(The Sports Xchange) - LeBron James scored 31 points and made 11 assists, Kyrie Irving scored 28 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Brooklyn Nets 124-116 for just their third win in nine games on Friday.
The outcome was closer than it should have been after the Nets tallied 43 points in the fourth quarter, continuing a trend of scoring at least 40 points in the final quarter of three losses to Cleveland this season.
The defeat was the fourth straight for the Nets and the 15th in their last 16 games.
Perhaps sensing the impending doom, coach Kenny Atkinson rested Brook Lopez and Caris LeVert in a weakened lineup already missing Trevor Booker (illness), Joe Harris (sprained ankle) and Jeremy Lin (hamstring).
Cleveland's Kevin Love scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds one day after he was named an All-Star and Tristan Thompson added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
It has been a volatile week for the Cavs, who needed a victory to shift some of the focus off the relationship between James and the rest of the organization.
He was terrific again on Friday, making 13-of-18 shots and adding five rebounds as Kyle Korver scored 14 points off the bench after a slow start.
Sean Kilpatrick scored 18 points for the Nets and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 17, while Isaiah Whitehead and Randy Foye each scored 16.
Atkinson knew before the game he was walking into a trap.
"Putting them on edge isn't the best thing in the world (for us)," Atkinson said. "But I think (Cavs coach) Tyronn Lue said it best: they're a great team."
Lue reminded his players before Wednesday's overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings they were the defending champs. He is confident they will eventually start playing like it again.
"We're the champs and right now we're going through a tough stretch but that's nothing," Lue said.
"Everybody goes through a tough stretch. Now you got to dig yourself out of it. We're capable of doing it.
"We are going to do it. We are the champs, we do have a great team and we have the (fourth) best record in the NBA right now so we got to play like it."
(Editing by John O'Brien)