CLEVELAND — You know times are good when LeBron James uses a nickname to describe the clutch shooting of Kyle Korver. And James, the king of Cleveland basketball, wasn’t too bad himself.
Nifty name-calling aside, James, Korver and the Cavaliers have won 13 consecutive games, courtesy of Wednesday’s 101-95 victory over the visiting Sacramento Kings.
The 13 straight, of course, tied a franchise record.
Perhaps more importantly, the Cavs are resembling a team that understands how to keep a good thing going, even at less than its best.
“It feels a lot better than a month ago, that’s for sure,” Korver told the crowd.
Korver finished with 15 points, including 10 in the crucial fourth quarter. Yes, the final minutes were indeed critical against the young and struggling Kings, but as Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said, “You’ll have some of these all year. We just had to grind it out.”
Anyway, Korver’s 3-of-4 shooting in the fourth had James referring to him as “Fourth Korver.” Someone else actually came up with that nickname, but for it to be uttered by James … well, it makes it that much more special.
Speaking of special, it was James who made the play of the game. Or more accurately, the basket of the game. It came with 16.6 second left and the Cavs clinging to a 97-95 lead.
For most players, the shot would have been a disaster — a stepback 3-pointer from 25 feet away that was fairly well-defended. But as James has been known to hint, those shots are only difficult for the average, everyday player.
He finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and two important blocks. He is no average, everyday player.
“He’s been making that shot a lot this year, (he is) very confident in it,” Lue said. “He’s brought us home with a lot of those shots.”
Mr. Fourth Korver was equally appreciative.
“LeBron is loving taking over right now,” Korver said. “We’re glad to give him the ball and watch the show. He’s like, ‘Give me the ball. We’re about to win.'”
Added James, “I wanted the ball in my hands at all costs. I feel like this is my time.”
All of this came after the Cavs (18-7) sort of slept their way through the first three quarters, allowing another lesser opponent to feel good about itself, probably for much too long.
But the defense came through when the Cavs needed it most — as the Kings went scoreless over the final 3:08.
Kevin Love added yet another strong performance, finishing with 18 points and a team-high 13 rebounds. He leads the team with 17 double-doubles.
Jeff Green, continuing his trend of underrated play in reserve, added 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
But in the end, it was the team’s biggest star who soared the highest. And in an interesting twist, the dagger came over Kings forward JaKarr Sampson. Like James, Sampson attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron.
“Big brother always gets the last laugh,” James said, and for the Cavs, that’s been a role they’ve been enjoying quite a bit these days.