SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In his final game at the arena where his NBA career started, LeBron James saw two things that made for his pleasurable viewing.
First, there was the flight of teammate Kevin Love's 23-foot 3-pointer dropping through the cylinder perfectly -- even as a whistle sounded he was fouled -- as part of a four-point play that helped seal the Cleveland Cavaliers' 120-111 win over the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on Wednesday.
Second, and perhaps just as important, James saw the fight in his team go up a few notches, a welcome sign for a team trying to stay atop the Eastern Conference and one that was short-handed without center Timofey Mozgov, who was out with an illness.
"We competed," he said. "We didn't hang our heads low when they made a run. We had some turnovers and some miscues, but we continued to fight, continued to compete. It's a good start to a road trip."
James finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the arena where his career started on Oct. 29, 2003, and teammate Kyrie Irving added a game-best 30 points as Cleveland rebounded from a 106-103 loss at short-handed Memphis on Monday.
"I'll always remember that game," James said of his debut. "And I'll always remember this one."
James, making his final appearance at Sleep Train Arena before Sacramento opens a new facility next season, grabbed four of his rebounds on the offensive glass. The last one led to Love's four-point play that extended Cleveland's lead to 115-108.
Love, who has struggled shooting recently, finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and his four-point play was one of only two 3's he hit against Sacramento.
"That was a big shot," Cavaliers coach Tyronne Lue said. "He's made a lot of big shots in his career. Hopefully, that one generates something for him."
J.R. Smith put the contest away with a 3-pointer on Cleveland's next possession.
"We had a lot of contributions from everybody," Irving said.
Irving's stood out more than most. He finished with his fifth 30-point performance of the season and canned 11 of his 22 shots.
Center DeMarcus Cousins finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds for Sacramento (25-38) but also picked up a technical foul to help fuel Cleveland's decisive run. Cousins has a league-high 15 technical fouls, leaving him one short of an automatic one-game suspension.
Forward Rudy Gay added 19 points and six rebounds for a Kings team that also was short-handed. Sacramento played without guards Ben McLemore (broken right finger), Marco Belinelli (back spasms) and Seth Curry (sprained right ankle).
Despite that, they held a 65-54 lead early in the third quarter and nearly rallied from a 109-100 deficit late in the fourth quarter by scoring eight consecutive points.
"We're losing some tough games, but we're in the game," Collison said. "We're in the game with one of the best teams in the NBA. So we're doing some good things. This is our first year all together, so this is a learning experience for all of us."
Sacramento lost for the third straight time overall and for the fourth consecutive time on its home floor.
Tristan Thompson contributed 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Cleveland moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors atop the Eastern Conference. His last one came on the offensive glass and gave Cleveland an extra possession that eventually led to James' board off another miss and Love's subsequent backbreaker.
"That was a dagger," Irving said.
In all, the Cavaliers outrebounded the Kings 15-5 on the offensive glass.
Cleveland also got 15 points from J.R. Smith. Omri Casspi had 13 points for Sacramento, and guard Rajon Rondo scored 11 points and handed out six assists.
NOTES: Kings G Marco Belinelli (back spasms) missed only his third game, but all of the absences were in their past 17 games. C Kosta Koufos has missed only two games and leads Sacramento with 61 games played. ... Cleveland F LeBron James will square off against Los Angeles Lakers F Kobe Bryant for the final time Thursday (if Bryant is healthy) when the two teams face off at the Staples Center. The two have gone head-to-head 22 previous times, including six times when James was in Miami, and James' teams have won 16. James has averaged 28.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists in those meetings, while Bryant has gone for 23.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists. ... C Tristan Thompson played his 351st straight game, tying G Austin Carr for the second-longest ironman streak in Cavaliers history. C/F Jim Chones (361) holds the mark. ... Seven of Sacramento's next nine games are against teams below .500.