James fuels Cavs' victory

LeBron James scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to reel in a three-point lead by the Utah Jazz. Cleveland's All-Star forward has scored at least 30 points in 17 games this season.
LeBron James scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to reel in a three-point lead by the Utah Jazz. Cleveland's All-Star forward has scored at least 30 points in 17 games this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

His 33pts and strong fourth quarter revitalise Cleveland after mid-game loss of two starters

CLEVELAND • During the first timeout of the fourth quarter, Cavaliers All-Star guard Kyrie Irving knew his aching left knee was going to keep him from returning against the Utah Jazz.

So, he went to LeBron James and asked him: "You got this?"

James' answer was an emphatic yes. He poured in 17 of his game- high 33 points in the fourth quarter of the National Basketball Association game and the Cavs beat the Jazz 91-83 on Thursday.

Kevin Love returned from knee surgery and contributed 10 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes on a night when Cleveland were again reeling from injuries.

Irving scored 21 points, but missed the fourth quarter because of left-knee soreness, which he said he had been feeling for two days.

Iman Shumpert left the game with 4min 30sec remaining in the third quarter with a left arm injury and did not return.

He had just tried to dunk over Rudy Gobert (with his right hand) and also collided with Gobert on Utah's next possession. Shumpert scored nine points and like Irving did not return for the fourth quarter.

"You're going to get some knick-knacks, you're going to get banged up," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "But fortunately for us, our guys are okay. It's nothing serious, so we're fine with those two guys."

Lue said Shumpert was "day-to-day" and Irving was "fine", though Irving suggested there was a chance he would miss at least the first game of an upcoming four-game trip that starts today in Los Angeles.

"I'm hoping that I don't have to miss any days, but if it really comes down to that and the bigger picture is way more important than a few days, then that's what it's going to be," he said.

Utah were led by Gobert's 20 points and 19 rebounds. Gordon Hayward scored 13 points and Joe Ingles added 12.

The team played and won on Wednesday in Detroit and had won six of their last seven games, but have not prevailed in Cleveland since March 5, 2012.

The Jazz led 77-74 during that fateful timeout when Irving approached James, then watched the Cavs score the next 10 points.

"We just didn't make shots," Hayward said. "Some days are diamonds, and some days are stones. Unfortunately, for a lot of us tonight, it was a stone."

James, who finished with 10 rebounds and six assists, passed Tim Duncan (10,285 field goals) for 13th place (10,311) in NBA history in field goals. He has scored at least 30 points in 17 games this season.

This was Irving's 18th consecutive game with at least 20 points.

"Kyrie looked at me and said he probably wouldn't be able to finish the game so I knew obviously with Kev being on a minute restriction, I knew Shump was out and I knew Kyrie wasn't going to be able to finish the game, so I had to step up the scoring load," James said.

Jazz coach Quinn Snyder said his team "made it a little too easy on James" in the fourth quarter.

"I just don't like how we lost," he said. "I felt that this was a game where if we continued to execute on some of the things we have been doing, we might have been able to pull this one out."

The Cavs set a team record for three-pointers (887), surpassing the old mark set last season of 880.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'James fuels Cavs' victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe