CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, LeBron James had 25 and 14 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers played one of their better all-around games in weeks, beating Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder 107-91 on Sunday.
The Cavs have won two straight after the NBA champions lost six of eight amid internal turmoil sparked by James criticizing the team’s roster following a recent loss.
But while not forgotten, the chaos has calmed down a bit and a quality win sure helps.
Westbrook finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 24th triple-double, but only made 7 of 26 shots for the Thunder, who had won three straight.
Cleveland All-Star forward Kevin Love didn’t play in the second half because of back spasms. Love has been dealing with back issues since he came to Cleveland and he missed a game earlier this month with spasms.
James became the first player in Cavaliers history to score 20,000 points for the franchise. He came in needing six points to hit the plateau and reached it with a layup early in the second quarter.
Oklahoma City played its first game without reserve center Enes Kanter. He broke his right forearm punching a chair Thursday in a win over Dallas, had surgery Friday and will be out at least a month.
Leading by 13 at halftime, the Cavs let the Thunder get back within eight before Irving put on a show with several drives to the basket.
Showing off his magnificent dribbling skills to open space and tie up defenders, Irving scored three layups in a span of 58 seconds to put Cleveland back up by 17.
Oklahoma City made a run with Westbrook on the bench in the fourth, getting within 82-75 but Irving scored a pair of layups and later drained a 30-foot 3-pointer to give the Cavs a 98-82 lead.
Wearing a Michael Jackson-inspired red leather “Thriller” jacket, Westbrook walked into the arena about two hours before tip-off with Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” playing from the speakers near the security entrance.
It was fitting musical accompaniment for Westbrook, who joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists through the first 40-plus games. Robertson averaged a triple-double for the entire 1961-62 season.
Westbrook, though, struggled with his shot as the Cavs did all they could to slow him down.
Thunder: Westbrook’s 24 triple-doubles are the most in a season since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 in 1967-68. … It was Oklahoma City’s 11th road game of 12 in January. … Coach Billy Donovan said it’s a misconception that Westbrook is selfish. “He understands he’s part of a team and he’s always wanted to be part of a team,” Donovan said. “He’s one of the league leaders in assists. He generates a lot offense for other guys. He gets in there and helps rebound in the frontcourt. He’s found that balance.” … Donovan played against Irving’s father, Drederick, in college when he was at Providence and the elder Irving was at Boston University. “We beat him in the NIT,” Donovan said. “I think. That was 30 years ago.”
Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson had 19 points and 12 rebounds. … James has scored nearly twice as many points as Cleveland’s No. 2 career scorer Zydrunas Ilgauskas (10,616). James scored 7,919 points during his four seasons with Miami. … Cleveland is 29-6 in its last 35 home games against Western Conference teams. … Cleveland made eight 3-pointers after dropping at least 13 in five straight games.
Thunder: At San Antonio on Tuesday.
Cavaliers: At Dallas on Monday, the first of three back-to-backs before the All-Star break.