Irving scores 37, Cavaliers hold on to beat Clippers 126-121
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cleveland closed out its road trip with a sweep of Los Angeles’ NBA teams in a hint of a turnaround for a team coming out of a six-game skid.
Kyrie Irving scored 37 points and LeBron James added 32 in the Cavaliers’ 126-121 victory over the Clippers on Friday night.
Tristan Thompson had a season-high 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds starting in place of Kevin Love, who sat out after hurting his back in Thursday’s win over the Lakers. James had 11 rebounds, all on the defensive glass.
“Last night Kevin playing the way what he played through, and then tonight Double-T stepping up in his absence, you need those moments in an NBA season,” James said.
At 30, James became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 24,000 points, totaling 24,002.
“It means I’ve been healthy for the most part throughout my career and that I’ve had some great teammates around me,” he said.
The Cavaliers shot 55 percent and were 10 of 23 from 3-point range, with Irving hitting five to help blunt their 19 turnovers, including nine by James.
“It’s been a while since we shot it well from 3,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “That gave us some breathing room and took a little bit of pressure off a lot of the other things that we have to do to score.”
Blake Griffin had 34 points and 19 rebounds to lead six players in double figures for the Clippers, who had won six of their previous eight. DeAndre Jordan had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Matt Barnes added 17 points and Chris Paul had 15 points and 14 assists.
“It’s hard to run when you’re taking the ball out of bounds and we took the ball out of bounds the entire game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We couldn’t get a stop. Everybody was making shots for them. They made you pay for everything.”
James tied the game at 97-all early in the fourth on a 3-pointer over Austin Rivers, who became the first player in NBA history to play for his father after being signed by the Clippers.
Jamal Crawford’s three-point play gave the Clippers their last lead of the game, 100-97.
James and Irving teamed to power the Cavs on a 20-7 run that put them back in front, 117-107. James had nine points and Irving seven as they bookended the spurt with 3-pointers; James slapped his chest after hitting his.
“Communication between us and the coaches is getting a lot better,” Irving said. “Just being out there and the coaches calling plays and me and LeBron seeing something out there and calling plays, and then we just got to go execute.”
Paul’s jumper got the Clippers within four before Thompson’s three-point play extended the Cavs’ lead to 122-115 with 46 seconds to go.
Mike Miller turned the ball over and Paul scored inside to leave the Clippers down two with 9 seconds left after they had trailed by seven with 40 seconds left. But the Cavs hit 3 of 4 free throws, including one by James, to preserve the win.
“We had a couple good looks,” Paul said. “We just missed shots.”
Irving scored five of Cleveland’s first 11 points of the third, giving the Cavs a 72-71 lead on his 3-pointer.
The Clippers responded with a 22-10 run to go up 91-82. Jordan scored seven points, making six trips to the line, where he was just 5 of 12. Paul fed Griffin on a dunk for his 6,500th career assist before the Cavs used a 10-4 spurt to trail 95-92 going into the fourth.
The Cavs shot 58 percent in the first half, when they trailed 64-61.
Cavaliers: Love was ruled out after warmups. “He played through a lot of pain last night and some pretty serious stiffness,” Blatt said. ... They went 2-3 on their West Coast swing. ... The Cavs have won six of their last eight against the Clippers at Staples Center.
Clippers: The 126 points given up by the Clippers were a season-worst. ... Paul became the second-fastest to reach 6,500 assists after John Stockton in 1985-86. ... The Clippers waived G Jordan Farmar to make room on the roster for Austin Rivers. Farmar averaged 4.6 points, 1.9 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 36 games as the backup to Paul. ... Jay-Z and Beyonce attended the game.
Barnes and boxer Floyd Mayweather exchanged some heated words late in the game. Barnes refused to discuss the incident afterward.
Cavaliers: Host Chicago on Monday.
Clippers: At Sacramento on Saturday.