LOS ANGELES: The NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers snapped a two-game skid Friday (Saturday in Manila), with Kyrie Irving leading the way with 26 points in a 120-108 victory over the Kings in Sacramento.
Kyle Korver, recently arrived in a trade from Atlanta, added 18 points off the bench and superstar LeBron James contributed 16 points and 15 assists in his latest outing in the city where he made his NBA debut in 2003.
But it wasn’t all clear sailing for the champions. After trailing by 24 points in the first half, the streaky Kings got as close as 90-85 in the in the fourth quarter.
Sacramento had reduced a 19-point first-quarter deficit to 43-33 with five minutes left in the first half.
The Cavs responded with a 16-4 scoring run that included seven points from Korver.
The Kings reduced the deficit to 66-58 with 7:02 left the third, but Irving scored nine of Cleveland’s next 14 as the champions rebuilt their lead.
In his third game with the Cavaliers, Korver looked to have found his rhythm. He made his first three shots, finished seven of 10 from the field and drained four of his six three-point attempts.
Korver said he benefited from his first real chance to practice with his new teammates at Friday morning’s shoot-around.
“I still didn’t know what was going on half the time,” he said. “But I knew what was going on half the time. So that was really helpful.”
Irving, who had struggled with his shot in four games since returning from a sore hamstring, made 10 of his 22 attempts from the field.
The victory was the perfect warmup for the Cavs prior to their marquee showdown with the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
Grizzlies rally, down Rockets
In Houston, Zach Randolph posted a double-double off the bench and the Memphis Grizzlies erased a 16-point deficit en route to a 110-105 victory over the Rockets.
Randolph finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Mike Conley had 17 points and nine assists for the Grizzlies. Spanish big man Marc Gasol added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists and Tony Allen scored a season-high 22 before he fouled out with 3:35 remaining.
The Rockets dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season as they struggled from three-point range.
After connecting on 58.3 percent of their shots in the first half the Rockets went cold. They missed 21 of 24 three-point attempts in the second half.
With the Rockets down by four with less than a minute to play, Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson both missed open three-point attempts.
“We didn’t make shots,” Rockets guard James Harden said. “Trevor had a really good look, Ryan had a really good look. Simple.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves withstood Russell Westbrook’s 19th triple-double of the season to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-86 in Minneapolis.
Karl-Anthony Towns notched his 10th straight double-double with 29 points and 27 rebounds and Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio scored 14 points and handed out 14 assists for the Timberwolves, who closed out a four-game homestand with a third straight victory.
Westbrook had 21 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, his 19th triple-double of the season giving him the most in a single campaign since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 in 1967-68.
But he also coughed up 10 of the Thunder’s 19 turnovers.
There was drama in Atlanta, where Isaiah Thomas drained a step-back jump shot with 2.2 seconds remaining to lift the Boston Celtics to a 103-101 victory that ended the Hawks’ seven-game winning streak.
Thomas scored 13 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter and Boston made 17 three-pointers as they produced a win in first-year Celtic Al Horford’s first game against his former team.
In contrast, the Utah Jazz romped to a 110-77 home victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Rodney hood scored a season-high 27 points, making seven of eight three-point attempts. George Hill added 22 points and Gordon Hayward contributed 20 for the Jazz.