CLEVELAND — Just when you think things are getting better, another member of the Cavaliers needs a bag of ice.
But hey, things could be worse. After all, Kevin Love returned two weeks sooner than expected following knee surgery. And the Cavaliers did hang on to beat the visiting Utah Jazz by a 91-83 count Thursday.
And LeBron James again reminded everyone why it’s good to be king — or for the Cavaliers and their fans, to have a king.
James erupted for 33 points, including 17 in the crucial fourth quarter. Until then, the Cavs spent most of the night playing Utah’s brand of grind-it-out and sometimes inglorious basketball.
It ain’t often pretty, but for the underrated Jazz, it sure works. It almost did again vs. the world champs on their own home floor.
Anyway, it’s over with now and the Cavaliers survived. Well, most of them did.
Iman Shumpert actually had to leave with a sprained shoulder. Then Kyrie Irving bailed with tightness in his knee. Both players are basically considered day-to-day, with Cavs coach Tyronn Lue suggesting neither injury appears to be a major concern.
Then there’s the Love story — as the power forward returned four weeks after “loose bodies” were removed from his left knee. Basically, there were things floating in there that shouldn’t have been.
So Love got them handled. Then he got right back to work to finish what has been his best season in a Cavaliers uniform.
Love played 19 minutes and scored 10 points, including eight in the first quarter. Lue said Love will be on a minutes restriction and may occasionally sit out one game of a back-to-back set. (The Cavs have one such set this weekend in Los Angeles.)
But overall, the Cavs (44-22) were able to overcome the pain, the forever-determined Jazz and their own inability to knock down some open jumpers, to fight for the win.
How did they do it? Well, mostly because the same basketball king who always plays a major role did so again.
“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.”
Added Jazz star Gordon Hayward, “That’s why LeBron is who he is. He took over the game when we were right there in the fourth.”
Rudy Gobert paced the Jazz (43-26) with 20 points and 19 rebounds. Hayward scored 13.
Irving finished with 21 points and J.R. Smith tacked on 12.
Cavs swingman Kyle Korver missed his fifth straight game with a sore foot, but is likely to return over the weekend or early next week. Also, forward Derrick Williams sat out with a thigh contusion. He too is day-to-day.