Cavaliers

Irving, LeBron pace Cavs to 107-91 win over Thunder

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CLEVELAND (AP) Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, LeBron James had 25 and 14 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers played one of their better all-around games in weeks, beating Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-91 on Sunday.

The Cavs have won two straight after the NBA champions lost six of eight amid internal turmoil sparked by James criticizing the team’s roster following a recent loss.

But while not forgotten, the chaos has calmed down a bit and a quality win sure helps.

Westbrook finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 24th triple-double, but only made 7 of 26 shots for the Thunder, who had won three straight.

Cleveland All-Star forward Kevin Love didn’t play in the second half because of back spasms. Love has been dealing with back issues since he came to Cleveland and he missed a game earlier this month with spasms.

James became the first player in Cavaliers history to score 20,000 points for the franchise. He came in needing six points to hit the plateau and reached it with a layup early in the second quarter.

Oklahoma City played its first game without reserve center Enes Kanter. He broke his right forearm punching a chair Thursday in a win over Dallas, had surgery Friday and will be out at least a month.

Leading by 13 at halftime, the Cavs let the Thunder get back within eight before Irving put on a show with several drives to the basket.

Showing off his magnificent dribbling skills to open space and tie up defenders, Irving scored three layups in a span of 58 seconds to put Cleveland back up by 17.

Oklahoma City made a run with Westbrook on the bench in the fourth, getting within 82-75 but Irving scored a pair of layups and later drained a 30-foot 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 98-82 lead.

Wearing a Michael Jackson-inspired red leather “Thriller” jacket, Westbrook walked into the arena about two hours before tip-off with Jackson’s “Don’t Stop `Til You Get Enough” playing from the speakers near the security entrance.

It was fitting musical accompaniment for Westbrook, who joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists through the first 40-plus games. Robertson averaged a triple-double for the entire 1961-62 season.

Westbrook, though, struggled with his shot as the Cavs did all they could to slow him down.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Westbrook’s 24 triple-doubles are the most in a season since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 in 1967-68. … It was Oklahoma City’s 11th road game of 12 in January. … Coach Billy Donovan said it’s a misconception that Westbrook is selfish. “He understands he’s part of a team and he’s always wanted to be part of a team,” Donovan said. “He’s one of the league leaders in assists. He generates a lot offense for other guys. He gets in there and helps rebound in the frontcourt. He’s found that balance.” … Donovan played against Irving’s father, Drederick, in college when he was at Providence and the elder Irving was at Boston University. “We beat him in the NIT,” Donovan said. “I think. That was 30 years ago.”

Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson had 19 points and 12 rebounds. … James has scored nearly twice as many points as Cleveland’s No. 2 career scorer Zydrunas Ilgauskas (10,616). James scored 7,919 points during his four seasons with Miami. … Cleveland is 29-6 in its last 35 home games against Western Conference teams. … Cleveland made eight 3-pointers after dropping at least 13 in five straight games.

UP NEXT

Thunder: At San Antonio on Tuesday.

Cavaliers: At Dallas on Monday, the first of three back-to-backs before the All-Star break.

Cavs Win! Cavs Win! Cavs Win! (It still counts against the Clippers)

Antawn Jamison
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There is something historically appropriate that the Cavaliers ended their losing streak against the Clippers.

Cleveland’s oddly fascinating losing streak ended dramatically at 26 with a 126-119 overtime win at home on Friday night. It seemed a fitting way to go — the Cavs had been giving the effort (mostly) for weeks, but had not been rewarded. Finally, for one night, the breaks and calls went their way.

It took J.J. Hickson getting away with a goaltend on a Baron Davis runner in the final seconds of regulation. It took Hickson getting a block on an attempted dunk by Blake Griffin late in the fourth quarter. (Yes, you read that right.) It took a clutch 3-pointer from Antawn Jamison. It took the return of Mo Williams bringing 17 points and 14 assists off the bench. It took a crazy-loud crowd that wouldn’t give up.

Mostly, it took a young Clippers team that played indifferent defense most of the night. A Clippers team with the same inconsistent end-of-game execution as the Cavs. A Clippers team that may grow into something special in a few years, but right now it is learning hard lessons about life on the road in the NBA.

And they are learning about how dangerous a desperate team can be.

After a lackluster performance a couple nights back that had coach Byron Scott calling out his team, the Cavaliers came out with energy again. They had done that for most games in the last few weeks, but were not rewarded.

Hickson had the play of the night with 3:30 left in regulation, the one that made you realize it was the Cavs’ night and made Quicken Loans Arena the loudest it has been since he who shall not be named played in the building.

Griffin got the ball on the right block and tried to do what he has done to so many, spun fast to the middle to go for the dunk, but he brought the ball back to his right hand and that gave a hustling Hickson a chance to block a Griffin dunk. Yes, block Blake Griffin. THE Blake Griffin. It sparked a fast break that ended with a three from Mo Williams, and with 3:27 left the Cavs were up by six.

Of course, they almost blew it. They are the Cavs, after all.

By 2:15 left, it was tied. A driving layup by Davis, a transition dunk from Griffin, and two free throws after a foul on Ryan Gomes did the trick.

The Cavs kept hitting shots, the Clippers kept getting fouled and to the free-throw line. It was Williams — who missed 13 games in a row before this one — that made the last basket of regulation, a professional 17-foot step-back to tie it. But the shot left Clippers 6.3 seconds left to win it.

Everyone in the building knew Davis would take the shot. He does not pass in these situations, but at least he attacked and didn’t settle for a 25-foot step-back. He drove left and got off a runner that Hickson came from the weakside to swat into the third row. It clearly looked like goaltending, but it was the Cavs’ night and there was no call.

The shot in overtime was a three from Jamison off an inbound play (which came after Hickson got away with an over-the-back, but did we mention it was the Cavs’ night?). A catch-and-shoot drained three-ball from the veteran that sealed the win.

This win ruins the “Toilet Bowl” battle of streaks against the winless-on-the-road Wizards on Sunday, but nobody in Cleveland cares.

The monkey is off their back. Now they can get back to focusing on making sure they have the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery.

PBT Thursday morning one liners

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Best Web site ever: didthecavswinlastnight.com

One knock on Derrick Rose was that he avoided contact on his drives and did not get to the free throw line enough. Not any more.

The NBA vs. monster movies. Blake Griffin vs. King Kong. Brilliant.

There were indeed “We want ‘Melo” chants inside Madison Square Garden. Although after the effort the Knicks put out against the Clippers the fans should be chanting something.

I suppose because the team is for sale the question has to be asked, but the idea of moving the Pistons out of Detroit is just a bad idea. Glad to hear it is not happening.

Avery Johnson is going to run more plays for Derrick Favors. Well, when Favors isn’t parked on the bench due to foul trouble.

What if you used only advanced stats to pick the All-Stars?

Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward blog and I are on sort of on same page: If I had a vote Chris Paul would be my choice for MVP. He’s not as sold but is making the case he needs to be in the discussion.

Portland’s Dante Cunningham should be back playing on Friday (he was out due to quite the blow to the face).

The trade for Marcus Williams still haunts the Golden State Warriors.

A good breakdown of what you normally see out of the triangle offense.

The sign has come down at ARCO Arena. Power Balance Arena still seems, well, off balance to me.