Irv­ing-less Cavs de­claw Griz­zlies

Love, James pick up slack as Cleve­land ex­tends win streak

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Cleve­land

The Cava­liers showed they can beat the Griz­zlies with only two of their three stars.

Now they’ ll try to do it with none.

Kevin Love scored 29 points, J.R. Smith found his aim — for one half — and LeBron James added 23 points as the Cavs won their fifth straight, 103-86 on Tues­day night over Mem­phis.

With Kyrie Irv­ing sit­ting out to get some rest, the Cavs built a 22-point lead in the first half and ended the Griz­zlies’ six-game win­ning streak.

Fol­low­ing the game, Cleve­land coach Ty­ronn Lue opened his me­dia con­fer­ence by an­nounc­ing James, Love and Irv­ing will stay home when the Cavs travel to Mem­phis on Wed­nes­day.

“They’re not go­ing,” Lue said be­fore telling one sur­prised re­porter to close his mouth.

Lue didn’t want James, who trav­eled to New York on Mon­day night to ac­cept the Sports Il­lus­trated Sportsper­son of the Year Award, play­ing in the quirky back-to­back, and Love could use a break be­cause of tight­ness in his back.

Irv­ing com­plained of “heavy legs” in Satur­day’s win over Char­lotte and will have a full week off be­fore the Cavs host the Lak­ers on Satur­day.

“It’s a long sea­son and we have op­por­tu­ni­ties,” James said of Lue’s de­ci­sion to leave Cleve­land’s “Big 3” be­hind.

“Coach has looked at it and he’s go­ing to do what’s in his best judg­ment for our team. It’s his call.”

Smith said it will be a chal­lenge to take on the Griz­zlies shorthanded.

“It’s go­ing to be tough,” he said. “But we have good play­ers and we will fig­ure it out, hope­fully. Every­body has to be them­selves — no­body can be LeBron, Ky and Kev. Should be fun.”

Mem­phis rested cen­ter Marc Ga­sol for the first of back-to-back games against the de­fend­ing NBA cham­pi­ons, but the 7-foot-1 star was ex­pected to play on Wed­nes­day.

Zach Ran­dolph re­placed Ga­sol in the start­ing lineup and scored 18 points to lead the Griz­zlies, who beat Golden State by 21 on Satur­day.

Smith came in shoot­ing a ca­reer-low 31 per­cent from the field and 32 per­cent on 3s, the low­est mark since his rookie sea­son with New Or­leans in 2004.

He also has been slowed by a sore left knee, which he hy­per­ex­tended last week, caus­ing him to miss two games.

But Smith got it go­ing early, drop­ping four 3-point­ers in the first half. His fourth put the Cavs ahead 56-34, and he was 6 of 8 at half­time. He missed his first six shots in the third quar­ter and fin­ished 8 of 17 — 6 of 10 on 3s.

“I joked with him that he should have had 30,” Love said.

“There were so many shots that went in and out.”

Cleve­land seemed dis­in­ter­ested af­ter half­time and Mem­phis man­aged to stay within strik­ing dis­tance, but the Griz­zlies didn’t have enough fire­power with­out Ga­sol and Mike Con­ley, who is ex­pected to miss an­other month with a back in­jury.

The Griz­zlies were still within eight when James scored on a layup and hit a cut­ting Love for an easy bucket to make it 90-74 with 5:11 left.

Close friends

Mem­phis coach David Fiz­dale spent four years with James in Mi­ami and the two be­came close friends. Be­fore the game, Fiz­dale was asked if he could see the su­per­star coach­ing one day.

“No,” Fiz­dale said with a laugh. “He would kill some­body. He wants per­fec­tion. I could see him own­ing his own team, but I think he would end up killing a player at some point be­cause they wouldn’t live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions that he would set.”

James smiled and agreed with Fiz­dale’s re­mark.

“Yeah, he’s right,” he said. “You’ve got to be pa­tient as a coach. I don’t have that much pa­tience.”

James needs 28 points to pass Moses Malone (27,409) for eighth place on the ca­reer scor­ing list.

With his 3-pointer in the first, Love be­came the fifth ac­tive player with 800 ca­reer 3s and 6,000 re­bounds — join­ing James, Carmelo An­thony, Dirk Now­itzki and Paul Pierce.

Zach LaVine scored 24 points, An­drew Wig­gins added 23 and the Tim­ber­wolves ral­lied to beat the Bulls 99-94 in Min­nesota coach Tom Thi­bodeau’s re­turn to Chicago on Tues­day night.

The Tim­ber­wolves wiped out a 21-point deficit and got Thi­bodeau a vic­tory in his first game in Chicago since the Bulls fired him in an ac­ri­mo­nious split in 2015.

Gorgui Dieng and Karl-An­thony Towns each scored 16 points as Min­nesota snapped a four-game los­ing streak.

Jimmy But­ler led Chicago with 27 points, and Robin Lopez added 14. But the Bulls con­tin­ued a pat­tern of let­downs against los­ing teams, this time fall­ing to one that came in tied for the NBA’s worst record.

That wasn’t what the Tim­ber­wolves ex­pected when they hired Thi­bodeau. Af­ter all, the Bulls went 255-139 and made the play­offs in all five of his sea­sons, in­clud­ing a run to the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals with 2011 MVP Der­rick Rose lead­ing the way.

The T-Wolves looked like they were go­ing to get blown out in this one, trail­ing by 21 in the sec­ond quar­ter. In­stead, they came roar­ing back.

Min­nesota was lead­ing 91-87 when But­ler threw down an al­ley-oop off a feed from Dwyane Wade in tran­si­tion and nailed a fade­away jumper off a steal to tie it with 1:34 re­main­ing.

Wig­gins then hit a pullup jumper and LaVine scored on a re­verse layup to make it 95-91 with 52 sec­onds left.

TONY DEJAK / AP

Cleve­land Cava­liers’ LeBron James drives past Mem­phis Griz­zlies’ Toney Dou­glas in the first half of Tues­day’s NBA clash in Cleve­land. James had 23 points and Kevin Love added 29 as the Cava­liers won their fifth straight game, 103-86.

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