CLEVELAND _ LeBron James met with Cavaliers team doctors Friday night to decide if he would play after missing a game because of a sprained right wrist.
The decision was easy.
“They said it was my call and obviously you guys know what my call is,” James said after scoring 19 points in Cleveland’s ninth straight win, a 101-90 victory over skidding Sacramento.
James admitted his wrist isn’t 100 per cent, but he made five straight shots in the second half while Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving combined for 44 points for the streaking Cavaliers.
“It was a little sore, obviously, being in live action, but it was good,” James said.
James missed Wednesday’s game against Portland but came back to go 7 for 16 from the field and commit six turnovers in 33 minutes. His five straight shots, included a 3-pointer and a dunk off a behind-the-back dribble, as Cleveland put the game away early in the fourth quarter.
A team trainer placed a brace on James’ wrist in the third and he wore it the rest of the game.
James was injured when he fell hard to the floor Tuesday against Detroit but came back in and finished with 32 points.
But James said, “there was no way I could have played Wednesday. My wrist was too stiff, too tight. I couldn’t get much rotation on it.”
James said he got treatment all day Thursday and the wrist felt better at Friday’s shootaround.
“Tonight was a matter of him saying I feel good enough to go, I want to go and allowing him to play,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “And I’m glad we did because we needed him tonight.”
Love led Cleveland with 23 points, including 16 in the first quarter, while Irving, who scored an arena-record 55 points Wednesday, added 21.
DeMarcus Cousins, who was named to the Western Conference All-Star team Friday, scored 21 points and had 13 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Sacramento from losing its eighth straight.
“I think a lot of guys are lost right now,” Cousins said. “We need to find our roles. With the whole pace thing, things are kind of wacko.”
Cleveland took the lead midway through the first quarter and steadily built the margin, which remained in double figures most of the game.
James made his presence felt immediately when he stole a pass after the Kings won the opening tip and scored on a two-handed dunk.
James missed eight games with knee and back injuries earlier this month. Cleveland is 8-1 in games he’s played since his return two weeks ago.
He didn’t play when the Kings routed the Cavaliers 103-84 in Sacramento on Jan. 11. The Kings haven’t won since and have the longest losing streak in the NBA, while the Cavaliers are one of the league’s hottest teams.
Cleveland won eight straight from Nov. 24-Dec. 9. The nine-game streak is its longest since it 13 in a row in 2010.
Love, who was 9 of 17 from the field and had 10 rebounds, will return to Minnesota on Saturday night for the first time since the Cavaliers acquired him from the Timberwolves last summer.
Kings coach Tyrone Corbin realizes this is a difficult time for his team and playing the Cavaliers didn’t help.
“We were a step slow and they were aggressive,” he said. “That really was the story.”
Love, who was 6 for 26 in his last two games, regained his shooting touch Friday.
“I try not to look at that stuff, I just try to play,” Love said. “The last two games there we a little bit of a reluctance there. I try to keep positive. My shots were falling tonight and we got off to a good start as a team.”
Kings: Cousins and Cavaliers G J.R. Smith were given double technicals in the second quarter. … F Jason Thompson was also hit with a technical in the third. … Sacramento’s last road win was at Minnesota on Jan. 1. … Rudy Gay had 20 points.
Cavaliers: F Tristan Thompson wore an ice bag on his left shoulder while sitting on the bench, but entered the game in the first quarter.
Kings: At Indiana on Saturday.
Cavaliers: At Minnesota on Saturday.
The Associated Press