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Wrap-Up – One day after finding out the that they’d be without LeBron James for the next couple weeks, the Cavaliers needed some good mojo. A road win over the Hornets was just the thing.
The shorthanded Cavs came into Friday night’s meeting on Tobacco Road losers of three straight, but behind the quartet of Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, turned things around – surging ahead in the second half and holding on for the 91-87 win at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
Love, in his first game back after being sidelined with back spasms on Tuesday night in Atlanta, found his shooting stroke early in the third quarter – canning three straight triples to give Cleveland the lead and splashing home a beautiful 17-foot fadeaway over Marvin Williams with 28 seconds remaining to preserve it. The three-time All-Star finished 9-of-15 from the floor, including 3-of-4 from long distance, adding five boards and a blocked shot in the win.
Kyrie followed up with 23 points on 8-for-27 shooting to go with four boards, four steals and three assists. Dion Waiters came off Cleveland’s bench to jumpstart the squad late in the second quarter and finished with 17 points, five board and four steals of his own.
In the middle, Tristan Thompson continued his stellar play as a starter, racking up his fourth straight double-double – with 14 points, 14 boards and three blocks – while completely shutting down Charlotte’s Bismack Biyombo, who didn’t attempt a shot in 27 minutes of play.
Friday’s game wasn’t a thing of beauty for either team, and the Hornets were hurting as well – playing without their leading scorer and rebounder, Al Jefferson, and their prized offseason acquisition, Lance Stephenson. The Cavs shot 38 percent to the Hornets’ 37 in a game that saw seven ties and seven lead-changes.
Turning Point – Friday’s contest featured a pair of game-changing moments.
The Cavs had a flat first quarter, managing only 16 points on 29 percent shooting. They struggled through much of the second as well and trailed by 11 with just over two minutes remaining in the half. But Dion Waiters turned it up on the defensive end – converting a pair of steals into a pair of buckets and scoring six straight points. Kevin Love’s layup completed a late 8-0 run that put Cleveland back in business right before intermission.
The Hornets improved their lead to six early in the third quarter, but after a collision with Cody Zeller that had him seated on the baseline for a few minutes, Kevin Love returned to the game to drill three straight three-pointers to give the Wine and Gold a lead that they didn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
By the Numbers – 7-3 … Cavaliers’ record against Eastern Conference teams on the road so far this season.
Quotable – Coach David Blatt, on controlling the pace of Friday night’s victory …
”We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but I thought we got a lot of good shots. We did it by mixing pace with patience. And I think that’s the way we have to play.”
Up Next – After tipping off the New Year on Friday night in Charlotte, the Wine and Gold return to The Q for a matinee matchup with Dirk Nowitzki and the heavyweight Mavericks at The Q. They get right back on the road afterwards, heading to the City of Brotherly Love for their first matchup of the season against the Sixers. The Cavs head back to The Q to take on another tough Texas opponent, as James Harden and the Houston Rockets roll into town on Wednesday night. Following that, the Wine and Gold embark on a weeklong West Coast junket that sends them to Golden State, Sacramento, Phoenix and L.A. – for a rare back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers.