CLEVELAND (AP) Kevin Love scored 29 points, J.R. Smith found his aim – for one half – and LeBron James added 23 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fifth straight, 103-86 on Tuesday night over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Memphis rested center Marc Gasol for the first of back-to-back games against the defending NBA champions.
Smith, who has been in a season-long shooting slump, scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half as the Cavs, who gave star point guard Kyrie Irving the night off, built a 22-point lead and ended the Grizzlies’ six-game winning streak.
Zach Randolph replaced Gasol in the starting lineup and scored 18 points to lead the Grizzlies. The reigning Western Conference player of the week, Gasol is expected to play Wednesday in Memphis to complete a brutal three-game stretch for the Grizzlies, who beat Golden State by 21 on Saturday.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said after the game that James, Love and Irving will not travel for the game Wednesday. Cleveland will start Smith, DeAndre Liggins, Iman Shumpert, James Jones and Tristan Thompson.
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.
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.
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.
Grizzlies: G/F Vince Carter returned after missing seven games with a right hip flexor strain. He played 18 minutes. … Memphis coach David Fizdale was an assistant in Miami the four years James was with the Heat. “He coached me more than I coached him,” said Fizdale, who got a big hug from James before the opening tip. “You’re talking about a one percentile guy when it comes to basketball intelligence. I think I learned more from him than he learned from me.”… Memphis is 12-0 this season in games decided by five points or less.
Cavaliers: James needs 28 points to pass Moses Malone (27,409) for eighth place on the career scoring list. … In Saturday’s win over Charlotte, James became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1968 to score 44 points and get 10 assists, nine rebounds and shoot 70 percent. … With his 3-pointer in the first, Love became the fifth active player with 800 career 3s and 6,000 rebounds. James, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce are the others. … Channing Frye was back after missing two games for his father’s funeral. … Smith passed Dale Ellis (1,719) for 14th on the career 3-pointer list.
Grizzlies: After facing the Cavs again, Memphis hosts Sacramento on Friday.
Cavaliers: Cleveland’s next home game is Saturday against the Lakers.