CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Kevin Love scored 29 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers shrugged off the absence of Kyrie Irving to demolish the Memphis Grizzlies 103-86 on Tuesday.
Irving was given the night off after complaining of tiredness in his legs after last weekend's victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
But the 24-year-old guard's absence was barely felt as Cleveland romped home thanks to Love and LeBron James, who had 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Love also contributed 13 rebounds, while J.R. Smith filled the void left by Irving with a 23-point haul.
The victory saw the National Basketball Association champions improve to 18-5, tightening their grip at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Zach Randolph scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds in his first start this season for the Grizzlies, who were without All-Star centre Marc Gasol.
Like the Cavs, the Grizzlies chose to rest their star despite already being short-handed. Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons are two of five Grizzlies out with injuries.
Andrew Harrison and Troy Williams each scored 13 points for Memphis (17-9).
After the Cavs (18-5) led by 22 in the first half and maintained a 58-43 lead at the break, the two teams combined to miss 30 of 41 shots in the third quarter.
A jumper by Toney Douglas pulled the Grizzlies within 75-66 early in the fourth quarter, but Channing Frye's three-pointer stemmed the momentum.
The Cavs pushed the lead back out to 20 before Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue cleared the bench in the final minutes.
These two teams are seeing a lot of each other over a 48-hour period. Both teams flew to Memphis after the game and will clash again this morning (Singapore time) at the FedEx Forum, where Cleveland's "Big Three" of James, Irving and Love will be rested.
The Cavaliers are continuing a recent trend of NBA teams periodically resting their best players during the regular season.
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James said he was happy to abide by Lue's decision.
"I shouldn't have to explain my sitting out games," he said. "I've been in this league 14 years. I've paid my dues and more than a lot of guys. I've played in every arena. My coach wanted to rest us. I'm not going to buck my coach."
Many NBA coaches rest their top players occasionally during the arduous 82-game regular season, more often than not for road games. The trend prompted the league to make an effort to schedule fewer games for teams on consecutive nights.
Former NBA All-Star Isiah Thomas disagreed with Lue's decision, saying teams had a responsibility to suit up their stars.
"That's part of making our game global. That's the responsibility of being an entertainer," he said on NBA Network. "It's like when you've got a ticket to see Beyonce, and she says 'I'm not showing up, you're going to get the back-ups', (you're) going to (want) a refund."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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