CLEVELAND — LeBron James came close to his 40th career triple-double several times this season.
The four-time MVP got there in three quarters Monday night.
James scored 21 points to go along with 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his first triple-double of the season, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 120-100 win over the Sacramento Kings.
James pulled down his final rebound late in the third quarter, resulting in a loud cheer from the sellout crowd. He didn’t play the final period thanks to the big lead.
"I didn't know until I sat down on the bench and I looked up at the scoreboard," he said. "Get over the hump, finally. To do it in three quarters was even more impressive. It allowed me to get some rest."
Kyrie Irving matched his season high with 32 points and tied his career high with 12 assists. Irving was 13 of 21 from the field and J.R. Smith hit six 3-pointers, finishing with 22 points.
Cleveland went ahead early in the game and steadily built its lead against the listless Kings, who have dropped eight of nine.
Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi led Sacramento with 16 points each.
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, who passed the 9,000 career point mark in the second quarter, returned after missing a game because of a bruised left thigh and scored 11 points.
Irving converted a four-point play in the fourth quarter by hitting a 3-pointer in front of the Kings bench and being fouled by Rajon Rondo.
"I think health-wise, he's great," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of Irving, who missed the first 24 games after surgery for a fractured left kneecap. "I still think he's trying to get his legs back a little bit. He did a great job tonight."
Cleveland led 61-45 at halftime. Three baskets by James, including a 3-pointer, and five points by Irving early in the third helped stretch the lead to 78-57. The biggest margin was 24 points in the fourth quarter.
Speculation about coach George Karl's job status began after Friday's loss in Brooklyn. The Kings followed that Sunday in Boston by allowing 74 points in the first half, including 46 in the first quarter. Sacramento gave up 128 points in each game.
DeMarcus Cousins scored 14 points while Rondo had 16 assists.
Rondo expressed the frustration that's hanging over the Kings.
"We can't just keep laying down, we've got to fight," he said. "We're all men. We're all grown. You can't want it more than the other person next to you does. We've got to stop making excuses."
Rondo was especially upset over the slim attendance at the team's optional shootaround Monday morning.
"When three or four guys show up, what does that say?" he said. "You can't have three or four guys show up and expect to beat Cleveland."
HE SAW IT COMING
Karl has been able to maintain his sense of humour despite the rumours about his job security. Asked about defending James before the game he said, "I hope he gets in foul trouble or hurts his ankle. Hopefully, our pick-and-roll coverage will be pretty solid, but 48 minutes is a long time to do it. I wish this was a high school game where we only had to play 32 minutes."
Kobe Bryant will play his final game at Quicken Loans Arena when the Lakers visit Wednesday.
"Anytime I even watch his games, even when I'm not playing him, it's always like very emotional just knowing it's his last hurrah," James said. It's going to be really cool to see him for sure. I know our fans will give him a great reception, well deserved."
Kings: Sacramento's losing stretch has come after a five-game winning streak. .... Gay returned after missing Sunday's game. He sprained his left ankle Friday and played four minutes against Brooklyn. ... Ben McLemore (sprained right wrist) missed his second straight game.
Cavaliers: Love was injured Friday and missed Saturday's game. ... Matthew Dellavedova (sore left hamstring) missed his fourth straight game and could be out until after the All-Star break.
Kings: Visit Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: Host Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.