Irving, Cavs ride their rest to another win
Kyrie Irving got an extended rest, but it didn't really matter. He just looked like the same old Irving.
Actually, Irving wasn’t the only member of the Cavaliers who appeared refreshed. Like Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love also returned after a game off, the final result a 119-108 win over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
Irving sat for two games, with James and Love joining him for the second (Wednesday's loss at Memphis).
But return they did Saturday, helping the Cavs stave off a young and determined Lakers squad.
Love led the way with 27 points and a whopping 17 rebounds, but James and Irving were equally as good.
James scored 26, including 16 in the final 12 minutes. Irving went for 21, and tied his career high with 12 assists.
So welcome back, Kyrie. It's nice to see you again, say the Cavaliers.
"It was just a needed rest for me," Irving told reporters. "It's just about being smart and not running into that wall completely. I'm able to push through anything and my mind commands my body at the same time. But it's still about being smart."
The Lakers are coached by Luke Walton, the former Golden State assistant who stresses extra passing, limited dribbling and a whole lot of perimeter shots. And like those Warriors, this Lakers team gets tons of open looks.
While the talent is not quite championship level (nor maybe even playoff level), the Lakers can keep things close via sheer volume. Plus, they play hard, they play smart, and like everyone else, they treated their night against the Cavs like their own personal shot at the title.
For the Cavs (19-6), it was more like another night at the office, with the Big Three expected to take over should things get dicey.
And that is indeed how it went.
The Lakers (11-19) managed to keep things interesting and act generally pesky, trailing just 110-105 late in the game. But then the Cavs behaved like champs, with James burying a 3-pointer in transition and the defense stepping it up a notch.
When the Big Three is around, it's hard for opponents to do much other than pray in the clutch. That's especially true when that Big Three is well-rested and ready for another game.
That was the Cavs on Saturday night.
Nick Young went nuts for the Lakers, hitting eight threes on his way to 32 points. Jordan Clarkson added 20. Second-year Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (Ohio State) sat out with a sore knee.