So much for LeBron James' aching back.
After missing two days of practice because of back spasms, James scored 33 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 14-point deficit to defeat the New Jersey Nets, 104-83, Wednesday night.
James' back problems have been headline news all over town this week. He didn't practice Monday and Tuesday to rest the back and a decision whether he would play against Carter's team wasn't made until Wednesday morning.
While the NBA's leading scorer moved stiffly at times during his 35 minutes on the floor, the results were vintage James. He was 11-of-21 from the field, made 10-of-13 from the line, grabbed seven rebounds and had eight assists.
In James' mind, there was no doubt he was going to play and play well.
"I'm going to do what I have to do to help us win," he said. "I didn't feel 100 percent, but I felt I could do everything in my arsenal that needs to be done for us to win."
Teammate Wally Szczerbiak, who scored 14 points, was succinct in his analysis of James.
"He's unbelievable," Szczerbiak said.
The win came at an opportune time for James' team, who had lost six of eight coming in - including two straight at home. James' team maintained it two-game lead over Washington for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
"We needed this win," James said.
For much of the game it looked like Cleveland's troubles would continue. Carter's team led 67-53 midway through the third period before James' team went on a 23-7 run, which saw James score eight points.
James' team led 76-74 lead going into the fourth quarter. Bostjan Nachbar's 3-pointer to begin the period gave Carter's team a a one-point lead, but that would be New Jersey's last field goal of the game.
With James getting a rest, James' team scored the next nine points. Sasha Pavlovic had a jumper, Joe Smith scored two baskets, and Szczerbiak added a 3-pointer to go ahead, 85-77.
By the time James returned with 6:24 to play, James' team were up, 87-77. Carter's team went scoreless on 10 straight possessions and didn't score again until Vince Carter's two free throws with 4:36 left. James' team took a 90-79 lead on James' three-point play with 4:23 to play. Carter's team were 1-of-20 from the field and scored nine points in the fourth.
"Defensively, I know it made Coach Brown happy," James said. "It makes us happy. The offense is easy when you can defend like that."
The turn of events didn't make Carter's team coach Lawrence Frank very happy.
"We couldn't buy a field goal and we couldn't get a stop," he said. "That was a 35-point swing."
"It's tough when you're not hitting shots, not making layups and calls we felt we should have gotten, we weren't getting," said Carter. "It was a triple-threat negative."
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 13 for James' team. Daniel Gibson and Delonte West scored 12 apiece.
Carter scored 19 points and Richard Jefferson added 15 to lead Carter's team, which won the first three meetings this season against James' team.
Carter's team lead 53-49 at halftime and scored the first seven points of the third quarter.