Fresh legs carry Cavs over Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (No. 30) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love going for a rebound during the second half. LeBron James (left) and Kyrie Irving (right) also played stellar roles for the Cavaliers.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (No. 30) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love going for a rebound during the second half. LeBron James (left) and Kyrie Irving (right) also played stellar roles for the Cavaliers.PHOTO: REUTERS

Time off benefits Irving and other big stars as they smother rivals' challenge in 4th quarter

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • A little rest did a world of good for the reigning National Basketball Association (NBA) champions Cleveland Cavaliers, who showed a spring in their step in a 119-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

LeBron James scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving had 21 points and matched his career high with 12 assists and Kevin Love scored 27 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, a night after Cavs coach Tyronn Lue rested the star trio.

Irving was back after a week off, having told Lue he had tired legs in last Saturday's victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

"It was warranted," said the guard. "How I felt, knowing the importance of what was coming up in the season, I think it was a great group decision in terms of the rest that was needed."

The trend of resting star players who are not injured has sparked debate - in part as to whether it is fair to fans - but Lue said on Saturday that he would consider resting Irving again.

"There will probably come another time when he's going to need a little rest also," the Cleveland coach said. "Right now, he's feeling good and that's the biggest thing for me."

The Lakers (11-19), who snapped an eight-game losing streak on Friday at Philadelphia, are known to give the elite teams the shivers. They beat the Golden State Warriors by 20 points earlier this season, the second straight season they have beaten their in-state rivals.

They led Cleveland (19-6) by as many as eight points late in the first quarter and maintained the lead into the second period.

But the Cavs moved ahead 62-59 at half-time and did not trail thereafter , although the Lakers cut the gap to 108-105 late in the fourth quarter after two three -pointers from Nick Young.

"They hit some tough shots," said James, whose three-pointer with two minutes and 32 seconds remaining stretched the Cavs' lead to 113-105. "It was up to us to get a couple of timely stops like we usually do in the fourth quarter and make a couple of timely shots like we do - and we did that."

Young scored a season-high 32 points and Julius Randle had 16 points and seven assists for the Lakers. Timofey Mozgov scored just two points against his former team but arguably took the most away from the trip to the Quicken Loans Arena.

The centre, who inked a four-year, US$64 million (S$92 million) deal with the Lakers after winning the title with the Cavaliers last June, finally collected his NBA championship ring.

The small ceremony was made more special when his former team-mates mobbed him at half-court.

"I miss this place. I'm not going to lie," the Russian admitted. "It was a lot of emotions. I miss you guys, but I'm happy where I'm at right now."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2016, with the headline 'Fresh legs carry Cavs over Lakers'. Print Edition | Subscribe