CLEVELAND (AP) — Kevin Love’s first meeting with his former team wasn’t packed with much emotion.
LeBron James expects a much different reunion on Christmas.
Love scored 20 points in his first game against Minnesota, Kyrie Irving added 29 and the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away in the second half for a 125-104 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, sending them on to James’ holiday visit in Miami to play the Heat.
Love’s matchup with the team he spent six frustrating seasons with before a summer blockbuster trade was overshadowed by an injury to Cleveland center Anderson Varejao, who had to be helped off the floor in the third quarter. Varejao was unable to put any weight on his left leg as he was assisted to the locker room.
The Cavs won’t know more about Varejao’s injury until Wednesday. He left Quicken Loans Arena on crutches with his leg in an immobilizing air cast.
James added 24 points for the Cavs, now 12-3 since opening 5-7.
Minnesota rookie Andrew Wiggins scored 27 against the team that drafted him as the Timberwolves lost their sixth straight and 12th in 13 games.
Wiggins was taken with the first pick in this year’s draft by the Cavaliers before he was packaged along with former top pick Anthony Bennett and sent to Minnesota for Love, who joined James and Irving to give Cleveland a “Big Three” capable of winning an NBA title.
Love, who grabbed 10 rebounds and played much of the second half with his right thumb taped, said the matchup against the Timberwolves lacked passion.
“I didn’t really feel much of anything to be honest with you,” he said. “It felt like just another game. It was a game we felt like we needed to win before going to South Florida for Christmas.”
On Thursday, James will return to face the Heat, the team he helped lead to two championships and four straight appearances in the finals.
James has been looking forward to returning to his other NBA home.
“To say I haven’t thought about going back, I would be lying,” he said. “It’s going to be great to be back in that building around those unbelievable fans and the memories will definitely come back being a part of the organization for four years. When it gets here I’m going to be excited about it and re-live a lot of moments in my head and go from there.”
The Cavs led 82-70 in the third before closing the period with a 16-1 run, highlighted by 3-pointers from James and Dion Waiters to finally overwhelm the young and scrappy Timberwolves.
Love figures to have a tougher time when he returns to Minnesota for the first time on Jan. 31, a game coach Flip Saunders believes many Timberwolves fans circled on their calendars long ago. Saunders said Minnesotans don’t easily forgive anyone who has not been loyal to them.
Love can’t concern himself with any negative reaction.
“I try to stay off that stuff,” Love said. “I know when somebody leaves, they more often than not don’t want to say good things about him.”
Following the game, Love hugged Saunders and several Minnesota coaches and team personnel.
“Those are guys I will have relationships with through my whole career and really beyond,” he said. “You never know when you’ll link back up with those people. Those are relationships I really cherish, whether they were one year or six years.”
Timberwolves: Minnesota’s top three players — guard Ricky Rubio (sprained ankle), center Nikola Pekovic (sprained ankle), and guard Kevin Martin (broken wrist) — have played in 23 combined games due to injuries. … G Mo Williams received a nice ovation when he entered the game for the first time. He spent three seasons with Cleveland. … The matchup featured four No. 1 overall draft picks: Wiggins (2014), Bennett (2013), Irving (2011) and James (2003).
Cavaliers: Waiters added 19 points, his second straight strong game. … The Cavs have won nine of 10 at home. … F Mike Miller started but picked up three fouls in a span of 38 seconds in the first and only played nine minutes. … Cleveland is 8-0 when shooting 50 percent or better.
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Wiggins said defending James wasn’t as tough as trying to stop Kobe Bryant.
“For me as a defender, I would say Kobe,” he said. “Kobe has been the toughest matchup for me this year.” The Timberwolves defeated the Lakers 120-119 in Los Angeles on Nov. 28. Bryant scored 26 points, Wiggins had 16.
James had some high praise for Wiggins.
“He’s a great talent,” James said. “Very poised and very efficient. They got a great piece.”
Timberwolves: At Denver on Friday.
Cavaliers: At Miami on Thursday.
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