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Wrap-Up – With a marquee matchup in Miami looming on Christmas Day, there was a concern that the Cavaliers might look past the young, struggling Timberwolves. But after two-and-a-half quarters, the Wine and Gold picked it up on both ends of the floor and pulled away to close the homestand in style – topping Minnesota, 125-104, on Tuesday at The Q.
Three Cavalier starters notched 20-plus points and the bench came up big again, as Cleveland won its ninth home game in the last ten outings, including a 4-1 mark on the homestand.
Kyrie Irving led everyone with 29 points, going 12-for-19 from the floor and adding four assists and three steals. LeBron James followed up with an economical 8-for-16 shooting night, tallying 24 points to go with four boards, three assists, three blocks and a steal. Kevin Love battled through a third-quarter thumb injury, returning to double-up against his former squad with 20 points and 10 boards.
One starter who wasn’t so lucky was Anderson Varejao, who came down awkwardly under the Cavs basket and had to be helped off the floor and into the team’s locker room. He was diagnosed with a foot/ankle injury and didn’t return to action. He’ll be further evaluated in Cleveland on Wednesday.
The Cavaliers second unit had another strong outing, led by Dion Waiters, who followed up a 21-point effort in Sunday’s win over Memphis with a 19-point outing on Tuesday – going 5-for-12 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, adding four assists, three steals and a pair of boards. Shawn Marion added 11 points in his third game in a reserve role.
Cleveland shot 52 percent from the floor and an even 50 percent from long-distance. They topped the T-Wolves in the paint and on the fast break. One of the highlights for Minnesota was the performance of Andrew Wiggins, who the Cavs selected with the top overall pick this past June, but traded – along with Anthony Bennett -- for Kevin Love during the offseason. Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting, going 3-of-3 from long-distance. Bennett went scoreless in 11 minutes off the bench.
Turning Point – When Thaddeus Young split a pair of free throws with 3:32 to play in the third quarter, the scrappy T-Wolves closed Cleveland’s edge to 80-78. But the Cavs clamped down defensively and the combination of Kevin Love, Dion Waiters and LeBron James keyed a 16-1 run to end the period. In that stretch, Love canned four straight free throws, LeBron drilled a long three-pointer and Waiters scored the last five points of the period to put the Win e and Gold in the driver’s seat headed into the fourth.
On the evening, the Cavaliers closed the second and third quarters on a combined 28-7 score.
By the Numbers – .737 … Shawn Marion’s field goal percentage (14-of-19) since being moved to the second unit before the Brooklyn game on December 19.
Quotable – Mike Miller, on how he felt facing off against his former team …
”I didn’t really feel much of anything, to be honest with you. It felt like just another game. It was a game that we felt that we needed to win. It was our last game at home before we went to South Florida before Christmas.”
Up Next – After wrapping up the five-game homestand, the Cavaliers head south for holidays, taking on Dwyane Wade and the Heat in a nationally-televised Christmas Day game. The following night it’s a trip to the Magic Kingdom to face off against a Magic team they trounced by 32 points in late November. On Sunday, it’s another afternoon affair as the Cavs take on Stan Van Gundy’s struggling Pistons. Two nights later, it’s the Wine and Gold’s third matchup against Atlanta already this season – but on Tuesday night the Cavaliers travel to the dirty south for the meeting.