Barring a playoff matchup, the Charlotte Hornets’ Quicken Loans Arena streak won’t be broken this season.
They lost their sixth in a row in Cleveland, falling to the offense-rich Cavaliers 116-105 Saturday night. This was the second of two meetings this season in Cleveland.
The Eastern Conference-leading Cavs (17-5) reached 67 points in the first half, shooting 68 percent from the field. Their lead grew to 19 points before a third-quarter comeback fueled by Kemba Walker (24 points) cut Charlotte’s deficit to three.
LeBron James was magnificent for the Cavaliers, finishing with 44 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Walker collided with James in the fourth quarter and had to be helped off the court. He did not return to the game.
The Hornets fell to 14-10, as their three-game winning streak came to an end. This was the first of five consecutive road games. The Hornets play the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Monday.
Three who mattered
Kevin Love: He got hot with early post-ups and dominated Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky throughout the first half.
James: When he’s making his outside shot, as he was early, what do you do to keep him from scoring in bunches?
Walker: He almost single-handedly got the Hornets back in this game in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to three points.
▪ There was some speculation in Cleveland that James might sit out Saturday’s game to rest on the second night of back-to-back games, but he chose to play.
▪ The Cavaliers got back shooting guard J.R. Smith, who had missed the previous two games with a hyperextended left knee. Smth started against the Hornets.
▪ The only Cleveland player not available Saturday was forward-center Channing Frye (bereavement). Frye was the difference in the November game in Cleveland, making six 3-pointers and finishing with 20 points.
▪ The Cavaliers lead the NBA in 3-point shooting at 40 percent. Clearly they have good spot-up shooters, but that percentage is also very much about the attention James draws defensively and his gift for finding open teammates.
▪ Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said pre-game that – both as a player and as a coach – he felt like Hornets guard Nic Batum always beat him. “Maybe it’s me,” Lue commented.
▪ “It’s almost hopeless sometimes.’’ – Hornets coach Steve Clifford, pre-game, about the challenge of guarding James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavaliers’ Big Three.
▪ The Cavaliers made 15 of their 21 first-quarter shots, generating 36 points and a 10-point lead.
▪ The Cavaliers had 19 assists in the first half.
B OFFENSE: Three-pointers kept them in this game to the extent they were in this game. Foul-shooting was sub-standard.
C DEFENSE: There is only so much defense for a team shooting as hot as the Cavaliers were Saturday.
C+COACHING: Hornets will go another season without a regular-season victory at Quicken Loans Arena.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell