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James takes charge, Irving exits with sore knee

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love is back in action after knee surgery in February © GETTY IMAGES/AFP/File / ELSA

LOS ANGELES, United States, Mar 17Kevin Love returned from knee surgery, but Kyrie Irving made an early exit with knee problems of his own as the Cleveland Cavaliers toppled the Utah Jazz 91-83.

The Cavaliers can thank their lucky stars they still have a healthy four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who was more than happy to pick up the slack.

As soon as Irving realized his wonky left knee was acting up again he went to James and asked “have you got this?”

James, of course said “Yes”, and responded by pumping in 17 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter.

Love, who hadn’t played since February 11 and underwent knee surgery three days later, scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 20 minutes.

Irving scored 21 points, but he did not play in the fourth quarter because of left knee tightness.

Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert also left in the third quarter due to a left arm injury.

“You’re going to get some knick-knacks, you’re going to get banged up,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “But fortunately for us, our guys are ok. It’s nothing serious, so we’re fine with those two guys.”

Lue said Shumpert was “day-to-day” and Irving was “fine,” though Irving suggested there was a chance he’d miss at least the first game of an upcoming, four-game trip that starts Saturday in Los Angeles.

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“I’m hoping that I don’t have to miss any days, but if it really comes down to that and the bigger picture is way more important than a few days, then that’s what it’s going to be,” Irving said.

Utah was led by Rudy Gobert, who had 20 points and 19 rebounds.

Gordon Hayward scored 13 points and Joe Ingles added 12. The Jazz beat Detroit on Wednesday and had won six of seven. But they haven’t won in Cleveland since 2012.

– No diamonds, just stones –

“We just didn’t make shots,” Hayward said. “Some days are diamonds, and some days are stones. Unfortunately, for a lot of us tonight, it was a stone.”

Elsewhere, Nikola Jokic had a triple double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists as the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Clippers 129-114.

Will Barton drained seven three pointers en route to a career high 35 points and Gary Harris scored 20 for Denver, who won despite playing without two starters. Danilo Gallinari is out with a bruised knee and Wilson Chandler is out with a groin injury.

Kenneth Faried scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in 18 minutes in his first game back from missing nine games with back problems.

Chris Paul had 18 points and 14 assists, J.J. Redick scored 22 and Austin Rivers added 17 for Los Angeles. The Clippers played without Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, who both sat out.

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Griffin flubbed a potential game-winning basket from in close at the buzzer in the Clippers 97-96 loss on Wednesday night.

In Oakland, Klay Thompson tallied 21 of his game-high 29 points in the first quarter as the Golden State Warriors routed the Orlando Magic 122-92.

Stephen Curry added 25 points as the Warriors improved to 54-14 on the season. They shot 57.5 percent while recording a season-series sweep of Orlando and an eighth straight win overall against the Magic.

In New York, the Brooklyn Nets won for just the fifth time on the road this season, knocking off the New York Knicks 121-110.

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