LOS ANGELES: The Cleveland Cavaliers extended their unbeaten start to the season with a 128-120 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as San Antonio slumped to their first defeat of the campaign in an upset loss to the Utah Jazz.
Kyrie Irving scored 32 points and Kevin Love produced a defensive masterclass in the fourth quarter to see the Cavs home against the Rockets, who saw James Harden finish with 41 points in a virtuoso display.
Love, who conjured two steals and a blocked shot in the fourth quarter to kill off a Rockets rally, added 24 points while LeBron James weighed in with 19.
The victory means the reigning NBA champions are 4-0 for the first time since the start of the 2000-2001 season 16 years ago.
Love was pivotal in the win, revealing later he had worked hard at improving his defensive game.
“I don’t know what the stats say, but I’d bet you that statistically I’m not a bad defender, so to speak,” Love said.
“I think I read defenses relatively well …
It’s just something I continue to try to get better at.”
Irving meanwhile took the opportunity to shine when James left the court midway through the second quarter before later returning for the second half.
Seal of approval
Irving, 24, rounded off an impressive night’s work with a deep three-pointer, earning the seal of approval from James.
“He’s special. He’s growing every day,” James said. “He’s in the zone, he knows who he is and what he’s about. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s only (24). He’s nowhere near to what he could be.”
While Cleveland marched on however, San Antonio’s dazzling early season form deserted them in their upset 106-91 loss to Utah.
George Hill scored 22 points to lead the fired up Jazz, who improved to 2-2, against a powerful San Antonio who had routed Golden State in their season-opener last week.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard top-scored overall with 30 points. Veteran Spurs coach Gregg Popovich meanwhile slammed his team’s lack of aggression.
“I thought we started out pretty unaggressively for whatever reason,” Popovich told reporters.
“They shot several uncontested shots. I think we followed them around so to speak, just reacted to their offense.
“We got back in the game somewhere in the second quarter and the third when we were a bit more aggressive and got into passing lanes.
“But every time it was a one or two-point deal we’d miss a shot or they’d make one or turn it over. Overall they outplayed us. They executed fantastically for the entire 48 minutes — we were in and out in that regard.”
In the late game, Stephen Curry pocketed 28 points for Golden State against the Portland Trail Blazers as the Warriors recorded a third straight win after last week’s opening upset.
Curry’s haul in the 127-104 victory included a 23-point spree in the third quarter. Kevin Durant added 20 points while Ian Clark came off the bench to score 22.
Elsewhere there was another frustrating defeat for in-form New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. Davis, 23, whose team was downed 117-113 by the Milwaukee Bucks, added another 35 points to set alongside his 50-point and 45-point efforts last week but it was to no avail.
“We’re not talking out there, and therefore, we have mental breakdowns, which leads to easy layups at the basket and open shots,” Davis said.