CLEVELAND — “Never a doubt,” Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert tweeted minutes after his team held on to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 93-92 Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland (2-2) led by 23 points midway through the third period and by 16 with less than five minutes to go in the game, but survived the closing seconds only because Minnesota’s Kevin Love missed his seventh 3-pointer in as many attempts.
As one, 17,892 fans and one head coach exhaled.
“That was entertaining,” Cleveland’s Mike Brown deadpanned.
The Cavs won despite three costly turnovers and two missed shots in the lane by Kyrie Irving down the stretch.
Irving finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a career-high nine turnovers, but Brown had no problem with his point guard waving off an Anderson Varejao pick and trying to take J.J. Barea one-on-one on Cleveland’s final possession.
“You get the ball in your best player’s hands at the top of the key,” Brown said. “You let him go to work.”
The strategy, however, didn’t work, just as very little did for Irving down the stretch. He missed his second shot in the lane in as many trips and the T-Wolves rebounded, advanced the ball to midcourt and called time with 11 seconds to go.
“I’m always in attack mode, especially in the fourth quarter,” Irving said. “That’s my time to go at somebody.”
When play resumed, Minnesota put the ball in Barea’s hands and tried to run a high pick-and-roll, but the point guard lost control as he started going down the lane and barely managed to bat the ball out to Love, who missed a 3-pointer.
The rebound bounced long and time expired, allowing the Cavs to win despite committing 24 turnovers that led to 26 points for the T-Wolves (3-1).
“More often than not, I believe I’m going to make that shot,” said Love, who entered as the league’s leading scorer (29.7) and second-leading rebounder (14.7) but was limited to 17 points and 13 boards by the Cavs. “J.J. made a good pass and I was in good rhythm, but I just hit the back rim.”
Minnesota, which played all five starters at least 40 minutes while winning Sunday in New York, got 23 points and 5-for-8 shooting from long range from Kevin Martin, but the rest of the team was 0-for-20 on 3-pointers.
C.J. Miles led the Cavs with 19 points in 19 minutes. He scored Cleveland’s first 10 points of the second quarter and 12 of its first 14 as the Cavs eventually went up 19 before settling for a 55-38 lead at intermission.
Miles also had two quick buckets to help the Cavs stem a T-Wolves rally in the fourth quarter, with Cleveland later going back up 16 on his
3-pointer with 5:08 to play.
“Getting wide-open looks, I feel like I’m supposed to knock those down,” said Miles, who was 8-for-13 from the field overall and 3-for-5 from long range.
The Cavs, who went up 72-49 with 5:11 left in the third period, also got 12 points and 11 rebounds from Tristan Thompson, 12 points from Varejao and 10 points and four boards from Andrew Bynum, who played 19 minutes and saw action in both halves for the first time this season.
“He takes up a lot of space on both ends of the floor,” Irving said of the 7-foot, 294-pound Bynum. “For me, I’ve got to learn to stop bounce passing to him. Just throw it up and let the big fella go get it.”
Defensively, the Cavs held Minnesota to .362 shooting from the field (34-for-94), with Alonzo Gee doing a great job of slowing down Martin, who torched Dion Waiters early and often.
Gee’s defensive effort atoned for him missing a point-blank layup in transition late in the fourth quarter, when the Cavs also committed eight turnovers.
“We had two three-on-ones back to back,” Brown said. “I’ll take Zo at the rim with nobody contesting him any day. When that ball popped out, I was, ‘OK, it’s one of those games.’”
It was one of those games the Cavs probably would have lost under Byron Scott last season, when they blew four games in which they led by 20 or more points.
“When I watched them last year (on tape), that would have been a loss, possibly, and maybe by double digits. I don’t know,” Brown said. “We just kept scrapping and scrapping.”
The Cavs played guards Irving, Waiters and Jarrett Jack together late in the second quarter.
* No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett is now 0-for-15 from the field overall and 0-for-8 on 3-pointers.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.
Cavaliers 93, Timberwolves 92
MINNESOTA (92): Brewer 5-12 3-3 13, Love 8-20 1-1 17, Pekovic 3-12 2-4 8, Rubio 0-7 4-4 4, Martin 7-16 4-4 23, Williams 5-9 3-4 13, Barea 4-11 0-1 8, Shved 0-3 2-3 2, Cunningham 2-4 0-0 4, Dieng 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-94 19-24 92.
CLEVELAND (93): Clark 3-4 0-0 6, Thompson 5-13 2-3 12, Varejao 6-7 0-0 12, Irving 7-15 0-0 15, Waiters 3-10 2-2 8, Jack 1-7 0-0 2, Bynum 2-6 6-6 10, Gee 4-7 0-0 9, Miles 8-13 0-0 19, Bennett 0-3 0-0 0, Zeller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 39-85 10-11 93.
Minnesota 23 15 23 31 — 92
Cleveland 31 24 21 17 — 93
3-Point Goals—Minnesota 5-28 (Martin 5-8, Shved 0-1, Williams 0-1, Rubio 0-3, Barea 0-4, Brewer 0-4, Love 0-7), Cleveland 5-16 (Miles 3-5, Gee 1-2, Irving 1-3, Bennett 0-2, Waiters 0-2, Jack 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Minnesota 57 (Love 13), Cleveland 55 (Thompson 11). Assists—Minnesota 21 (Love, Rubio 5), Cleveland 22 (Irving 6). Total Fouls—Minnesota 15, Cleveland 24. Technicals—Cleveland defensive three second. A—17,892 (20,562).