MINNEAPOLIS (Minnesota) • Losing a star player is never easy, but the best teams in the National Basketball Association find a way to get by when that does happen.
That is what the Cleveland Cavaliers did on Tuesday.
Hours after it was announced that forward Kevin Love would be out for six weeks following knee surgery, Cleveland used a collaborative effort in his absence en route to a 116-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each scored 25 points, and James added 14 assists, but the two stars had help.
Channing Frye stepped up in extended minutes to score 21 points and grab 10 rebounds, while Derrick Williams had 13 points off the bench in just his third game with Cleveland. Centre Tristan Thompson contributed 14 points and 11 boards.
With Love, who is averaging 20 points per game, on the mend for a month and a half, Cleveland (38-16) will need more games like Tuesday's win in order to keep things rolling.
Number of points Channing Frye scored against the Timberwolves. He started and played 32 minutes in the absence of fellow Cavs forward Kevin Love. Frye is averaging just 9.3 points per game this season.
"The one thing that we can always rely on is the fact that we've played without Kev before," James said. "We've had to do that in the play-offs. As much as you don't like to play without some of your big guns, sometimes if it happens then you're just ready for it."
The champions withstood a big night by Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, who scored 41 points, matching his second-highest total of the season.
Karl-Anthony Towns added 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Gorgui Dieng had 12 points, but no other team-mate reached double figures in scoring.
Cleveland held Wiggins to four points in the fourth quarter.
"We did a lot of good things, but we didn't finish the game off like we should have," Wiggins said.
A step-back three-pointer by James and a fast-break layup by Williams against his former team pushed Cleveland's lead to 114-106 with 1min 39sec to play. That essentially sealed the win for the Cavaliers.
Williams is on a 10-day contract with Cleveland after earlier playing for the Miami Heat this season. His new team-mates and coach had plenty of positives to describe his performance on Tuesday.
"He plays extremely hard, plays above the rim. He can guard two through almost five," Irving said. "Then when you have the ability to do that and you're on a team like this, we're going to get you the ball and we're going to put you in a spot to be successful on both ends."
Cleveland earned their second win over Minnesota in a two-week span. They beat the Timberwolves 125-97 on Feb 1.
Minnesota (21-35) are struggling to guard the three-point arc this season, while Cleveland entered Tuesday's game as one of the top three-point-shooting teams in the league.
While the Cavaliers shot only 33.3 per cent from long range, they converted 13 three-pointers.
Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert hit three three-pointers for all of his nine points.
Cleveland are now 6-1 this month after a rocky 7-8 mark last month.
"For me, it's been a good month so far and for our team after a not so good January," James said.
"But at the end of the day, we've got one more game (this morning, Singapore time), the (All-Star) break is coming up. I think we all can use it."