Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers are keen to have Rookie of the Year contender Evan Mobley fit again as soon as possible following an ankle injury.

Mobley went down in Monday's 107-101 win over the Orlando Magic, having played just 13 minutes.

There was no official word from the Cavs on his status, but ESPN reported it was a left ankle sprain, with X-rays coming back negative.

Mobley has averaged 14.9 points per game this year, while his 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 dunks and 1.6 blocks lead all rookies.

No Cavalier has played more than his 2,274 minutes, meaning the 20-year-old center will be a big miss as long as he is out while the Eastern Conference's seventh seeds prepare for the playoffs.

"With Evan, it's sometimes hard to tell because he's so quiet," said team-mate Love. "But I think he rolled it pretty good.

"It just takes the air out of the building and takes the air out of the team. It definitely has gutted us to lose Evan, whether it be for a game, two games, three games, whatever it may be.

"We just need to keep fighting and hope he recovers quickly and can be back out there with us, because he means so much to the team."

The win over the Magic moved the Cavs to 42-33, ensuring their first winning season since 2017-18 and their first without LeBron James since 1997-98.

Mobley's is not the team's first injury either, with Jarrett Allen and Rajon Rondo each out since early March. Collin Sexton, Ricky Rubio and Dean Wade are all done for the season.

Those absences are having an impact, with the Cavs 7-12 in their past 19 games, and coach J.B. Bickerstaff acknowledged how hard it was for the team to deal with this latest setback against the Magic.

"They have continued to stick together, fight for one another," Bickerstaff said.

"The injuries take a toll on you mentally and can be a distraction, and through that distraction, we complicated the game to a point where we didn't have to.

"I thought if we were continuing to do the simple things over and over again, we were getting positive results. We figured out a way."

LeBron James hopes former teammate Kevin Love harbours no resentment after a brutal dunk in the Los Angeles Lakers' 130-121 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James' return to Cleveland saw him put up a triple-double of 38 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, along with the dunk on his championship-winning teammate Love.

Attacking off an Austin Reaves dish inside, the 37-year-old launched to the basket with Love underneath, and the knee in the chest only served as a punctuation mark to what was a ferocious dunk.

Afterwards, James joked he hopes the invitation to the wedding of Love - whom he played with at the Cavs from 2014 to 2018 - is not rescinded.

"It was after the offensive rebound so I was diving down the middle, and once I got the bounce pass and put my left leg down on the ground, that's when I looked up," James said at the post-game news conference.

"To be completely honest, I hate that it had to be him. He's my guy, that's my brother and I hope I'm still invited to the wedding.

"That's not even in my all-time dunks so take it out. Kevin Love, I love you. I wish I could take those two points back and we'd still win by nine."

After last Sunday's demolition at the hands of the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers have regrouped on this road trip and if not for a fourth-quarter collapse against the Washington Wizards on Saturday, would be coming back home with a three-game win streak.

James believes performances have nevertheless been encouraging, with the Western Conference play-in on the horizon.

"For about 11 quarters, we've played some good basketball," he said. "Aside from the fourth quarter in the last game, we've played some good basketball and want to continue that trend.

"Obviously we want to defend a lot better, but this team is making a lot of shots, making a lot of plays and scoring a lot of points versus everybody.

"To come into this building, where [they] have played some exceptional basketball all year, on the last game of a road trip before we head back west, it was a big game from us."

The Phoenix Suns recorded their eighth consecutive victory as they defeated the Utah Jazz 105-97 with Devin Booker producing another 40-point game on Wednesday.

Booker had 43 points, 12 rebounds and four assists after a first-quarter scoring blitz as the Suns opened up an early 39-18 lead.

Chris Paul (21 points) added some key points down the stretch as the Jazz rallied in the last quarter.

The 25-year-old shooting guard recorded his 16th career 40-point game, moving past Amar'e Stoudemire for most in Suns franchise history, sitting ahead of Tom Chambers and Walter Davis too.

The victory means the table-topping Suns improve to 38-9 overall and 8-0 on the road this calendar year.

 

Hornets break records in Pacers rout

The Charlotte Hornets set a franchise record for single game scoring and produced the highest points total this season as they downed the Indiana Pacers 158-126. The Hornets hit 24 three-pointers, with LaMelo Ball (29 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists) and Kelly Oubre Jr (39 points) starring.

The Cleveland Cavaliers underlined their credentials as contenders with a 115-99 win over the champions Milwaukee Bucks. The Cavs moved above the Bucks with their eighth win in their past nine games, with Kevin Love scoring 25 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks.

Ja Morant was exceptional with 41 points, five rebounds and eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-110 over the San Antonio Spurs, while Nikola Jokic (26 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) led the Denver Nuggets past the depleted Brooklyn Nets 124-118. James Harden was out with hamstring tightness.

 

Bulls wayward but winners

The Chicago Bulls only managed seven three-pointers, shooting at 26.9 percent from beyond the arc yet they won 111-105 over the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls had lost six of seven but have steadied to win their past two, with DeMar DeRozan having 29 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

The Philadelphia 76ers moved above .500 as Joel Embiid scored 36 points with 13 rebounds in a 117-96 win over the Washington Wizards on Sunday.

The 76ers center was the dominant player on court, but also involved in a spat with Montrezl Harrell, which saw the latter ejected after a second technical foul in the third quarter.

Embiid had good support from Tobias Harris (23 points, seven rebounds, three assists) and Seth Curry (11 points with three triples, five rebounds, nine assists).

The Wizards had held a six-point quarter-time lead but the 76ers responded with excellent second and third periods, totalling 67-41 to take control of the game.


Jokic double-double leads Nugs past Clippers

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic led the Denver Nuggets past the Los Angeles Clippers 103-100 in a thriller with the Serbian center finishing with 26 points, 22 rebounds and eight assists. Youngster Brandon Boston Jr, who had 18 points, missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to force over-time. Jokic becomes the first player to record 25 or more points, 20 or more rebounds and five or more assists in back-to-back games since Charles Barkley in 1988.

Veteran Kevin Love scored 22 points making six-of-nine from beyond the arc, with nine rebounds from 18 minutes on court as the Cleveland Cavaliers thrashed the Toronto Raptors 144-99 to improve to 20-13. The 45-point win was the Cavs' largest margin since 1991, when they had a franchise-best 68-point win over the Miami Heat.

Zach LaVine scored 32 points including five three-pointers while DeMar DeRozan added 24 points as the Chicago Bulls got past the Indiana Pacers 113-105.  

 

Morant still finding his feet

Ja Morant continues to adjust after returning from injury, shooting eight-of-18 from the field including zero-of-three from three-point range while having four turnovers in the Memphis Grizzlies' 127-102 win over the Sacramento Kings. Morant did finish with 18 points and nine assists.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love has withdrawn from Team USA's roster for the Tokyo Olympics with two replacements confirmed.

Love joins Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who has entered health and safety protocols, in dropping out of USA's original 12-man roster.

USA Basketball (USAB) announced on Friday that Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee and San Antonio Spurs small forward Keldon Johnson have replaced the duo.

USAB said Love's withdrawal was due to "his ongoing injury recovery", having been returning from a right calf injury during the camp in Las Vegas where he did participate in exhibition games.

"I am incredibly disappointed to not be heading to Tokyo with Team USA," Love said in a statement released by Schwartz.

"But you need to be at absolute peak performance to compete at the Olympic level and I am just not there yet."

McGee averaged 7.3 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game, shooting at 51.1 per cent from the field in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Nuggets.

Johnson, 21, averaged 12.8 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game and 1.8 assists per game in the 2002-21 season for the Spurs.

Team USA are due to fly out for Tokyo on Monday, with their Olympics opener against France on July 25.

Kevin Love was delighted to finally get back to doing what he loves after making his return for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.  

Love was back on court for the Cavs for the first time since December 27. Initially, it was hoped a right calf injury would only keep him out of action for three to four weeks, but he ended up missing 33 games.  

His comeback was brief due to a restriction on playing time; he contributed four points and a defensive rebound in a 10-minute cameo as Cleveland were beaten 116-82 by the New Orleans Pelicans.  

However, the five-time NBA All-Star was not interested in the box score so much as having the chance to experience playing in a competitive situation. 

"It just felt great to feel like I was playing meaningful basketball again," Love told the media after his return. "[I've had] a lot of time off and just happy more than anything to be out there.   

"I could have shot 0-for-50 and I’d have been fine with it, just playing basketball is what I love to do. 

"It's so much a part of me, so to have it taken away last year, then be super unlucky with the injury, just more than anything I'm really happy to be back out there.  

"It will probably take me a couple of weeks to feel like myself, but I just wanted to get out there and get up and down the floor more than anything."

The Cavaliers won in Love's previous two appearances earlier this season, though the heavy loss to the Pelicans leaves them with a 14-23 record in the Eastern Conference. 

Love - the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft - hopes he can help improve the team's fortunes, having overcome a psychological barrier following such a lengthy spell out of action. 

"This thing has become more of a mental hurdle, than anything else," he said, having gone one-for-three from beyond the arc.

Asked about how he can make an impact on his team-mates, Love replied: "Being out there with the guys and playing significant minutes, finding a rhythm not just for myself but also being out there and finding a rhythm with them." 

Larry Nance Jr. also returned from a fractured finger for the Cavs, contributing 11 points and four rebounds in his 28 minutes of action.  

Brandon Ingram led the way for the Pelicans with 28 points, while Zion Williamson had 23.

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