The Cleveland Cavaliers rode a hot-shooting first half to a 121-109 victory against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday at Spectrum Center.
The NBA champion Cavs, whose 25-7 record leads the Eastern Conference, were better from 3-point range (66.7 percent) than from the floor (57.1 percent) as they ran out to a 71-59 lead at halftime.
Thanks mostly to the work of guard Kemba Walker, who scored 37 points, the Hornets (19-15) cut the lead to eight points on two occasions in the fourth quarter but could get no closer.
The Cavaliers took control in the first quarter during a stretch in which Lebron James (32 points) scored 10 straight.
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Three who mattered
Kemba Walker: Was the only Hornet who played with any kind of aggressiveness on the offensive end, scoring 37 points.
Lebron James: Delivered a Lebron-like performance, with 32 points, six rebounds and nine assists.
Kevin Love: Cavs forward set the tone early, ended with 28 points and made four of eight 3-pointers.
▪ Eleven days after the Los Angeles Lakers scored 73 points in the first half against the Hornets, the Cavaliers scored 71 before intermission Saturday. Cleveland got there by making 12 of 18 3-pointers. James scored 10 consecutive points during one stretch.
▪ Cleveland led by as many as 19 points in the first half before the Hornets cut it to four on a Walker layup with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left. But the Cavs stretched the lead to 12 at halftime.
▪ Walker couldn’t get his jump shot going in the first half, but he scored 17 points anyway. Each of his five baskets came on layups.
▪ Two shot-clock violations in the second half didn’t help the Hornets’ cause.
▪ Hornets guard Marco Belinelli missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained ankle. Clifford said Belinelli will continue to be day to day.
▪ The Cavs’ two former Duke players – point guard Kyrie Irving (hamstring) and Mike Dunleavy (ankle) – didn’t play .
▪ The Cavs got a huge contribution in the third quarter from center Tristan Thompson. After going scoreless in the first half, Thompson scored 11 points in the third quarter, making four of five shots.
They said it
“If our defense is going to be like (Saturday), it’s going to be hard to play well consistently.” – Hornets coach Steve Clifford.
“We just didn’t have the energy and intensity in the first quarter.” – Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“Forget any positives that came out of the game. We lost and we have to be better.” – Walker.
B+ OFFENSE: Scored 109 points but was far too reliant on Walker.
D DEFENSE: Wasn’t there in the first half, when Cavs made 66.7 percent of their 3-pointers.
C- COACHING: The play-with-intensity-every-night message isn’t getting across.
David Scott: 704-358-5889, @davidscott14