Kyrie Irving put on a fourth-quarter show on Wednesday, picking up where LeBron James left off to help the Cleveland Cavaliers launch a six-game NBA road trip with a 121-115 victory over the Washington Wizards.
“King” James scored 30 of his 34 points in the first three quarters and Irving poured in 19 of his 32 in the fourth period as the Cavaliers avenged a 97-85 loss to the Wizards in Cleveland on December 1.
“It was in the front of our mind,” James said of what remains the Cavs’ only home loss this season. “We know what they did to us. We just wanted to try to get some give-back.”
Irving continued the progress he’s shown since returning on December 20 from the knee injury suffered in game one of last season’s NBA Finals.
“There will be days when he’s better and days when he’s going to have some effect of the many months he was out,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “But that sure did not look like that tonight.”
James, who also pulled down 10 rebounds, helped Eastern Conference leaders Cleveland build an 18-point lead with a barrage of four three-pointers early in the third quarter.
The Wizards answered with their own surge, knotting the score at 95-95 with 10:53 to play.
Irving took over, scoring the game’s next 10 points. “That was nuts,” said Cavs guard J.R. Smith, who scored 25 points himself. “To be out months and still be able to come out there and shake and bake like he’s doing is remarkable.”
Garrett Temple scored 21 points for the Wizards while John Wall, the NBA’s Eastern Conference player of the month for December, had 20 points and 12 assists.
Both teams shot better than 53 percent from the field. Washington made 14 of 24 three-pointers, but only 17 of 27 from the free-throw line.
The real difference, however, was simple, Temple said.
“Too much Kyrie,” the Washington guard said. “He was hitting some tough, tough shots.”
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Veteran Tim Duncan scored a season-high 18 points and led eight San Antonio players in double figures as the Spurs routed the Utah Jazz 123-98 to remain unbeaten at home this season.
The Spurs’ 123 points matched their most in a game this season, equaling Monday’s total in a win over Milwaukee by the same score.
Duncan, who in his last game at home was held scoreless for the first time in his 18-year NBA career, made San Antonio’s first basket and had eight points in the first quarter.
He helped the Spurs shake off the absence of forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who was held out for rest, and point guard Tony Parker, who is nursing a sore right hip.
The Spurs extended their best home start to a season to 21 wins without a defeat. They have won 30 straight regular-season home games dating back to last season.