Irving-less Cavs declaw Grizzlies
Love, James pick up slack as Cleveland extends win streak
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.
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.
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.