THE Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away late to mark Kevin Love’s return with a win over the Utah Jazz, 91-83, at the Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday (Friday, Manila time)
Back from a 13-game absence due to a knee injury, Love showed some rust but flirted with a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes. Still, the Cavs didn’t need much of his production as Kyrie Irving got the Cavs going early to build an 11-point lead, but Joe Johnson sparked a 12-0 run to close out the first half and trail by only two, 44-42.
The Jazz managed to tie the game early in the third before LeBron James took over and put the Cavs back up by eight. But Rudy Gobert and Alec Burks collaborated on another strong finish in the period with an 8-0 blast as the match was tied at 67-all entering the last quarter.
The Cavs started pulling away midway through the fourth as James hit seven straight points to cap a 10-0 run and take an 84-77 lead with 4:58 left.
Joe Johnson brought the Jazz within three, 86-83, with 1:51 to go but JR Smith countered with a huge triple to bring the Cavs back up by six. James put the finishing touch with a drive at the 1:02 mark and the Jazz could not find the range late that led to their downfall.
James led the way for the Cavs, winners of two in a row to improve to 45-22, with 33 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Irving added 21 markers, while Smith chipped in 12 off the bench.
Gobert had a huge double-double of 20 points and 19 rebounds for the Jazz (43-26). Gordon Hayward added 13 markers, while Joe Ingles and Johnson scored 12 apiece.