Saturday, March 25, 2017

James shines as Cavs bounce back

LOS ANGELES, United States - LeBron James just missed a triple-double, pouring in 32 points with 11 assists and nine rebounds Friday in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 112-105 NBA victory over the Hornets in Charlotte.

Kyrie Irving added 26 points and Kevin Love chipped in 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who connected on 55.4 percent of their shots from the field.

The reigning NBA champions led by as many as 12 in the first half and were in front for all of the second half as they bounced back from a disappointing 126-113 loss at Denver on Wednesday.

That performance had prompted James to call out his teammates for lack of toughness in a defeat that saw their Eastern Conference lead over Boston shrink to one game.

The Hornets saw their three-game winning streak snapped and lost ground in their quest to grab an Eastern Conference playoff berth. They remain 11th in the East with 10 games remaining in the regular season.

Cleveland led 33-31 after one quarter, 59-53 at halftime and 90-85 going into the final period.

They quashed a late Hornets comeback bid that saw Charlotte score seven straight points to trim the deficit to 100-99 with 4:20 to play.

Cleveland responded through a three-pointer from J.R. Smith, a basket from Love and a dunk from James to push the lead back to seven -- and the Hornets never got closer than five from there.

In Washington, John Wall scored 22 points and Bradley Beal added 19 as the Wizards completed a four-game season sweep of the lowly Brooklyn Nets with a 129-108 victory.

Brandon Jennings came off the bench to score 18 points with nine assists for the Wizards, who shot 50.5 percent from the field, made 21 of 22 free throws and led by as many as 28 points.

The Wizards have now won two in a row. They improved to 44-28 and moved one game ahead of the idle Toronto Raptors for third place in the Eastern Conference.

Washington open a tough five-game road trip Saturday at Cleveland.

The Nuggets followed up their victory over the Cavaliers with a 125-117 triumph over the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

Nikola Jokic scored 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds and Wilson Chandler added 24 points for the Nuggets, who made 40 of 43 free throws and turned back a Pacers surge in the final period.