Star duo pave Cavs' victory

Kings guard Rajon Rondo fouling Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving on a made three-point basket in the fourth quarter. Irving is still not fully fit but matched his season-high score and tied his career best of 12 assists, as Cleveland won 120-100.
Kings guard Rajon Rondo fouling Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving on a made three-point basket in the fourth quarter. Irving is still not fully fit but matched his season-high score and tied his career best of 12 assists, as Cleveland won 120-100.PHOTO: REUTERS

Irving's 32pts and James' first triple-double of the season put more heat on Kings coach Karl

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Eight months after major knee surgery, Kyrie Irving is finding his way. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings have all but lost theirs.

Irving matched his season high with 32 points and tied his career high with 12 assists, while forward LeBron James recorded his first triple-double of the season in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 120-100 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory over the slumping Kings on Monday.

James had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his 40th career triple-double, while the Kings have lost their last four games and eight of their last nine.

They have slipped to 21-31 ahead of today's game against the Philadelphia 76ers, and coach George Karl reportedly could be fired between now and the All-Star Weekend break.

"There's no question it's a mental frustration right now for all of us," he said.

Irving has dealt with frustrations off and on this season in his recovery from a fractured knee cap suffered in last June's NBA Finals.

He is still working to get the strength back in his legs, and as a result entered Monday's game shooting less than 26 per cent from three-point range.

However, he shot five-for-eight on Monday to set a season high for most three-pointers in a game.

"I think we are just starting to settle into our roles," Irving said. "Last few games felt really good."

Forward Kevin Love scored 11 points after missing one game with a bruised thigh and guard J.R. Smith scored 22 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Cavs (37-14), whose starting back-court outscored the Kings' back-court 54-15.

James has been close on plenty of triple-doubles this season, typically falling a rebound or an assist shy. This time he did it in three quarters, finishing it off with his 10th rebound in the final minute of the third quarter - although he insisted that he did not realise how close he was until he sat down after the quarter ended.

"I just go out and continue to play the game. If it happens, it happens," he said. "If it don't, it doesn't. The only concern is how we can close out quarters and win the game."

Forward Rudy Gay had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Kings after missing one game with a sprained left ankle, while centre DeMarcus Cousins had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Guard Rajon Rondo totalled 16 assists, but said the team held an optional shoot-around on Monday morning and only three or four guys showed up.

"When three or four guys show up for shoot-around, how can you expect to win?" he said.

The Kings' defence, meanwhile, continues to deteriorate.

Opponents have scored at least 120 points against them in the last three games and five of the last nine.

"We've got to just take pride in defence," Rondo said. "We can't keep lying down. We've got to have some type of fight and find a way."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2016, with the headline 'Star duo pave Cavs' victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe