the Cavs’ first 13 points of the game.
“Bron is great,” Lue said. “He just makes guys around him better. He makes guys comfortable and guys like to play with him. He enjoys that. He enjoys getting guys open shots and getting guys to score points. That’s who he is.”
- Cleveland center Tristan Thompson, who missed 19 games with a strained left calf then played in one game before missing another, played seven first-half minutes and had four points and two rebounds. He didn’t have a stat in six minutes Tuesday against Atlanta. Thompson won’t play tonight in Washington.
- Dwyane Wade, who is 6-for-20 from the field in two games since missing one with a sore left knee, also won’t play against the Wizards.
- The Cavs finished 10-for-22 on 3-pointers — Utah was 17-for-34 — to extend their franchise-record streak of games with at least 10 threes to 19.
- Cleveland scored 100 points for the 23rd straight game, the second-longest streak in franchise history behind 36 in 1979-80.