The Cleveland Cavaliers got one player back from injury Thursday night, but lost two others.
Fortunately for the defending NBA champions, they can always count on LeBron James.
James scored 33 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and Cleveland defeated the Utah Jazz 91-83 on a night that the Cavaliers’ injury-riddled season took another strange twist.
Kevin Love played for the first time since having surgery on his left knee last month, and scored 10 points in 19 minutes. But Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert left with injuries.
Irving, who scored 21 points, didn’t play in the fourth quarter because of tightness in his left knee and said he left for precautionary reasons. He had a brief conversation with James before leaving.
“I went to ‘Bron and was like, ‘You got this?’ and he said, ‘Yeah,”’ Irving said.
James certainly did.
He was 13 of 20 from the field and had 10 rebounds with six assists. He also moved into 13th place all time in field goals, passing Tim Duncan in the fourth quarter.
“Kyrie looked at me and said he probably won’t be able to finish the game,” James said. “With Kev being on a minutes restriction coming back, I knew Shump was out, I had to step up the scoring load a little bit.”
Irving told reporters the knee had been bothering him for 48 hours and tightened up when he went to the bench after the third quarter. He isn’t sure if he’ll miss any playing time.
Shumpert sprained his left shoulder in the third quarter. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Shumpert, who has been starting at shooting guard for nearly three months, is listed as day-to-day.
Rudy Gobert led Utah with 20 points and 18 rebounds. The Jazz, who played in Detroit on Wednesday, seemed to run out of gas down the stretch.