NBA: Cavs rediscover top gear

James, Irving help cast off patchy form with win against Minnesota

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • On the day the Cleveland Cavaliers intensified their search for more playmakers, the two they already have in their own colours helped set a National Basketball Association (NBA) season-high in assists. For at least one night, the Cavaliers' explosive offence played to their potential.

Kyrie Irving passed for a career-high 14 assists to go with 14 points and LeBron James had 27 points and 12 assists in the Cavaliers' 125-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

It was a much-needed jolt to start February after they struggled through a miserable 7-8 last month.

The 37 assists in total were a season high and it was the most points the Cavs had scored in a game since a Dec 7 home win against the Knicks.

"Are we going to have 37 assists every night? No. We have to make shots still, but the way Kyrie was moving the ball, myself, got guys involved, guys felt good when the ball got to them and they just locked and loaded and shot," James said.

"We have to continue to do a great job and see what happens."

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James dunking the ball during the 125-97 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday. The reigning champions had an uncharacteristic 7-8 slump in January.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James dunking the ball during the 125-97 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday. The reigning champions had an uncharacteristic 7-8 slump in January. PHOTO: REUTERS

FINDING THE OLD RHYTHM

The way Kyrie was moving the ball, myself, got guys involved, guys felt good when the ball got to them and they locked and loaded and shot.

LEBRON JAMES, on the Cavs' return to their winning ways.

Irving and James combined for 26 of the Cavs' 37 assists (70 per cent) - which is why they held a free agent workout earlier in the day, featuring guards Mario Chalmers, 30, Kirk Hinrich, 36, Jordan Farmar, 30, and Lance Stephenson, 26. James has been persistent in mentioning the Cavs' need for more playmakers.

The three-time NBA champion has some on-court history with Stephenson but said before the game against Minnesota that he would have no problem if the Cavs fill a roster spot with the swingman.

Stephenson, who can also operate as a small forward, once tried to rattle James by blowing in his ear during a play-off game between James' former team, the Miami Heat, and the Indiana Pacers in 2014.

But James said that if Stephenson can help the team retain their NBA title, he would be all for his arrival.

"I just want to win, man," he said. "That's all that matters to me. I got no personal problems with nobody."

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue did not want to comment on the workout other than to say it went well.

He also did not indicate if Cleveland intended to sign any of the quartet.

"We're just continuing to look at ways to get better," he said. "Not sure if it's point guard, not sure if it's a playmaker, not sure if it's a big. Just starting the process of looking and seeing what we can find. That's it."

Cavs big man Tristan Thompson scored 18 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, Channing Frye scored 18 points starting in place of the injured Kevin Love and Kyle Korver scored 20 points off the bench.

Timberwolves centre Karl-Anthony Towns scored 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points against the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2014 but traded him.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Cavs rediscover top gear'. Print Edition | Subscribe