(The Sports Xchange) – LeBron James’ rested legs were strong enough in the fourth quarter to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers over the pesky Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
In fact, all three of the Cavs’ rested stars played a key role in the victory.
James scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, and Kyrie Irving had 21 points and matched his career high with 12 assists in Cleveland’s 119-108 home victory over the Lakers.
Kevin Love had 27 points and a season-high 17 rebounds after coach Tyronn Lue rested all three in Cleveland’s previous game on Wednesday. Irving took a week off because he complained to Lue he had tired legs in last Saturday’s win over Charlotte.
“It was warranted. How I felt, knowing the importance of what was coming up in the season, I think it was a great group decision in terms of the rest that was needed,” Irving said. “I had no arguments with that.”
The Lakers snapped an eight-game losing skid Friday at Philadelphia, but they’ve been known to give the league’s elite teams fits. They smashed the Golden State Warriors by 20 earlier this season, the second straight season they’ve beaten their in-state rivals.
The Lakers led by as many as eight late in the first quarter and maintained the lead into the second quarter until the Cavs started to rally. They remained within 108-105 late in the fourth quarter after two 3-pointers from Nick Young.
Young scored a season-high 32 points and Julius Randle had 16 points and seven assists for the Lakers. Luol Deng scored 15 points.
“We are finding out how hard it is to win a single game in this league,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
The Lakers were without starting point guard D’Angelo Russell, who sat out after appearing tired in the second half on Friday at Philadelphia. Russell recently returned from platelet-rich plasma therapy on his right knee and the Lakers are being cautious with him.
Even without their star, the Lakers made 16 3-pointers and nearly pulled off the stunning upset on the road.
James’ 3-pointer with 2:32 left extended the Cavs’ lead to 113-105 and finally seemed to put away the Lakers.
Lue warned Saturday that this might not be the last time Irving sits for an extended period this season. It certainly seemed to help him Saturday. Irving played 38 minutes and registered 12 assists for the second time this season.
“In practice (Friday), he looked really good, had a lot of pop, was moving around well,” Lue said.
“There will probably come another time where he’s going to need a little rest also. Right now, he’s feeling good and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
(Editing by Andrew Both)