CLEVELAND -- LeBron James stood in front of his locker while a trainer wrapped his knees and back in ice. When the cool bag hit the small of his back, James shivered and flinched.
It was the only time he flinched all night.
James scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half and finished with 12 assists, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 114-108 victory over the short-handed Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
"In the first half, it looked like he was being patient and getting his teammates involved," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said of James. "In the second half, he had a whole other demeanor about trying to score. It shows you why he's the league MVP right now."
It was a gutsy effort by the rookie Curry and the Warriors (3-7), who dressed just seven healthy bodies.
J.J. Hickson had a career-high 21 points for the Cavaliers (8-3), who had their own injury concerns.
Jamario Moon left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle, and Shaquille O'Neal and Anderson Varejao were both inactive for Cleveland. Varejao was scratched with a hip contusion and O'Neal missed his second straight game with a strained shoulder.
Coach Mike Brown doesn't expect Varejao to play Wednesday at Washington and he called Moon questionable. O'Neal isn't even making the trip.
"Your rhythm is going to change. There's no way to stay away from it," James said, referring to all the injuries. "As long as we continue to go with the game plan and play hard, we'll give ourselves a chance to win. We've got guys out on the court who have been in these situations time and time again."
The injuries to O'Neal and Varejao forced the Cavaliers to activate Delonte West, who has been in and out of the lineup this year while dealing with personal issues. West scored two points in 14 minutes after being inactive for the previous three games.
With two of their best post players missing, the Cavaliers found a new option in Hickson.
Hickson has flourished since entering the starting lineup, setting career highs in three consecutive games. He is averaging 19.6 points over the stretch, but Brown was more concerned with Hickson's mental lapses.
"I saw when he didn't box [Vladimir] Radmanovic out, and Radmanovic got the rebound and scored it," Brown said. "He's got to do better in that area."
The Warriors' fast and loose style had Cleveland adjusting with new lineups, including playing James at power forward and Hickson at center. Despite the limited personnel, Golden State was within four with less than two minutes to play when Anthony Parker came up with a steal and dished ahead to James, who lofted an alley-oop to Hickson that sent a charge through the sellout crowd at the Q.
All seven of Golden State's healthy players scored in double figures, led by Monta Ellis with 23 points. Reserve Corey Maggette had 19 and Anthony Morrow added 18. Curry had 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds. After the game, he met briefly with James on the court.
"He told me to keep getting better every day," Curry said. "He said to block out anything that's going on outside of what I can control. I'm sure that's how he did it when he was a rookie. It's nice of him to go out of his way and keep encouraging me."
James said before the game he was a fan of Curry's, and that he takes it upon himself to help out younger players entering the league.
"If the league MVP and an All-Star is a fan of yours, that's pretty cool," Curry said. "Competing against him was a lot of fun."
Golden State dressed the league minimum eight players, including Raja Bell, who didn't play because of a wrist injury that will require surgery next week. Bell and Radmanovic were acquired from Charlotte on Monday for Stephen Jackson and Acie Law.
Radmanovic played 34 minutes in his first game with Golden State, scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds.
Warriors forward Kelenna Azubuike will have surgery Wednesday for a torn patellar tendon in his left knee and is lost for the season. Guard C.J. Watson is out indefinitely after testing positive for the H1N1 virus.
That left Golden State with two reserves Tuesday -- Maggette and Anthony Randolph, who managed to outscore the Cleveland bench, 32-23.
"We were right there," Warriors coach Don Nelson said. "I was happy with the way we played with kind of a pickup team. We were undermanned. The guys played together. I have no complaints about the game at all."
It doesn't get any easier for the Warriors, who play at Boston on Wednesday.
"I don't know what you can do," Nelson said. "You just play and see what happens. Full roster or not, it was going to be a tough go coming into these next two games. We realized that."
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