CLEVELAND: Kyrie Irving spent the fourth quarter Wednesday relaxing at the end of the Cavs’ bench, a towel draped over his head while he cracked jokes with the rest of the team’s starters.
It was a strange, but familiar feeling for a Cavs franchise that hasn’t enjoyed a victory this easy since LeBron James played his home games at Quicken Loans Arena.
Irving had 22 points, Dion Waiters had 19 and the Cavs pounded the Charlotte Bobcats 122-95 for the team’s most lopsided victory since May 7, 2010 — James’ last win with the Cavs.
“We challenged ourselves to really come out and lay the hammer down and step on their necks,” Tristan Thompson said. “Let’s keep it going.”
The Bobcats concluded a five-game, 10-day road trip and played like a team ready to get home. The Cavs shot a season-best 57 percent, outscored them in the paint 50-30 and gave the type of performance that coach Byron Scott was expecting against an inferior opponent.
“This was one of those games where I was really curious to see if we learned from some of our past mistakes and if we’ve grown as a basketball team,” Scott said. “I can say we definitely have. It’s just a matter of now keeping it going. But I really loved the excitement I saw from our guys tonight, the effort at the beginning of the game and pretty much carried it throughout the game.”
The Cavs have struggled with their effort level against teams with losing records all season, but not on this night. Scott and some of the veterans challenged the players following Saturday’s big win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to keep the momentum going against the league’s worst team.
The game was so out of hand, the Cavs carried a 100-67 lead into the fourth quarter and the starters never got off the bench in the final 12 minutes.
“I think it was the first time all season,” Irving said. “The only other time I rested [for the entire fourth quarter] was against Detroit and we were losing. I’m glad to be on the other side.”
The Bobcats lost all five games on this trip and have dropped eight of their past nine. They went scoreless for nearly four minutes in the second quarter while the Cavs scored 14 consecutive points to blow open a 50-29 lead. They extended the lead to 33 in the third quarter and topped 100 points after three quarters when they entered averaging 96 per game.
The Cavs set season highs in assists (33), field-goal percentage, points in a half (65) and points in a game and had a season-low six assists. Nine players had at least two assists and three (Waiters, Luke Walton and Shaun Livingston) had at least five.
Irving made all five of his 3-point attempts, Mo Speights had 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench and the Cavs improved to 14-1 at home all-time against the Bobcats.
“I told them at halftime that we used to always talk about things when I was with the Lakers,” Scott said. “We talked about it before games, ‘This is a team we should beat by 30, and in the fourth quarter, I don’t want to be playing,’ That was one of Magic’s statements: ‘I don’t want to play in the fourth quarter.’ That means we’ve got to come out and bury these guys. I told our guys, ‘You’ve got to think the same way.’ ”
The victory was the Cavs’ largest since a 124-95 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. James played just three more games with the Cavs before departing as a free agent, launching the organization into a full-blown rebuild that has been accompanied by an avalanche of losses. Only recently have they been showing signs of new life.
The Cavs are 8-9 since the start of January and have won five of their last six against the Eastern Conference.
“I think our young guys are really starting to believe in what we’re doing,” Scott said. “They’re believing in each other, sharing the ball and playing together as a team on both ends of the floor. As long as we keep trusting each other like that, we’ll be fine.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.