MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The young and inexperienced Minnesota Timberwolves figured a night against lowly Cleveland would be an easy one to get them back in the win column.
Antawn Jamison and Kyrie Irving showed some signs that the Cavaliers may not be the pushovers they have been since LeBron James left.
Jamison had 22 points and six rebounds to help the Cavs to a 98-87 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday night.
Irving had 14 points, five assists and five rebounds and former Timberwolves guard Ramon Sessions had 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Cavaliers, who held Minnesota to three fast-break points.
``Every once in a while the old people can get in there and play a little bit,' the 36-year-old Jamison said. ``But the thing I like about it, we're just playing as a team. We don't care about recognition or anything like that and that's the way we have to keep it.'
Cleveland started 4-3 last season as well, but won just 15 more games the rest of the way. With Irving at the point and Jamison playing as though he's 10 years younger, the Cavs hope this season is the foundation for a rebirth post-LeBron.
``There's still a lot of room to improve on both ends of the floor, and I think at times we do tend to lose a little focus for whatever reason,' coach Byron Scott said. ``But for a young team like we have, to close out the games the way we've been closing out, it's pretty good.'
Kevin Love had 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have taken two major steps backward since beating Dallas and San Antonio on successive nights to start the week.
They lost to Memphis on Wednesday night and then never really were in it Friday thanks to an uninspired effort against the Cavs. Minnesota fell to 2-3 on a five-game homestand.
``A couple guys in the locker room were saying this is the first time it felt like it was last year,' rookie Derrick Williams said, referring to the team's 17-65 finish. ``I wasn't here last year, but from the looks on their faces you can really tell we don't want it to be like last year.'
Alonzo Gee, who tried out for the Timberwolves a few seasons ago, had 11 points and six boards off the bench, and the Cavs simply outworked the lackluster Wolves for the win.
The Wolves got as close as 90-78 in the fourth before Anderson Varejao, who had 13 points and 12 boards, scored on a putback and Jamison drilled a 3-pointer to push the lead back to 17 and seal it.
The Cavaliers entered the game tops in the NBA at allowing fast-break points with just 6.5 per game, and they put the brakes on Ricky Rubio and the Wolves on Friday night.
Minnesota didn't score a single point in transition through the first 41 minutes as Cleveland's physical backcourt held the Wolves in check.
``We are just so hit or miss right now,' Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. ``I told them, `I never said this was going to be easy,' and they are going to have to tough it out.'
Michael Beasley had nine points on 4-for-12 shooting and 12 rebounds, but sprained his right foot in the final 2 minutes for Minnesota, which missed 10 free throws and shot 4 for 20 from 3-point range. Rubio finished with 10 points and five assists.
Beasley needed crutches after the game and said he could be out for a while. The Timberwolves have a back-to-back-to-back set coming up starting Sunday in Washington.
Top pick Irving, who turned the ball over seven times, got out quickly in a non-descript first half, scoring 12 points with four assists and three rebounds to help the Cavs take a 52-45 lead into halftime.
``Without these young guys, we definitely wouldn't be doing the things that we're doing,' Jamison said. ``They're listening and we're just going out there just trying to compete at a high level.'
Williams, drafted No. 2 overall, was the only thing the Wolves had going for them early. He scored nine points on 3-for-3 shooting while Beasley, Love and Luke Ridnour combined to shoot 6 for 20.
Williams finished with 12 points.
``We can't just come to play against the NBA championship contenders,' Williams said. ``We've got to come to play against everybody we play.'
NOTES: Anthony Tolliver shot a 3 at the start of the fourth that grazed the net, and the Wolves PA announcer said that it went in. It didn't and was wiped off the board. ... Timberwolves G JJ Barea missed his fourth game in the last five with a strained left hamstring. He is day-to-day.
The Associated Press News Service
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