CLEVELAND (AP) -Shaquille O'Neal had one regret about moving into elite NBA scoring air. It should have happened long ago.
O'Neal became the fifth player to score 28,000 career points, and the Big Diesel made his enormous presence known at both ends of the floor as the Cleveland Cavaliers began a long stretch of home games with a 108-100 win over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
O'Neal reached the major milestone with a layup in the first minute. He was proud of the achievement, but felt it was overdue.
``I've missed like 5,000 free throws,' O'Neal said. ``If I had at least hit half of those, then I would be at 30,000 right now.'
LeBron James scored 28 points and performed a few signature dunks that won't be seen during the All-Star slam contest and Mo Williams added 22 as the Cavs, who just returned from a long road trip, improved to 15-3 at Quicken Loans Arena. They play 10 of their next 12 at home before Feb. 19.
The Eastern Conference leaders will host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
James had 11 assists and nine rebounds, missing out on No. 10 and a triple-double when he let a rebound slip out of his hands in the final minute.
O'Neal added 16 points, assisted on two big baskets down the stretch and set the tone for Cleveland's defense in the second half by knocking down Toronto guards Demar DeRozan and Jarrett Jack with hard fouls.
``There's no layups when Shaq is covering the glass,' James said. ``That's what he's about. He doesn't care about putting guys on the floor.'
With a layup in the opening minute, O'Neal joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) as the only players to reach the milestone.
``I'm happy being No. 5. There are some great names in front of me and some great names behind me,' O'Neal said. ``I've always been a player that only gets happy about the big picture. It's a great milestone but it's something I don't get too giddy about.'
Chris Bosh scored 21 for Toronto but was limited to just five after halftime by Cleveland's defense, which allowed 60 points in the opening half. The Raptors only scored 17 in the fourth.
``They did a better job of clamping down defensively,' Bosh said. ``We had a couple of mishaps down the stretch and they made us pay for it.'
Williams left briefly with a left shoulder strain but came back and hit the game's biggest shot, a 3-pointer - off a feed from O'Neal - with 5:27 left that gave the Cavs a 98-94 lead. James found a cutting Anderson Varejao for a basket to put the Cavs up by six and then James took a pass from O'Neal and slammed one to make it 102-94.
``I've been known to be able to do something with the ball,' O'Neal said in explaining his assists.
Cleveland's defense, nearly nonexistent for three quarters, put its talons in the Raptors in the fourth quarter.
``We put our hard hats on and did it right,' James said.
Andrea Bargnani scored 19 for Toronto, which lost for just the fourth time in 14 games. Hedo Turkoglu scored three points - 10 below his average - and spent most of the game in foul trouble.
``I was afraid to walk by them (the officials), they might call a foul,' Turkoglu said.
Williams added 10 assists for the Cavs, who have won 10 straight home games over the Raptors.
James has decided to skip next month's dunk contest, long considered the premier event during the All-Star weekend's festivities. At last year's event in Phoenix, James tentatively put himself in the field after watching a competition he felt needed a spark and some big names.
Now, he's not interested.
``I'm just not high on it,' he said.
During the second quarter, James delivered a dunk that probably would have earned a few ``10s' from the judges. Williams drove the baseline and delivered a no-look bounce pass to a slashing James, who caught the ball and double clutched before pounding it through the rim.
In the first half, the Raptors did almost anything they wanted on offense. They got easy shots and moved the ball with ease against Cleveland's shoddy defense. O'Neal finally took a stand in the third quarter, sending a message to Toronto with two hard fouls.
On the second one, which was O'Neal's fourth personal, the 325-pounder flattened Jack, who flopped to the floor and flung his arm to one side for dramatic effect.
``That's a part of the game,' Bosh said. ``He's the biggest guy in the league. If he bumps you, you're probably going to hit the ground.'
NOTES: Before the game, James and Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown signed large copies of a commemorative Sports Illustrated edition they both appeared on. Afterward in the locker room, James gave specific orders on how he wanted one framed. ``I want it to be legendary,' he said. ... Raptors G Sonny Weems pulled a rib cage muscle in pregame warmups and sat out. ... Cavs F Jamario Moon is targeting a return next week after missing two weeks with an abdominal strain.
The Associated Press News Service
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