CLEVELAND -- LeBron James' rested legs were strong enough in the fourth quarter to carry the Cavaliers over the pesky Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, all three of the Cavs' rested stars played a key role in the victory.
James scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, and Kyrie Irving had 21 points and matched his career high with 12 assists in Cleveland's 119-108 victory over the Lakers on Saturday night.
Kevin Love had 27 points and a season-high 17 rebounds after coach Tyronn Lue rested all three in Cleveland's previous game on Wednesday. Irving took a week off because he complained to Lue he had tired legs in last Saturday's win over Charlotte.
"It was warranted. How I felt, knowing the importance of what was coming up in the season, I think it was a great group decision in terms of the rest that was needed," Irving said. "I had no arguments with that."
The Lakers snapped an eight-game losing skid Friday at Philadelphia, but they've been known to give the league's elite teams fits. They smashed the Golden State Warriors by 20 earlier this season, the second straight season they've beaten their in-state rivals.
The Lakers led by as many as eight late in the first quarter and maintained the lead into the second quarter until the Cavs started to rally. They remained within 108-105 late in the fourth quarter after two 3-pointers from Nick Young.
"We are finding out how hard it is to win a single game in this league," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "It's hard and it takes a lot of effort and work. That team won a championship and that means they're really good. For us to come out and give ourselves a chance to win on their home court, be in the game, cut it to four at one point late in the fourth, that's a good effort for us."
The Lakers were without starting point guard D'Angelo Russell, who sat out after appearing tired in the second half on Friday at Philadelphia. Russell recently returned from platelet-rich plasma therapy on his right knee and the Lakers are being cautious with him.
Even without their star, the Lakers made 16 3-pointers and nearly pulled off the stunning upset on the road.
"There's no moral victory," said Cleveland-area native Larry Nance, Jr. "We lost this game, or actually they beat us. That's a championship-caliber team and we hung with them for four quarters. If there's anything you can take away from that, it would have to be that."
James' 3-pointer with 2:32 left extended the Cavs' lead to 113-105 and finally seemed to put away the Lakers. Lue sat Irving and Love and brought James back with the reserves to start the fourth quarter and James immediately began attacking after spending the first three quarters facilitating.
"They hit some tough shots," James said. "Some of them was predicated off just our schemes and some of them ... they shot the ball extremely well. But it was up to us to get a couple timely stops like we usually do in the fourth quarter and make a couple timely shots like we do and we did that."
Lue warned Saturday that this might not be the last time Irving sits for an extended period this season. It certainly seemed to help him Saturday. Irving played 38 minutes and registered 12 assists for the second time this season.
"In practice (Friday), he looked really good, had a lot of pop, was moving around well," Lue said. "There will probably come another time where he's going to need a little rest also. Right now, he's feeling good and that's the biggest thing for me."
NOTES: Lakers C Timofey Mozgov received his championship ring prior to the game. Mozgov signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Lakers after winning the championship with Cleveland. ... F LeBron James is now two points shy of passing Moses Malone (27,409) for eight place on the all-time scoring list. ... Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he hits a craps table each year with Lakers coach Luke Walton during summer league in Las Vegas. ... Walton remains close to Cleveland's Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. The three of them all played at Arizona. Walton said he texted both players on Saturday, but only Jefferson got back to him. "I guess that shows which one I'm closer to," he joked. ... The Cavs play at the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. ... The Lakers are at the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.