LOS ANGELES -- With Kevin Love's return, the Cleveland Cavaliers have one of their top performers back in uniform. However, another round of injuries remains an issue as the Cavaliers open a four-game road trip with back-to-back games at Staples Center.
The Cavaliers (45-22), who own the best record in the Eastern Conference, will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. On Sunday, they play the Los Angeles Lakers.
Love, who was expected to miss six weeks, played his first game in a month on Thursday in a 91-83 win over the Utah Jazz, scoring 10 points and collecting nine rebounds in 20 minutes. Love missed 13 games after undergoing surgery on his left knee.
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"He said he felt good conditioning-wise," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told Cleveland.com. "He wanted to play more, but of course he couldn't. So we just got to keep slowly working him in and hopefully if he continues to feel better we can start getting him more minutes."
The Cavaliers were 7-6 without Love. Lue said he won't play the All-Star forward in consecutive games yet, so it isn't known whether he will start again against the Clippers or the Lakers.
Cleveland lost Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert in the third quarter against Utah. Irving left with tightness in his left knee and Shumpert sustained a left shoulder sprain.
The Cavaliers already were without Derrick Williams (right quad bruise) and Kyle Korver (left foot soreness). Korver is out for the game against the Clippers, and the Cavaliers said the availability of Irving, Shumpert and Williams will be determined.
Against the Clippers, the Cavaliers have enjoyed much success recently. Cleveland has won four of the last five meetings and seven of nine at Staples. In their last game on Dec. 1, the Cavaliers posted a 113-94 victory over the Clippers in Cleveland. Irving scored 28 points.
LeBron James has scored at least 20 points in 12 consecutive games on the Clippers' floor and is averaging 28 points, 7.6 rebounds and seven assists during that stretch.
Although healthy, the Clippers (40-29) are not totally well. They have lost three in a row with their latest setback occurring Thursday in a 129-114 loss at the Denver Nuggets. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan missed the game because coach Doc Rivers decided to rest them.
Los Angeles, which is fifth in the Western Conference, is in a precarious position of falling farther down the standings.
The Clippers, who are three games behind the No. 4 Jazz, hold a 1/2-game lead over the sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder and are a game ahead of the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies with 13 games to go.
"I don't know what to expect from this team anymore," Clippers guard J.J. Redick said. "We're in a bad place right now, losing games. We've been (bad) since the All-Star break."
The Clippers are 5-8 since the break.
Rivers is banking on his team to turn it around.
"You knew this was going to be a hard month," Rivers said. "It's the hardest month I've seen. There's nothing you can do about it and we're not done with it. We just have to get through it. It is what it is."