CLEVELAND—Kyrie Irving scored 32 points and Kevin Love produced a defensive masterclass as the Cleveland Cavaliers extended their unbeaten start to the season to 4-0 with a 128-120 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
Irving’s haul helped quell a spirited Rockets side who were driven on relentlessly by James Harden, who finished with 41 points in a losing effort.
Kevin Love added 24 points for the Cavs while LeBron James weighed in with 19 points as Cleveland’s trio of heavyweights delivered.
The victory means the reigning NBA Finals champions are 4-0 for the first time since the start of the 2000-2001 season 16 years ago.
But the Cavs were made to work hard for victory by Houston, who pulled to within three points of the home side in the fourth quarter before Cleveland rallied to pull clear.
Love was crucial in engineering Cleveland’s fourth quarter rally, coming up with two steals and a blocked shot to help the Cavs go clear.
Love now has six steals from four games this season.
“I don’t know what the stats say, but I’d bet you that statistically I’m not a bad defender, so to speak,” Love said.
Meanwhile, two-time NBA champion Ray Allen announced his retirement from basketball on Tuesday after 18 seasons, finally ending the long-running guessing game over his future.
Allen, 41, had not played since the 2013-2014 season but has been regularly linked to rumors of a return in the two years since.
However the 10-time All-Star formally drew a line under his career in a letter addressed to his younger self on The Players’ Tribune website on Tuesday.
“I write this to you today as a 41-year-old man who is retiring from the game,” Allen wrote.
“I write to you as a man who is completely at peace with himself.”
Allen, a virtual certainty to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame, is the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers with 2,973.
He averaged 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 1,300 games during a career in which he forged a reputation as one of the greatest three-point and free-throw shooters the sport has ever seen with averages of 40 and 89.4 percent.
Allen was chosen as the fifth outright pick in the 1996 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
He joined the Seattle Supersonics in 2003 before heading to the Boston Celtics in 2007 where he later was part of a formidable line-up featuring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
In their first season, Allen, Garnett and Pierce led the Celtics to their first title in 22-years.
After six seasons with the Celtics, Allen chased more glory with a a move to the Miami Heat, where he landed another championship in 2013 alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
In his letter on the Player’s Tribune, Allen referenced his former team-mates.
“Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. The men who you are going to win championships with are all going to be very different people,” Allen said in the letter.
“What makes them champions is the boring old habits that nobody sees. They compete to see who can be the first to get to the gym and the last to leave.”
Allen’s career also saw him win a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics with the United States.
Outside of basketball, Allen has also dabbled in acting, winning rave reviews for his performance alongside Denzel Washington in the 1998 Spike Lee drama “He Got Game” in which he played a basketball player.
“I think I read defenses relatively well. Obviously there’s guys in this league that dominate the ball, like a Kyrie Irving or a Bron that just beats you to the lane. It’s just very hard to play against them. There’s a lot of guys even on that Warriors team that you saw in the Finals that are so good at that. It’s just something I continue to try to get better at.”
The game had bumped up its start time in order to avoid too much of an overlap with the Cleveland Indians’ quest for World Series glory.
James meanwhile gave Cleveland a scare when he headed to the locker room in the second quarter for treatment before returning in the third and playing his normal allotted minutes.
In his absence Irving turned on the style and later sealed a deep three-pointer in the game’s final minute.
“Kyrie is great, he’s got it all,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “All you can do is hope he misses shots. You put a hand in his face to make it as difficult as possible.”
Irving’s performance meanwhile earned the seal of approval from James, who said the Australia-born 24-year-old is still nowhere near his peak.
“He’s special. He’s growing every day. He’s in the zone, he knows who he is and what he’s about,” James told reporters. “The sky’s the limit for him. He’s only (24). He’s nowhere near to what he could be.”