CLEVELAND — When Kevin Love returned Thursday night, there was a sense the Cavaliers had weathered the storm.
They came into the game against the Utah Jazz at Quicken Loans Arena with a two-game lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings.
J.R. Smith has five games under his belt after missing 36 with a fractured right thumb. Moving back into the starting lineup, Love cut nearly two weeks off his projected timetable following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Kyle Korver is close to getting back on the court after missing five games with a sore tendon in his left foot.
Exempting those lost to personal matters and rest, Cavs players have missed a total of 112 games because of injury and illness this season, including Korver and Derrick Williams (right quad contusion) Thursday night.
But, despite a 91-83 win over the Jazz, the storm has not passed.
With 4:30 left in the third quarter, Iman Shumpert asked out of the game and headed to the locker room, diagnosed with a sprained left shoulder. Kyrie Irving experienced tightness in his left knee and did not play in the fourth quarter.
Unlike in Tuesday's home rout of the Detroit Pistons, there were periods of lethargy and sloppy turnovers against the Jazz.
But Smith's 3-pointer from the corner with 1:10 left provided breathing room and a six-point lead and LeBron James finished it off with a fast-break layup seven seconds later.
At the tip all eyes were on Love, sidelined since Valentine's Day. He came out of the locker room on a tear, almost as if Lue were still featuring him in the first quarter.
Playing 19 minutes, Love totaled 10 points and nine rebounds and hit 5-of-9 from the field.
On his bobblehead night, Irving hit just three of his first 10 shots. James went scoreless in the first quarter. After shooting 52 percent in the first 12 minutes, the Cavs hit 7 of 25 shots in the second quarter.
With nine 3-pointers in the game, the Cavs (45-22) set a franchise record for most triples in a season with 887, surpassing the mark of 880 set last season.
James finished with 33 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Irving contributed 21 points, four rebounds and four assists. Smith added 12 points, shooting better from on 3-pointers (4 of 8) than on 2-pointers (4 of 10).
The Cavs were tested by the Jazz, fourth in the Western Conference, and trying to round into playoff form as well. Utah (43-26) is 18-8 against Eastern Conference foes, including 9-4 against them on the road.
The Jazz saw a two-game winning streak against the Cavs snapped and were denied their first victory in Cleveland since March 5, 2012.
Asked before the game how the Cavs survived with all the injuries, Lue said, "Guys have just been stepping up. LeBron and Kyrie have been playing at a high level, and also Richard Jefferson has been playing great. Korver was playing great before he went out, (Shumpert) has been playing good. We did it as a team and as a unit.
"We just held the fort down until our guys come back and now they're slowly starting to get back and now we gotta hit the floor running. We know we're ready for that. I'm excited still being No. 1 in the East after going through all the injuries. We're in good shape."
That was an hour and 45 minutes before the game. Now Shumpert will likely miss extended time. The Cavs will take no chances with the valuable Irving.
A season filled with adversity is still delivering challenges.
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