CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Cleveland Cavaliers are still in the bonding phase of the 2017-18 season as they try to work in new additions around LeBron James.
The better they get to know each other, the better they are playing.
That was evident again on Wednesday night as the Cavs continued their mastery over the Charlotte Hornets with a 115-107 victory at the Spectrum Center.
James led the way with 31 points, and the Cavs beat the Hornets for the seventh straight time and the 12th time in the last 13 meetings.
The performance concluded a four-game, seven-day road trip that both James and coach Tyronn Lue thought was extremely beneficial to the Cavs. The trip started with a loss at Houston before the Cavs reeled off wins at Dallas and New York before Wednesday night.
"This was a big win and this was a big trip for us overall," James said. "Any time you’re on the road for more than two days, and this was a week for us, you have the opportunity to come together even more.
"We faced a little adversity throughout some of the games and you’ve got to be resilient. We lost the game to Houston, but we played extremely well. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. But from Dallas to New York to today, we were very good."
The Cavs (8-7) also got 22 points and 10 rebounds from Kevin Love, 13 points from Jeff Green, 11 points from Kyle Korver, 10 points from J.R. Smith, and nine points and eight rebounds from Channing Frye. Green, Korver and Frye were all on the floor in the stretch where the Cavs eventually pulled away.
Charlotte led 67-61 at halftime, but the Cavs outscored the Hornets 27-17 in the third quarter and then pushed the lead to as many as 10 in the fourth quarter.
James fought some foul trouble in the third quarter, but once he returned, he was again the dominant player on the floor. He finished 12 of 24 from the field and 4 of 7 from 3-point range. He also had eight assists and six rebounds.
“Our defense was phenomenal. We had a great game plan & we were just in tune. We executed it. Our 4th quarter lineup, they started it & they were getting stop after stop after stop and executing offensively. That was a big road win & a big trip for us overall.” – @KingJames pic.twitter.com/66VNPwlZa2
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) November 16, 2017
A James steal and dunk with 3:02 remaining put the Cavs up 111-102 and was probably the defining play of the game.
James is now 44-6 against teams from Charlotte (the Bobcats and the Hornets) during his 15-year career. He has scored 30 or more points 19 times against Charlotte teams.
"Our defense was the biggest difference in the game," James said. "Our defense was phenomenal. We had a great game plan and we executed it well.
At the start of the fourth quarter, we were getting stop after stop and executing offensively, so that was big."
Lue added, "The second half, holding a team like this to 40 points was a good job. I’m seeing some great strides the last five games or so.
"We’ve really been playing better defensively, playing better offensively, and just trying to figure it out playing without a point guard. The guys are doing a great job of putting in the extra work, and it’s coming."
The Hornets (5-8) have now lost five in a row. They were returning home from a winless four-game road trip.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the Hornets with 22 points. Kemba Walker scored 20 but was 7 of 17 from the field and scored only eight in the second half after the Cavs switched the 6-9 Green over to guard him.
The Hornets also got 16 points from Nicolas Batum, who played for the first time this season after missing the first 12 games following elbow surgery.
"Obviously, you play every game to win, but then there are some positives in having Mike back in there in game shape and you see what a difference he can make," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "Obviously Nic makes such a difference and as he gets more into rhythm I think you’ll start to see the potential that our group has."
Charlotte’s Marvin Williams said, "Throughout the course of a season you’re going to have times when you win three, four, five in a row, and unfortunately you’re going to have times when you lose two, three, four, five in a row whatever the case may be. We’ve been there before. We’re just going to have to keep working, try to get better and try to get a win next time."
NOTES: This was the first of three meetings between the teams this season. They’ll meet Nov. 24 in Cleveland and then back in Charlotte again on March 28. … The Hornets wore throwback uniforms with pinstripes for the first time, from the original Hornets’ 1988 season. … The Cavs were without G Derrick Rose (left ankle sprain), G Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and C Tristan Thompson (left calf strain). … The Hornets were without F Treveon Graham (right quad contusion) and G Julyan Stone (strained left hamstring). … The Hornets were coming off a four-day break. Their last game was a 90-87 loss at Boston last Friday. … Cavs F LeBron James came into the game fifth in the NBA in scoring at 28.1 and fourth in assists at 8.8. … The Cavs will return home to host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. The Hornets will play at Chicago on Friday.