Darius Garland scored 22 points and delivered 12 assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers stretched their winning streak to five games with a 114-107 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.
The Cavaliers dominated on offense and defense down the stretch, holding the Nets to just two points during the final 3:43 of the fourth quarter.
“It’s a signature win for us against a high-level team,” Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said. “To me, the most impressive thing is you hold a team like that to 19 points in the fourth quarter.”
The Cavaliers win comes on a day the NBA honored the memory of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with special ceremonies and video tributes throughout the 14 games on Monday.
Rookie Evan Mobley tallied 12 points for Cleveland in front of a crowd of 18,100 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse arena in Cleveland.
The Nets were playing their first full game without NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant, who is sidelined with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
“You can’t replace Kev,” said Irving. “It’s impossible. We just faced that reality right now.”
Part-time Nets player Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 27 points but made just two baskets in the fourth quarter when it mattered the most. Irving, who is unvaccinated, is barred from playing all but the Nets’ away games because of New York’s Covid-19 health and safety rules.
Irving doubled down Monday on his anti-vaccine stand, giving a rambling explanation and bristling when quizzed by reporters after the game.
“Your bringing my vaccination status into a basketball game,” Irving said. “I live my life the majority of the time away from it (NBA). When I say I am not getting vaccinated I am making a choice with my life …. What I’m trying to better articulate is I’m not bringing science into the basketball game.
“So though I feel your feeling and emotion for asking that question, it’s just like, sometimes it feels a little disrespectful.”
In Florida, CJ McCollum scored 16 points in his first game back from a collapsed lung as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Orlando Magic 98-88.
McCollum missed 17 games over six weeks after being injured December 4. He started but saw limited action Monday as the Trail Blazers try to ease him back into the lineup.
“I worked extremely hard over the last two weeks to recondition, build my body back and getting up shots. And I think you can tell,” McCollum said.
Also, Devin Booker poured in a season-high 48 points and the Phoenix Suns pulled away for a 121-107 win over the San Antonio Spurs.
Phoenix has won four straight games, all on the road, to improve on the league’s best record of 34-9.
In Los Angeles, LeBron James scored 25 points as the Los Angeles Lakers ended a three-game losing skid with a 101-95 win over the Utah Jazz.
The Lakers rebounded for Monday night’s win after an embarrassing 37-point loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
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