CLEVELAND, United States, Nov 2 – Kyrie Irving scored 32 points and Kevin Love produced a defensive masterclass as the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their unbeaten start to the season to 4-0 with a 128-120 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Irving’s haul helped quell a spirited Rockets side who were driven on relentlessly by James Harden, who finished with 41 points in a losing effort.
Kevin Love added 24 points for the Cavs while LeBron James weighed in with 19 points as Cleveland’s trio of heavyweights delivered.
The victory means the reigning NBA Finals champions are 4-0 for the first time since the start of the 2000-2001 season 16 years ago.
But the Cavs were made to work hard for victory by Houston, who pulled to within three points of the home side in the fourth quarter before Cleveland rallied to pull clear.
Love was crucial in engineering Cleveland’s fourth quarter rally, coming up with two steals and a blocked shot to help the Cavs go clear.
Love now has six steals from four games this season.
“I don’t know what the stats say, but I’d bet you that statistically I’m not a bad defender, so to speak,” Love said.
“I think I read defenses relatively well. Obviously there’s guys in this league that dominate the ball, like a Kyrie Irving or a Bron that just beats you to the lane. It’s just very hard to play against them. There’s a lot of guys even on that Warriors team that you saw in the Finals that are so good at that. It’s just something I continue to try to get better at.”
The game had bumped up its start time in order to avoid too much of an overlap with the Cleveland Indians’ quest for World Series glory.
James meanwhile gave Cleveland a scare when he headed to the locker room in the second quarter for treatment before returning in the third and playing his normal allotted minutes.
In his absence Irving turned on the style and later sealed a deep three-pointer in the game’s final minute.
“Kyrie is great, he’s got it all,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “All you can do is hope he misses shots. You put a hand in his face to make it as difficult as possible.”
Irving’s performance meanwhile earned the seal of approval from James, who said the Australia-born 24-year-old is still nowhere near his peak.
“He’s special. He’s growing every day. He’s in the zone, he knows who he is and what he’s about,” James told reporters. “The sky’s the limit for him. He’s only (24). He’s nowhere near to what he could be.”