CLEVELAND — Kevin Love had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and the Cavaliers beat the Sacramento Kings 101-90 Friday night for their ninth consecutive victory, their longest winning streak in nearly five years.
Cavs forward LeBron James had 19 points and seven assists after he was announced as a surprise starter 45 minutes before the game. Guard Kyrie Irving finished with 21 points and six assists one game after he scored 55 points Wednesday against the Blazers, the most any player has scored in the NBA this season.
James was considered doubtful with a sprained wrist. He already missed one game with the injury and was a limited participant at shootaround Friday morning. The Cavs weren’t planning on him being available.
He started slowly, but finished with 7-of-16 shooting and added three assists despite looking tentative at times with the wrist.
The Cavs led by as many as 16 in the first half and by 21 entering the fourth quarter on a night they were never really challenged by the Kings, who have lost their last eight games. Sacramento’s last win was against Cleveland on Jan. 11 at home, but these two teams have been trending in opposite directions ever since.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 13 rebounds the same day he was named to his first All-Star team. Cousins was chosen by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as a Western Conference injury replacement for Kobe Bryant, providing a shred of good news in what is fast becoming another dreary season.
“It’s an absolute honor,” Kings coach Tyrone Corbin said. “Thinking about all the work DeMarcus has put in the last year and his play on the floor, trying to help this team grow and it’s starting to show. People are starting to recognize his ability on the floor and how he’s continuing to work to make himself better.”
Love scored 16 points in the first quarter, and his big night came after he missed his last 11 shots in Wednesday’s win against the Portland Trail Blazers. Now he’ll prepare for his return to Minnesota for Saturday’s game against the Timberwolves. And Love, who missed out on being an All-Star after he was voted a starting forward in the West last season, knows the reception likely awaiting him.
“Truthfully? Booooo,” Love said. “Probably more of that than a mix of cheers. … We’ll see. (Saturday) will be one of those times where they’ll have the chance to tell me how they really feel.”
The Cavs’ winning streak is their longest since they won a franchise-record 13 straight from Jan. 16 to Feb. 11, 2010. They won 61 games that season, James’ final year in Cleveland before departing for Miami.
NOTES: C DeMarcus Cousins is the first Kings player to be selected as an All-Star since Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic in 2004. Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro told Cousins that he was “in the game.” Cousins responded with “What game?” … With his 21 points and 13 rebounds on Friday, Cousins has had double-doubles in 23 of his last 26 games, including 10 of his last 11. Yet Cousins expected Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard to be the injury replacement. … F Kevin Love returns to Minnesota on Saturday night for the first time since the Timberwolves traded him away last summer. … The Timberwolves’ marketing department created a video for Saturday’s game but failed to mention Love and mockingly declared it the “return of Mike Miller” even though Miller played just one season in Minneapolis and hasn’t played there in six years. “That’s hilarious,” Love said. “More often than not, I have a pretty dry sense of humor. That was pretty good.”
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