Hornets fall to LeBron-less Cavaliers, drop fifth straight
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kevin Love scored 27 points, Kyrie Irving had 23 and the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 91-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
Tristan Thompson added 14 points and 14 rebounds as the Cavaliers won their first game since announcing LeBron James would miss two weeks with knee and back strains. Dion Waiters finished with 17 points.
Love returned to the lineup after missing one start with back spasms and played 38 minutes. He was 9 of 15 from the field and helped the Cavaliers (19-14) take control of the game with three straight 3-pointers in the third quarter after an injury scare.
First-year Cleveland coach David Blatt leaned heavily on his starters, using a seven-man rotation. Thompson played 43 minutes and Irving played 42.
Gerald Henderson led Charlotte (10-24) with 14 points. The Hornets have lost five in a row.
Cleveland had to withstand a late Charlotte rally to snap its losing streak.
Charlotte closed to 86-83 before Love made a turnaround 17-foot jump shot from the left baseline over Marvin Williams’ outstretched hand with 22 seconds left.
Kemba Walker missed a driving layup, but Charlotte corralled the loose ball and Henderson rolled down the lane for a two-handed dunk.
But Irving knocked down two free throws with 10.3 seconds left to push the lead back to five. Charlotte would cut it back to three before Irving hit a free throw with 1.8 seconds to go.
The game turned with 10:37 left in the third quarter when Love drove the baseline after recovering a loose ball and appeared to bang knees with Charlotte’s Bismack Biyombo. Love remained the floor under the basket as the Hornets raced the ball up the floor.
After play was finally stopped, trainers attended to Love as his Cleveland teammates gathered around.
Love remained on the floor for about two minutes before getting up and walking off. He remained in the game and proceeded to knock down three 3-pointers to three consecutive possessions to give the Cavaliers a 51-50 lead.
Irving then started driving to the basket and within a matter of minutes Cleveland had turned a six-point deficit into a 62-55 lead.
Love talked before the game about viewing James’ absence with a "glass half full approach," saying it would provide a chance for other players, including himself, to step up.
The Hornets remained handicapped offensively without their best player in center Al Jefferson, who is out with a groin injury. Biyombo, his replacement, had two points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.