Irving declares Cavs 'the team to beat'

Cavaliers forward LeBron James drives past Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic en route to two of his 24 points on the night, taking him to 12th on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James drives past Nets guard Bojan Bogdanovic en route to two of his 24 points on the night, taking him to 12th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. PHOTO: REUTERS

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • The Golden State Warriors might be marching to the best record in National Basketball Association history, but Kyrie Irving still believes the Cleveland Cavaliers are marching toward a championship.

A turbulent few days for the Cleveland point guard ended on Thursday night with him declaring the Cavs are the team to beat following their 107-87 win over the Brooklyn Nets. It was also a night LeBron James moved into 12th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

The Cavs matched their 53 wins from last season with seven games left, but Irving is looking at a much bigger prize.

"Everything surrounding our team is just crazy, to think that we're still in first place and we're still the team to beat, honestly," he said. "I have a lot more confidence than I think anyone realises in our team and what's going on in our locker room."

James scored 24 points and handed out 11 assists to pass Dominique Wilkins on the scoring list. He has 26,689 points, 21 points behind Oscar Robertson in 11th place.

Irving scored 10 points, Kevin Love had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Channing Frye scored 13 points for the Cavaliers, who had lost to the Nets last weekend on the road.

Cleveland moved 21/2 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference play-offs.

Meanwhile in the same conference, the Chicago Bulls rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to stun the Houston Rockets 103-100, boosting their hopes of clinching the final play-off spot.

Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, who scored a game-high 28 points, drained a go-ahead three-pointer with less than three minutes to play as Houston's Trevor Ariza saw an attempted game-tying three-pointer fail at the buzzer.

"We're fighting for our lives," said Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg of their crucial win.

The Bulls trail the Indiana Pacers by one game for the eighth and last play-off spot in the Eastern Conference. Houston are half a game behind the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks, who with matching records of 37-38 occupy the last two spots in the West.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2016, with the headline 'Irving declares Cavs 'the team to beat''. Print Edition | Subscribe