CHARLOTTE – Before a sellout crowd of 19,427 at the Spectrum Center, LeBron James scored a game-high 31 points and teammate Kevin Love added 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 115-107 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
Despite the return of guard Nicolas Batum, who returned to the lineup after missing the first 12 games of the season with a left elbow strain, Charlotte (5-8) dropped its fifth consecutive game.
The Hornets have now lost seven straight games to the Cavaliers (8-7) and 11-of-12 overall. In his career against Charlotte, James is now an impressive 40-6 during the regular season.
Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchristfinished with a season-high 22 points and six rebounds to lead Charlotte. It was the 10th career 20-point game for Kidd-Gilchrist, who shot 10-of-14 from the field.
All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who entered tonight’s game ranked 11th in the NBA in assists per game at 6.6, tallied 20-points for the Hornets and dished out seven assists.
After trailing by as many as 13 points in the first quarter the Hornets exploded for their largest point total in a quarter this season, outscoring the Cavaliers 37-25 in the second quarter en route to a 67-61 halftime lead.
In the second half the Cavaliers stepped up their blitz pressure on the Hornets pick-and-roll and limited Charlotte to just 40 points over the final two quarters of the game.
“We had a game plan and we just tried to execute it as close to 48 minutes as possible,” said James on the Cavs second-half defensive adjustments. “Kemba (Walker) is very dynamic and very dangerous with his shiftiness and his quickness coming off pick-and-rolls so everybody had to be in tune, not just the guy that was guarding the ball or the guy that was guarding the pick-and-roll. Even the other three guys on the back side had to be in tune and were right with our game plan.”
Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue gave props to his second unit of Dwayne Wayde, Kyle Korver, Channing Frye and Jeff Green for providing key minutes in the fourth quarter.
Batum, who played 32 minutes, made an impact in his return with 16 points on 7-of-15 field goal shooting to go with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. He was originally slated to log about 18 minutes.
Hornets guard Jeremy Lamb, whoscored in double figures in the first 11 of 12 games this season in the starting lineup, scored 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting in his first outing off the bench.
Walker’s 20 points was his 9th20-point game this season.
Hornets forward Frank Kaminskyhad three blocks off the bench, matching his career-high.
Charlotte’s previous highest second quarter points total this season was 35 points twice against Milwaukee. The most recent came on 11/1.
Cleveland’s Jamesentered the game ranked 5th in the NBA in scoring with 28.1 points per game.
Hornets will be in action on Friday night for an 8 PM tip-off against the Bulls in Chicago.
The Cavaliers will return home to host the Los Angeles Clippers for a 7:30 PM tip.
STEVE CLIFFORD – HORNETS HEAD COACH
On tonight’s game:
“So obviously you play every game to win but then there are some positives in having Mike back in there in game shape and you see what a difference he can make. Obviously Nic makes such a difference and as he gets more into rhythm I think you’ll start to see the potential that our group has. The difference in the game is obviously the rebounding and particularly when Dwight wasn’t in the game we just got outworked. The second thing is we’re not shooting the ball. We didn’t shoot the ball well on the road and we didn’t shoot the ball well from range tonight.”
On getting off to a good start:
“After the beginning, I thought the starters we very good. We subbed less tonight and that’s why we played better.
We played our older guys more minutes. We’re going to start doing that now. We’re going to get these guys back and get them into groups and we’re going to play the guys that have been playing better. As of right now, we’ve played one team with a losing record and the next six, we’ll play five of those against teams that are top five in either the East or the West so now isn’t the time for guys to be called to play and they’re not ready. Either they’re ready or they’re not.”
On Dwight Howard:
“I’ll look at it but we were plus when he was on the floor. He did a good job. Early in the game we had a couple of mix ups. Late in the game he was great. We took the ball out of Lebron’s hands. He did a great job with that. He recovered well and then he switched and had some good sequences with that. The problem really was rebounding the ball when he wasn’t in the game.”
NICOLAS BATUM – HORNETS GUARD/FORWARD
On tonight’s game:
“Just happy to be back, but with a win it would be better.”
On the Cavaliers:
“The way they came out in the second half. They showed, you can say whatever you want, they’re the best team in the East. When they want to [be].”
On Charlotte’s performance:
“We played a good first half. We did a good job, tried to fight with them. At the end we tried to stay close with them. We had a bad third quarter, but we tried to stay close to them in the game. We tried to make plays, but they were better tonight.”
On being back in the lineup:
“My arm was okay. First game in technically six months. I played this summer, but it was my first time – I played half of a pre-season game a couple of weeks ago, but that doesn’t really count. Kind of weird, I was really tired… I tried to make plays, I’m ready to make plays, at the end of the game but nothing there at the end, I had no more legs. I have to go through those two or three games, I didn’t expect to play 32 minutes. I was supposed to play 18-20. I didn’t expect that, I don’t think I was ready for that. I really tried to do some, but what I did in the last five minutes I won’t do it again. That’s a mistake I did last year and I won’t do it again because I was out of shape, I won’t do that again.”
MARVIN WILLIAMS – HORNETS FORWARD
On the Cavalier’s comeback:
“I thought we were doing a pretty good job. I think they picked up their energy defensively a little bit in the second half… they made things a little bit more difficult for us. I don’t feel like it was anything that we haven’t seen before. We made a few shots in the first half that we didn’t make in the second half.”
On guarding LeBron James:
“I’ve played against him my whole career. It’s his 15th year maybe, it’s my 13th. I’ve matched up with him many, many times. He’s just as great as he was 13 years ago when I first started guarding him. Each and every night he’s going to give himself and his team a chance to win.
On having the normal rotation back:
“It felt good to have Nic [Batum] back. Obviously the end result wasn’t what we were looking for, but just to see him out there in the uniform making plays, even the game that he had. I’m sure he probably ran out of gas, but he’s a tough guy. So he was a great boost for us. I bet if you get him another four or five games he’ll be right back to normal.”
On positives from this game:
“Throughout the course of a season you’re going to have times when you win three, four, five in a row and unfortunately, you’re going to have times when you lose two, three, four, five in a row whatever the case may be. We’ve been there before. We’re just going to have to keep working, try to get better and try to get a win next time we go out there on the court.”
TYRONN LUE – CAVALIERS HEAD COACH
On the second unit closing out the 4th quarter
“I thought Dwayne Wade came in with the second unit and ran a lot of floppy stuff through Kyle Korver and through Channing Fry, both of those guys played well. Jeff Green came in and we ran some of our other actions. That (second) unit is used to playing with each other. I try to get them out there so they can run out offense and they did a good job.”
On Defense in the 2nd Half
“I thought we did a good job. Our blitz’s were good at times, but Kemba Walker is tough to blitz because he is so shifty. Our biggs did a better job in the 2nd half. We showed the film, about seven or eight clips were he drove around us or he split us because our blitz’s were not great. Once he drives around the blitz, its tough because everything is wide open. In that 2nd half, I thought Kevin Love and Channing Frye did a better job on the blitz and keeping him under control.”
On being more physical in the 2nd half
“I really didn’t think about that. I knew in the pick-n-roll with Kemba Walker, we had to be better with our blitz’s. I though putting Jeff Green on him in that 3rd and 4th quarter, a bigger body, was good for us also. In the second half, holding a team like this to 40 points is a good job.”
LeBRON JAMES – CAVALIERS FORWARD
On the defense tonight:
“That was the biggest difference in the game. Our defense was phenomenal. We had a great game plan and we
were just in tune. We executed it. Our fourth quarter line-up, they started it and they were getting stop after stop
after stop and executing offensively. That was a big road win and a big trip for us in the overall.”
On the team getting the lead while he was on the bench:
“It’s always a great feeling to see your teammates be successful and that’s what they’re in there for. They did a
heck of a job in that fourth quarter by getting a lead and then when I came back in I just wanted to try to close it out
for them and I was able to do that. They were exceptional. My teammates were unbelievable tonight.”
KEVIN LOVE – CAVALIERS FORWARD/CENTER
On second-half adjustments:
“We felt like tonight, coming into that third quarter we’d push the pace. Defensively, we were a lot better. When we
got stops, we pushed the ball. We won the third quarter, we grabbed the momentum and we never looked back.”
On a successful road trip:
“Yeah, initially we started off the road trip in Houston. We felt like we played better ball. We gave ourselves a
chance to win that game, we did a lot of good things, and I think that carried on throughout. A lot of spots on this
road trip. So, 3-1, at this point we’ll take that and hopefully use that momentum going back home and get a win.”
On battling with Dwight Howard:
“Yeah, I mean I’m playing the five, where I’m out of position. So I just try to step up and do the best I can. Guys like
him, he’s such a big presence down there you just try and do your work early and stretch him out. A lot of the time,