The Cavaliers returned to Cleveland for a Sunday afternoon match with the Charlotte Hornets, who entered play with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the game with an ankle sprain, but the rest of the bunch did their jobs, holding off the Hornets 112-103, thanks to 83 combined points from the trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith.
Charlotte showed they can hold their own with the top dogs in the East right from the start, as the Hornets jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first four minutes, but Cleveland went on a 9-3 run.
Some beautiful ball movement was on display, as Timofey Mozgov found Kevin Love in the corner for a three to take the lead.
The Cavs would build that lead up to many as 11, only allowing five points in the last six minutes of the quarter, and took a 29-19 lead into the second quarter.
Iman Shumpert got the second quarter off to a good start, driving to the hoop and throwing down a two-handed jam, showing off his Shumpman-hops to make it 31-19 in favor of Cleveland.
Cleveland kept a comfortable lead for much of the quarter, increasing the margin to 21, which prompted Charlotte to take a timeout with 5:09 left in the half.
The timeout seemed to work for the Hornets, who ended the half by outscoring Cleveland 15-10 in the final five minutes.
The Cavs would enter halftime leading 58-42.
LeBron and Love picked up the slack with Irving sidelined, as LeBron led the way with 16 points in the first half, while Love scored 13.
For the Hornets, Marvin Williams led the way with 15 points in the first half.
Cleveland made sure to come out of the gate with energy to start the second half, as J.R. Smith increased the lead back up to 21, knocking down an easy three-pointer with 10:11 left in the third.
The Hornets would not give up, as Kemba Walker cut it to a 14-point game with 7:06 to play in the third quarter, prompting Tyronn Lue to take a timeout to remind his Cavs what can happen when they start to let off the gas pedal.
Courtney Lee followed up Walker’s three with another triple to make it an 11-point game, but Love banked a nice shot off the glass to end the run.
Walker was a one-man wrecking crew after that, scoring five straight points to make it 71-63 with 4:14 left, as he converted a difficult layup and drew the foul, after grabbing a steal.
Thankfully for the Cavs, Smith hit two three-pointers in a 40-second time frame, getting the lead up to 12.
Smith was the one bright spot for much of the third quarter for Cleveland, as he hit yet another jumper from downtown with 1:32 left in the quarter.
Smith scored 12 points in the third quarter, helping the Cavs stay in front 86-71 heading into the fourth.
Charlotte kept it somewhat interesting at the start of the fourth quarter, but LeBron took momentum away with a layup, drawing a foul and making the free throw to convert the three-point play.
Charlotte would get it back to an eight-point game with 8:03 to play after two free throws from Walker and four points from Jeremy Lin.
Former Cavalier Spencer Hawes cut the deficit down to seven, but Love hit a clutch three-pointer to make it 94-84 with 6:07 remaining.
Charlotte was able to claw back and make it a four-point game, after Courtney Lee knocked down a three, and Love fouled Lin, giving the Hornets a free throw to go with the made three.
Smith responded with his fifth three-pointer of the game.
Love knocked down his fifth three-pointer to get it back to a nine-point game with 2:46 to go. The duo of Love and Smith came through in the clutch time after time on Sunday.
Williams hit a big three for Charlotte, but LeBron took a lob from Matthew Dellavedova and thundered it home to respond with 2:09 to play.
It was Delly’s eighth assist of the night.
The Cavs would hold off the Hornets for the next two minutes, hanging on to win 112-103.
LeBron finished with 31 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds.
Love put up 25 points, grabbing nine rebounds.
Smith shot 6-for-9 from beyond the arc, scoring 27 points, which tied his season-high.
Walker and Williams did most of the work for Charlotte, as Kemba scored 29 points and Williams put up 22.
The Cavs are off until Tuesday when they take on the Bucks in Milwaukee. Tip-off is set for 8 PM Eastern.
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