Irving scores 46 as Cavaliers beat Lakers

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[March 20, 2017]  LOS ANGELES -- Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said his club coasted for three quarters before launching a rally in the final period against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kyrie Irving scored 46 points, and the Cavaliers used a fourth-quarter rally to knock off the Lakers 125-120 on Sunday at Staples Center.

"They played well against us, but I know our team and the way we are," Lue said. "Sometimes, you have to understand it is not a show but a competition. When you get to L.A. and play teams like this, we consider it a show instead of competition. When you get down early, it hurts your confidence and now you got to fight and try to win your game."

Irving connected on 15 of 21 shots from the floor and 6 of 10 from 3-point range for the Cavaliers, who increased their lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference to 2 1/2 games. LeBron James contributed 34 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Kevin Love added 21 points and 15 boards for Cleveland (46-23).

"Me and (James) kind of put the team on our back and everyone just followed suit," said Irving, who scored 25 points in the second half, 14 of those in the fourth quarter. "We just did a great job of continuing to attack, and in the fourth quarter we locked down defensively."

D'Angelo Russell, who hit seven 3-pointers, scored a career-high 40 points for the Lakers, who lost their fifth in a row. The 21-year-old Russell became the youngest Laker to score that many points.

"That's dope," Russell said.

Jordan Clarkson had 19 points and Brandon Ingram chipped in 18 for Los Angeles (20-50).

Irving's 3-point bucket with 4:09 remaining gave the Cavaliers a 109-106 lead. They never trailed again.

"It wasn't nice to look at because I know who we are," Lue said of Cleveland's first three quarters. "I am just happy to get out with the win and it was just one of those games."

Russell scored 15 points in the third quarter to help boost the Lakers to a 92-82 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. They increased the margin to as much as 11 in the fourth before the Cavaliers rallied.

"They shot the ball extremely well, like I said," said James, who scored 22 points in the second half. "We just had to figure out a way to weather the storm."

After a dunk by David Nwaba gave Los Angeles a 94-83 edge, Cleveland reserve forward Richard Jefferson scored seven straight points to spark an 11-3 run by the Cavaliers to cut the gap to 97-94 after three free throws by Love with 7:37 remaining.

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 Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) moves the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) and guard D'Angelo Russell (1) during second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Irving's two free throws with 4:31 left tied the score at 106 before the Cavaliers took control.

"It's just winning basketball," Irving said. "In the fourth quarter, there's no need to be nervous, no need to feel any type of pressure if there is such a thing. You just go out there and play."

Russell, who started in place of Lakers guard Nick Young (gastroenteritis), scored 18 points in the first quarter. Russell had 22 in the first half as the Lakers took a 59-55 lead at the break.

"I feel like we didn't have anything to lose, so we went out there and competed the whole game, and they responded the way they were supposed to respond," Russell said.

Walton wasn't surprised James and Irving, who combined for 28 points in the final period and 47 in the second half, rallied the Cavs.

"They're a top two or three team in the league and the defending champs," Walton said. "They're not going to go away, that's what they do. That's why they're two of the best. We had our chances to score and get stops and push and Kyrie made some really tough shots. Then, they obviously went small and just started switching everything."

NOTES: Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving has scored 20 or more points in a career-high 18 consecutive games, which is the longest streak in the NBA. ... Cleveland's six straight wins over the Lakers set a franchise record. ... Lakers coach Luke Walton was teammates with Cavaliers F Richard Jefferson (1999-2001) and F Channing Frye (2001-03) at the University of Arizona. ... Cavaliers G Kyle Korver (sore left foot) missed his seventh consecutive game. ... The Cavaliers visit the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. ... The Lakers host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

[ 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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