LOS ANGELES: LeBron James scored 22 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers put an embarrassing defeat further behind them on Thursday (Friday in Manila) with a 115-102 NBA victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Kevin Love scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Cavs as all five Cleveland starters scored in double figures.
The balanced effort helped Cleveland overcome a 30-point night from Clippers guard Chris Paul, who scored 12 straight points in the first quarter to keep visiting Los Angeles close in the early going.
The Cavaliers then clamped down on defense to come up with a solid win against a top Western Conference team days after they were blown out by the Golden State Warriors — a defeat that James said “opened a lot of eyes for us”.
“In order for us to be successful we have to defend at a high level. We’ve got to share the ball and get the ball moving from side to side and get the defense moving,” said James, whose Cavs began their bounce-back with a win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. “We’ve done that the last two games.”
Although James admitted that Monday’s loss to the Warriors was a wake-up call, he bridled at the suggestion it was a “red flag” for the 30-11 Cavaliers.
“We’re number one in our conference for a reason,” he said. “Monday was definitely a test for us to understand how much more room for improvement [we have], but I’d rather be in this position than a lot of other teams.”
Grizzlies hold off Nuggets
Spanish center Marc Gasol converted the go-ahead three-point play with 12.2 seconds left as the Memphis Grizzlies held off the Nuggets in Denver by a score of 102-101.
Gasol scored 27 points and guard Mike Conley added 20 for the Grizzlies, who got off to a blistering start and led by as many as 18 in the second quarter before the Nuggets rallied.
Gasol scored 18 of his points in the second half, cutting to the basket for a layup with 12.2 seconds to play that put Memphis up 99-98. He was fouled on the play by Denver center Joffrey Lauvergne and made the free throw to give the Grizzlies a 100-98 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
It was close as well in Sacramento, where Kings guard Rajon Rondo notched his fifth triple-double of the season and forward DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points with 15 rebounds to lead the hosts to a 91-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Rondo scored 11 points with 11 assists and 10 rebounds as the erratic Kings notched their fourth straight win.
Spurs scorch Suns
San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard celebrated his election as an All-Star starter with 21 points as the Spurs defeated the injury-hit Suns 117-89 in Phoenix.
Reserve center Boban Marjanovic notched his first career double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds as the Spurs won their 12th straight game and took their record to 37-6.
The absence of injured Tony Parker and a resting Tim Duncan was no problem for the Spurs, who never trailed in the contest.
With the win, San Antonio closed within two games of the 39-4 Warriors for best record in the league.
Davis lifts Pelicans
Anthony Davis scored 32 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans, who continued their mid-season surge with a 115-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Tyreke Evans added 22 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, who won for the fourth time in five games.
Davis was his usual hard-driving self, diving into the courtside seats after a loose ball in the second quarter in a move reminiscent of one on which he hurt himself a fortnight earlier.
“It just happens,” an unscathed Davis said. “I can’t stop that. It’s raw instinct.”