The Cleveland Cavaliers (7-11) lost a seemingly close game against the New Jersey Nets (7-13) 99-96 at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night.
A late comeback put on by the Cavaliers, which included a 35-point fourth quarter and a 17-9 run to end the game, could have ended with a mark on the other side of the column. But the ugly night that the Cavaliers had from the charity stripe (14-24, 58.3%) and a sluggish showing from the bench kept them from inching back to the .500 mark.
Oh yeah, and Kyrie Irving scored a career-high 32 points.
26 teams were in action tonight and Irving was the third-highest scorer in the NBA Friday night. Only Derrick Rose (34) and Kevin Durant (37) outscored the rookie from Cleveland.
I scribbled on my notepad at the end of the first half that the rookies were struggling early, and they were. Tristan Thompson, who is nursing a sprained left ankle, and Irving had seven and zero points respectively heading into the locker room and the Cavaliers were down by 10. Thompson ended the game with five points, but again he was coming off an injury that put him on the bench for two games.
With some simple math we find out that Irving had a 25-point second half, and 21 of those points were scored in the fourth quarter. You can call them garbage points, but seeing is believing.
Irving entered the game with 6:37 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, and from there it was magical how he put the basketball in the hoop. He shot 8-9 from the field, going 2-3 from three-point range, and was 3-4 from the stripe. The only other player to have a better quarter than Cleveland’s rookie was LeBron James.
Being in attendance Friday night, I was witness to what I believe is the future franchise star for the Cleveland Cavaliers. What Irving did tonight was amazing, but that seems to be overshadowed by the loss.
It will take time for Cleveland to make themselves contenders in the East, but I love what they’re building on. Thompson had a rough night, but he was coming off his first injury as a pro. Gibson had an off night, but he’s shown drastic improvements on both offense and defense this season. Finally, once again opinionated, Alonzo Gee has the potential to be a premier sixth-man in the future for the Cavaliers.
I’m just trying to see the light in the tunnel. There were a lot of things that I saw from the Cavs tonight that have me excited for the future of this organization.
Real quick now, here are three things that the Cavaliers didn’t execute to their full potential tonight:
1. As a team they turned over the ball 16 times, while most of those turnovers were in crucial parts of the game. A sure-sign of a young team. Right now the Cavaliers rank dead last in turnovers per game, averaging 17.
2. As I mentioned earlier, the Cavs struggled at the line all night. They currently rank 28th in the league in free throw percentage with a .692 mark.
3. Semih Erden, who I think has made big strides with the minutes he has been getting, and Christian Eyenga, who was slamming electric dunks during pregame, saw zero minutes of game time while they sat on the bench all night. Even Ryan Hollins got minutes over Erden.
Keep calm Cleveland faithful. Good things are on the horizon. The Wine and Gold will be traveling to TD Garden Sunday night to do battle with the Boston Celtics (9-9).