Cleveland Cavaliers hold off Minnesota Timberwolves for Tyronn Lue's first win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 26, 2016 at 12:27 AM
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CLEVELAND -- Tyronn Lue stepped off the podium and immediately reached for his tie Monday night. The new Cleveland Cavaliers coach loosened the knot as he walked out of the postgame interview room, just like his mentor.

"I learned this from Doc," he said, referring to Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

One down, plenty more to go. He should hope the rest of them aren't this hard.

Forward LeBron James scored 25 points and passed for nine assists and the Cavaliers survived a late charge for a 114-107 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. It was Lue's first win as a head coach in his second game.

Lue replaced David Blatt, who was fired Friday despite the Cavs owning the best record in the Eastern Conference. His first victory didn't come easy.

A three-point play from guard Zach LaVine pulled the Timberwolves within 110-107 with 16.5 seconds left. James sealed the win with a pair of free throws at the other end.

"It felt great to finally get a win," Lue said. "It's only been two games, but to get my first head coaching win means a lot. I feel great about that."

James gave a short speech in the locker room after the game, and the players presented the game ball to Lue.

"It's a special moment for anyone, for a rookie player, for a rookie head coach, for an expansion franchise," James said. "When you get that first win, it's very special and you never forget it."

Rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns had 26 points and 11 rebounds and Andrew Wiggins added 20 points for the Timberwolves, who were trying to win consecutive games for just the second time since November.

Center Tristan Thompson returned to the starting lineup and had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, while guard Kyrie Irving had 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The Cavs (31-12) struggled all night against the inferior Timberwolves (14-32).

A 3-pointer from guard Iman Shumpert extended Cleveland's lead to 90-75 early in the fourth quarter, but Minnesota scored 12 of the game's next 14 points, and a transition basket from LaVine off a turnover pulled Minnesota within 92-87 with 7:21 left.

A turnaround baseline jumper by Wiggins over James cut the Wolves' deficit to 106-102 in the final minute, but the Cavs made just enough baskets to survive.

"We did a good job even staying in that game," Towns said. "The tools are all there."

Cleveland beat the Timberwolves by 26 points less than three weeks ago in Minnesota.

The Cavs have been trying to play faster since Lue replaced Blatt as head coach. They lost by double figures to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday and had trouble putting away the struggling Timberwolves on Monday.

Lue is trying to get the players in better shape to run, and he is trying to install more packages for Kevin Love in places where the forward is comfortable, but it isn't easy. The Cavs committed eight of their 15 turnovers within the game's first 14 minutes, and Lue agreed the team is almost going back to training camp with its conditioning and new play calls.

"It kind of is (like training camp) because we're putting guys in different situations, in different spots, trying to put guys in their comfort zone," Lue said. "Just trying to open the floor up more and playing with more space."

Love had 11 points and six rebounds on a night all five Cleveland starters scored in double figures, although the faster pace led to sloppy ball-handling and a porous defense.

The Cavs committed eight turnovers in the game's first 14 minutes and ended the night with 15. The Timberwolves shot 48.8 percent, including 60 percent in the first half.

"We have flashes where we were great," Towns said. "Against the Cavaliers, you have to be great for the entire game."

NOTES: Timberwolves PF Kevin Garnett missed Monday's game with right knee soreness. He is considered day-to-day. ... SG Andrew Wiggins entered with a 31.7-point scoring average against the Cavs, the team that originally drafted him. It's his highest mark against any team. He has twice set career scoring highs in his first three games against Cleveland. ... Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is still operating under his assistant coach's contract. He said Monday he has not yet signed his new deal, expected to be for three years when completed. ... The Cavaliers have spent the last couple of days trying to play at a faster tempo, but F LeBron James said it's because that's what Lue wants. "This is what coach wants to do and this is what we're going to do," James said. "This isn't a LeBron thing."

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