NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James scored 36 points, carrying Cleveland while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love had slow starts in their return to the lineup, and the Cavaliers beat the Brooklyn Nets 116-108 on Friday night.
Irving added 32 points and Love had 17 points and 13 rebounds, but both shot poorly early as the Nets kept it competitive for 1 quarters. James helped the Cavs open a double-digit lead by halftime and they led comfortably most of the rest of the way in the opener of a six-game trip.
The Cavs were still working to finalize a trade with Atlanta to acquire shooting guard Kyle Korver. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said before the game he didn’t have any new information about when that would happen.
He said earlier Friday that Korver would come off the bench when he arrives. DeAndre Liggins, who has been starting since J.R. Smith broke his thumb, will remain in the lineup, at least at first.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points for the Nets, who have lost five straight and 10 of 11.
Love missed a loss to Chicago on Wednesday and was limited in the previous game after suffering from food poisoning on New Year’s Day. Irving had sat out the last three games with right hamstring tightness.
Irving started 1 for 8 and Love was 1 for 7 as the Nets, who trailed by 46 during their loss at Cleveland on Dec. 23, led with under five minutes remaining in the second quarter. But James then picked up the pace and had 10 points in the final 3:09 as Cleveland took a 50-39 lead.
Love then had 10 points in the Cavs’ 36-point third quarter and Irving heated up late, hitting three 3-pointers as Cleveland broke it open again after the Nets trimmed a 24-point deficit to six in the fourth quarter.
Irving finished 10 for 26 from the field and Love was 5 for 16.
Tristan Thompson was 0 for 9 from the free throw line in the first half before finally making a pair with 4:27 left in the third quarter after the Nets fouled him intentionally. He finished 4 for 13.
Cavaliers: Love said he has regained most of the 10 pounds he lost during his illness. … After the acquisition of Korver is completed, James and Lue said the next priority for the Cavs is adding another point guard. With Matthew Dellavedova going to Milwaukee in the offseason, rookie Kay Felder is the only point guard on the roster other than Irving.
Nets: With Jeremy Lin still sidelined, Spencer Dinwiddie made his second career start, scoring seven points. … F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson returned after missing Thursday’s loss in Indiana with right hip tendinitis and shot 1 for 6 for four points. … Brooklyn fell to 0-5 on the second night of back-to-back games.
Though the trade with Atlanta wasn’t done yet, the Cavaliers did complete one with Portland. The Cavs re-acquired the 2018 first-round pick they had sent the Trail Blazers along with Anderson Varejao last February, in exchange for their 2017 first-rounder.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant in Atlanta, said the Cavaliers are making a great move to get Korver, one of the NBA’s top 3-point shooters.
“I think we all make a mistake if we just think Kyle’s a shooter,” Atkinson said. “I think he’s a better all-around player than people think. I think he’s a better defender than people think. Better passer. He’s just really great IQ and he’s going to help them in so many ways.”
Cavaliers: Visit Phoenix on Sunday as the rest of their trip is in the West, capped by another NBA Finals rematch at Golden State on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Nets: Host Philadelphia on Sunday. The teams have the two lowest winning percentages in the NBA.