CLEVELAND (AP) – LeBron James scored 31 points, Kyrie Irving added 28 and the Cleveland Cavaliers ended a turbulent week with a 124-116 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night.
The NBA champions had lost three straight and six of eight while James questioned whether the organization was fully committed to winning a second title.
The Cavaliers took advantage of a timely visit from the NBA’s worst team. Irving scored 20 points, and James added 10 in the third quarter when Cleveland built an 86-62 lead.
Kevin Love, named to the All-Star team Thursday, had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
The Nets have lost four straight and 15 of their last 16. Brooklyn played without leading scorer Brook Lopez (rest) and top rebounder Trevor Booker (illness).
Sean Kilpatrick led Brooklyn with 18 points, and Bojan Bogdanovic had 17.
James criticized the team construction following a loss to New Orleans, which played without All-Star Anthony Davis, on Monday. He met with his teammates, coach Tyronn Lue and general manager David Griffin, prior to a loss to Sacramento on Wednesday.
Griffin said he understood James’ frustration, but took issue with the four-time MVP’s assertion that the Cavs appeared satisfied with one title. The controversy has left Lue dealing with a distraction while his team has gone through its toughest stretch of the season.
Cleveland led by 11 in the first half and took a 55-47 lead into halftime on Richard Jefferson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. James and Irving took over in the third as Cleveland raced to a 24-point advantage.
Brooklyn scored nine straight points and trailed 86-73, but Irving hit two 3-pointers and scored on a drive to the basket, pushing the lead to 94-73.
The woeful Nets were hurt even more by the absence of Lopez, who averages 20.6 points. Justin Hamilton started at center while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson started in place of Booker, who averages 9.9 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Nets: Brooklyn dressed 10 players. G Caris LeVert also rested, but coach Kenny Atkinson expects both Lopez and the rookie guard to play Saturday. G Joe Harris (sprained left ankle) is also out while G Jeremy Lin (strained left hamstring) missed his 16th straight game. … F Quincy Acy’s second 10-day contract expires Sunday.
Cavaliers: The voting process for next month’s All-Star Game has been questioned since several players who see little playing time received votes. “There’s always goofy votes,” James said. “I mean, Donald Trump is our president.” James supported Hillary Clinton in November’s election. … Jefferson returned after missing a game because of the birth of his son.
Nets: Visit Minnesota on Saturday. Brooklyn was a 119-110 home winner over the Timberwolves on Nov. 8.
Cavaliers: Host Oklahoma City on Sunday. James averaged 29 points and 11 assists against the Thunder last season.