Kyrie Irving likes playing the New York Knicks. Last season, the third year point guard averaged over 31 points per game against Spike Lee's favorite team. Included in that, of course, was Irving's Dark Knight game when he donned the black mask in Gotham and put up 41 points, sending Jason Kidd into early retirement.
Tonight, Irving might have played better as he led the Cavaliers to a 109-94 victory against the New York Knicks.
Tonight, Pablo Prigioni is going to have trouble sleeping.
37 points on 23 shots, 11 assists, and 1 turnover. Pretty good defense, too.
He pushed the pace, kept his teammates involved, and looked like a special talent, from the opening tip when he scored nine seconds into the game.
But tonight wasn't about Kyrie Irving, and it wasn't about how bad the Knicks are and what their situation is. Tonight was about the Cavs winning their fourth game in five and protecting their home court. It was about the whole team being ready to play and getting to the foul line at will in the first quarter. The starters imposed their will on the Knicks throughout. They ran the floor, forced turnovers, got to the basket, and appear to be gaining trust in one another.
If it takes playing the Knicks for that to happen, whatever. This team is 8-13 with a winnable road game coming up down in Orlando. They are a young team with a new coach. Until tonight, their best player had been pretty bad. Maybe this was a coming out party for the man who means so much to the future of the franchise, Kyrie Irving. He talked in the offseason about being one of the best players in the NBA, but already in this young season he has been compared to Rudy Gay while Paul George and Anthony Davis become national darlings.
Some have speculated that Irving is pouting because of Mike Brown or his teammates or Dan Gilbert or whatever. Perhaps Irving was "pouting" or just upset because he himself hasn't been playing great and he holds himself to a higher standard. It seems the easiest way to make Irving happy is for the Cavaliers to win games, and for him to play well when it happens. That happened tonight.
He wasn't the only guy out there, of course. Alonzo Gee started slow but had a great second half. Tristan Thompson started slow but had a great second half. After Thompson got in foul trouble and missed most of the first half, Anderson Varejao came into the game and played just fine. Varejao finished with five assists, and it finally seems like the Cavaliers are able to get some ball movement going even when Matthew Dellavedova sits.
When Thompson came out after halftime, he appeared motivated to make his mark on the game. 12 points on 8 shots, 9 rebounds, and an assist with no turnovers. He somehow made it to 30 minutes, which means all eight of the Cavalier wins have involved him breaking that 30 minute barrier. I don't know what it means other than that the Cavs have trouble winning when good Tristan doesn't show up. He's been around lately.
Dion Waiters didn't have a great game, but today was just his 22nd birthday so he has plenty of time to improve. His shot selection was alright, and a few of his turnovers actually came from forcing passes. He had some nice interplay with Kyrie in the first half, too.
This was a win over a bad team at home, but you know what, the Cavs haven't been particularly good so far. This was enjoyable. Let's hope Mr. Irving builds on this.
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