CLEVELAND — LeBron James thinks a rocky January can help the Cleveland Cavaliers in the long run.
“The road to a championship or the road to success shouldn’t be a bed of roses,” he said after scoring 31 points Friday night in a 124-116 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. “It’s never been my road. I shouldn’t expect anything different. So having bumps in the road, I think it builds character.”
Kyrie Irving added 28 points and the Cavaliers ended a turbulent week with a much-needed victory. 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.
“Yeah, I feel better,” said Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, whose team is 6-7 this month. “It feels good to get a win anyway you can get it.”
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 roster’s construction following a loss to New Orleans, which played without All-Star Anthony Davis, on Monday. He met with his teammates, 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.
Asked Friday about his relationship with owner Dan Gilbert, James said, “He’s the owner of the team, I’m one of the players on the team. It’s not about me and it’s not about him, so, it’s a non issue.”
The controversy has left Lue dealing with a distraction while his team has gone through its toughest stretch of the season, but Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson knew the Cavaliers might take out their frustrations on his team.
“Putting them on edge isn’t the best thing in the world (for us),” Atkinson said.
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 Cavaliers began a stretch of three games in four days, which ends with a back-to-back set at home against Oklahoma City on Sunday and Monday at Dallas.
“We’ve been looking at resting a couple of guys a little bit down the road,” he said. “Not sure what game. We’ve got to get to playing right first. Once we start winning again then we’ll look at resting guys.”