The Cleveland Cavaliers will face the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center their next game. Okay, I said it. Obviously nobody on this focused Cavaliers squad, who won their second game so far through their five-day road trip, which includes a pit stop in LA, had anything concerning the Lakers on their mind as they won 101-90 against the Phoenix Suns (4-6).
Really though. How could you not have a team, who embarrassed you 112-57 last year, and a player, who is coming off 48 and 40-point games respectively, on your mind?
Anyways, as both teams had an arsenal of long-range shots throughout, the Cavaliers (5-5) found a way to fight off any sort of Suns rally. The Valley saw many deep shots, as the teams combined 17-38 from 3-land.
As amazing as all that sounds, that was not even the most amazing stat of the night. Steve Nash recorded his 16,000th point (Congrats), the rookie Kyrie Irving had an amazing game against Nash, the Cavaliers were the sixth-best rebounding team in the league going into the game and they stalled a Suns team that was on a 3-game winning streak (in which they managed to score at least 100 points in all 3 games) and hold them under 90 points.
This is a change for someone talking about the Cavs. There were too many good things about this game that I do not know what I should leave out.
First of all, I want to give a round of applause for Antawn Jamison’s play tonight. He is showing that he no longer needs to be looked at as a member of the supporting cast. Jamison came out shooting right away in the first quarter (9 shots) showing that he can be a leader on a team looking for one. The first quarter also had a combined 30 points by the Cavs, the highest total in a quarter all season.
The second quarter also saw a rarity on the Cavaliers’ stat sheet. The Wine and Gold went on a 24-8 run to end the first half with a 56-48 lead. Another intermission stat was Kyrie Irving’s 16-point first half.
Let us switch gears real quick and look at Coach Byron Scott’s resume: played on the opposite side of Laker legend Magic Johnson and coached Jason Kidd from 2001-04 and Chris Paul from 2005-10. Needless to say, this guy knows his guards.
Now back to Irving.
3 improvements that I saw from Irving tonight where 1. Irving not hesitating to take it to the hole, 2. learning how to stay with the man he is covering and 3. the flexibility of Irving to make moves when driving down the lane.
So you probably imagine since I am saying all these good things about Irving that he had some sort of accomplishment. Well, you are right. The former Duke Blue Devil had his career high before the third quarter ended and finished with 26 points. Is Kyrie the real deal though?
A couple of breakout games over this long road trip is too little to tell if Irving will develop into one of the NBA’s premier guards, but I believe he is doing all the right things. The Cavs are asking a lot out of him by putting him in the starting lineup, and he has handled the pressure very well so far. Scott has done a great job preparing the rookie for all the situations he will face throughout this 66-game season.
Another rookie who put in a good day’s work was first-rounder Tristan Thompson who logged in 7 points and 6 rebounds. His presence on the boards tonight was only bested by Anderson Varejao’s 17 rebounds. Daniel “Boobie” Gibson’s impact off the bench was the biggest though, as he made 3 three-pointers and had a total of 10 points.
Last kudos goes to whoever is running ball movement drills in practice. Even as the shot clock ran low, the Cavs stayed patient and moved the ball until a clear shot was open.
With all that said, it was a successful night for Cleveland, despite the nagging problem that the Cavs need a center. Only one center checked into the game today; Semih Erden, who did not have any points and only collected 2 boards.