|Date of game: 12/23/2014
Recap: Cleveland vs. Minnesota
Cleveland, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Kevin Love scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in his first game against his former team, as the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 125-104, at Quicken Loans Arena.
The win may have been costly for the Cavaliers, who lost center Anderson Varejao to a left foot and ankle injury in the third quarter. Varejao is expected to undergo an MRI on his foot Wednesday to determine the severity of the injury.
Love also exited the contest earlier in the third due to a thumb injury, but returned later in the period.
"It scared me initially. I had jammed it pretty bad during the Brooklyn game and in practice put it in tape the next day, so I was fortunate that I was able to, I guess, get shots up and some practice time with the tape on," Love said. "We came back here and it seems to be just a mild, little thing. I shook it off and went back in there and played."
Kyrie Irving scored 29 and LeBron James totaled 24 points for the Cavaliers, who have won three in a row and 12 of their last 15 games. That includes nine wins in their last 10 at home.
Love, who played his first six NBA seasons for the Timberwolves, was dealt to Cleveland as part of a 3-team deal in the offseason. Minnesota acquired Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two No. 1 overall picks in the draft.
Wiggins scored 27 and Gorgui Dieng had a season-best 20 to go with 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost six in a row and 12 of their last 13 games to fall to 5-22 on the season.
"Before the game even started when we were in the locker room, it was just a different atmosphere," Wiggins said. "Emotions were a lot higher than they usually are. I think it's obvious this is a motivation game for me."
Bennett missed all four of his shots from the field and was held without a point.
Irving scored 11 points during the pivotal third quarter when the Cavs stretched the lead with a late surge. Thaddeus Young made 1-of-2 free throws to get the visitors within 80-78, but the Cavs responded with a 16-1 run to end the period. James nailed a pull-up 30-foot shot from the top of the arc during the flurry, which was capped by five straight points from Dion Waiters.
"We got stops, were more physical. When we get stops, we're very good offensively. We get rebounds, it allowed us to open up," James said.
Cleveland, which scored the initial three points of the fourth, led by double digits throughout the final quarter.
"We struggled playing from behind because we have a lot of young guys that aren't used to doing that," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "So they have a tendency to get a little bit too anxious, and then we take one or two bad shots and that leads to fast break opportunities. That's what makes it difficult."
The Cavaliers wrapped up a five-game homestand and will play Miami Christmas Day in James' first contest against the Heat since leaving them via free agency in the offseason. He won two titles in four finals appearances with Miami.
"To say I haven't thought about going back, I'd be lying to you guys," James told reporters after the game. "It's going to be great to be back in that building around those unbelievable fans. The memories will definitely come back, being a part of the organization for the four years I was there. When it gets down to it, I'm excited about it. I'm going to relive a lot of the moments in my head and go from there."
Wiggins got off to a hot start with 11 first-quarter points, but Minnesota trailed, 27-26, after 12 minutes. Cleveland led by as many as nine in the second before settling for a 64-56 advantage at the half. The Cavs did not trail in the final two quarters.
In a sequence that typified the night for the teams going in opposite directions, Love got the rebound off an Irving missed bank shot and fumbled the ball before managing to get it up and in while being fouled by Bennett. Love completed the 3-point play with 5:13 left in the game for a 114-93 lead.
Varejao collapsed under the basket and then had to be helped off the court. He was unable to put any weight on the leg. The injury occurred with 7:24 left in the third quarter.Game Notes
The T-wolves are 1-21 when allowing 100 or more points ... Shabazz Muhammad
had 18 points and Young 13 for the Timberwolves, while Waiters scored 19 ...
The Cavs were 12-of-24 from 3-point range.