The Cavaliers got back to .500 Thursday night with a 101-90 win over the Phoenix Suns. The Cavs are in the middle of a 7-game road trip and stopped in the desert to take on Steve Nash and company. The Suns are in a tough spot with much of their roster being really super old, but entered Thursday with the same 4-5 record as the Cavs.
Cavs Leaders: Points: Irving, 26; Rebounds: Varejao, 17; Assists: Irving, 6
I can't possibly be the only one who was waiting for a statement game from Kyrie Irving. You know, the kind of game that says "Watch out, NBA. Here I come."? Well I think we saw it against the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night. Let's quickly go back to my Cavs-Suns preview....
I wouldn't be surprised if Irving continues to embrace the role as the team's primary creator on offense and looks to score early and often. My mildly bold prediction is that Irving sets a new career high for points tonight and scores 26 on the Suns.
BOOYAH. Nailed it.
Irving scored exactly 26 points while playing just 27 minutes and shooting 11-17 from the field. He scored pretty much at will when he was on the court. It really was a joy to watch. At one point, the Cavaliers were down by 8 points. The Cavs then scored 14 straight points to put them up by 6 points. The final 12 points of this 14-0 run were scored by Kyrie Irving. The rookie point guard simply took over. It was amazing. Here's my favorite highlight from Kyrie last night.
Semih Erden fouled out in just 12 minutes of play. That's the fastest fouling out-age in the NBA this year. Who had the previous fastest time? Erden's teammate, Samardo Samuels in just 15 minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011-12 Cleveland Cavaliers' backup centers!
The Cavaliers did a much better job protecting the paint last night as the Suns only got 14 shot attempts at the rim. After allowing 56 points in the paint against the Jazz, the Cavs held the Suns to just 30 in the paint. That's a pretty good improvement. The Cavs destroyed the Suns on the boards, grabbing 47 to the Suns 39, including 15 orebs to the Suns 7 orebs. Anderson Varejao alone had 7 offensive rebounds. Beast.
I just mentioned it, but Anderson Varejao was a monster on the glass. He grabbed 17 rebounds, 1 shy of his career high. Seven offensive rebounds is awesome. Like usual, Andy made all of the hustle plays and provided limitless energy. He had two standout plays. On one play, Irving and Varejao ran a perfect give&go where Irving gave it up to Andy, slashed to the basket, and then Andy slipped him a pass in stride for the easy bucket. Another when Irving hit a rolling Andy and Andy finished the lay up for the and-1. Varejao shot just 3 of 10, but most of those were on offensive tips and ill-advised wide open jumpers.
Tristan Thompson only got 15 minutes. The only reason for this is because Antawn Jamison was playing relatively well after the 1st quarter and Byron Scott felt that he needed to keep Jamison on the floor as a scoring threat. I'd really like to see Tigger get more minutes than that. He continues to be productive in the time that he gets, grabbing 6 rebounds and scoring 7 points. He took a few too many jumpers for my liking.
Player Of The Game:
I feel like this is getting pretty routine. Like I said earlier, this was Irving's third straight 20-point game. He did it efficiently and spectacularly. The only problem I had was that he turned the ball over 6 times to match his 6 assists. Some of the turnovers were iffy and most of them were deadball turnovers, which aren't as bad because they don't let the Suns get out and start a fast break. Joey Crawford called him for carrying the ball on a crossover and I'm pretty sure he's the only ref in the league that makes that call. He got caught charging on Nash when the veteran just made a veteran type of play. Overall, Irving was excellent and I am extremely pleased with what we've seen thus far.