It certainty didn’t start pretty, but behind the play of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to pull out an important 109-100 victory over the Orlando Magic.
For the Cavaliers, only two players – Irving and Waiters – were able to score more than 10 points. Combined, the duo went for 52 of the Cavaliers’ 109 points. On a night where Andrew Bynum only took three shots and no other Cavalier established themself as a threat, the Wine & Gold needed No. 2 and No. 3 to come up big and carry the team to the victory.
Irving led all scorers with 31 points on 24 shots, while Waiters finished with 21 on 8 of 18 shooting (which is even more impressive when you consider that he started 0 of 4 from the field in the first half). Magic rookie shooting guard Victor Oladipo led Orlando with 26 on 9 of 13 shooting.
If there is a negative to come out of tonight’s game, it’s that the Cavaliers had another awful first quarter. The Magic got out to 28-19 lead and stretched out their lead to as much as 14 before Cleveland made its run. But with Bynum out of the game and their pace increased, the Cavaliers made a run of their own.
And after that first quarter? The Cavaliers outscored the Magic by a score of 90 to 72.
All in all, Irving was the one player who had a complete game and was good from the opening tip until the final buzzer sounded. Others (namely Earl Clark, who was 3 of 4 from behind the arc) provided key production), but it really was Waiters’ monster fourth that helped the Cavaliers ultimately win the game. The Syracuse product was so in the zone at one point that Irving – not exactly the first guy willing to give up his handle – passed the ball off to Waiters, let him bring the ball up the court and then initiate the offense.
That, in and of itself, is the best thing to come out of tonight’s game. Games like tonight prove that these two can coexist in the same backcourt and that, when it all clicks, they can be dynamic enough to carry the Wine & Gold.
The question here now it this: can they do this every night and can they do so when they both are starting in the Cavaliers’ backcourt? That answer to that question will answer a lot about how good this Wine & Gold team can be.
Also of note: for the second time in about a week, Anderson Varejao took a shot from an opposing player. Last week it was Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, and tonight it was Magic forward Andrew Nicholson. The second-year player from St. Bonaventure pushed Varejao to the ground and was ultimately ejected.
Lastly, Anthony Bennett looked semi-alive tonight in scoring six points in nine minutes on 3 of 5 shooting. It’s not much, but it’s an extra bit of icing on an already delicious Wine & Gold victory cake.
PG Kyrie Irving – 36 minutes, 12 of 24 shooting, 31 points, 5 of 5 free throw shooting, five assists
This was a great performance from Irving. He really is starting to find his stride after his early struggles. Everything from his shooting form (more centered to the basket) and overall body language just look better. To put it simply: he’s back.
SG C.J. Miles – 20 minutes, 5 of 10 shooting, 10 points, +/- of -9
This wasn’t the worst game from Miles, but it wasn’t pretty. His +/- doesn’t match up here with his good shooting night. He also was 0 of 3 from behind the arc, which hurts his shooting chances.
SF Alonzo Gee – +/- of -14, 0 points
Can we please see Earl Clark start, Mike Brown?
PF Tristan Thompson – six points, seven rebounds, 28 minutes, two turnovers
Not a great game from Thompson, as he struggled against the Magic frontline. As we’ve seen, he’s better than tonight showed. His two turnovers early were both on just bad passes, and he never looked in the flow. Let’s hope he’s more on point tomorrow in South Beach.
C Andrew Bynum – 18 minutes, 1 of 3 shooting, two rebounds, two points, +/- -9
Bynum was a non-factor tonight. He looked bad early, couldn’t really get in the flow and was wisely pulled out when the Cavaliers needed to play catchup. Considering how good he was in previous games, tonight is concerning, especially when you consider Orlando had no one that could matchup with Bynum on the block.
Dion Waiters - 21 points, 8 of 18 shooting, 1 of 2 from three, 4 of 6 from the line, five rebounds, four assists
This was a solid game from Waiters. He overcame a slow start and finished strong. His fourth quarter was what carried the Cavaliers to their eventual victory, and he definitely is providing a nice one-two punch with Varaejao off the pine. He looks more comfortable than ever and is starting to turn a corner in his development. This Waiters is confident and aggressive, and I couldn’t be happier.
I’d like to give Mike Brown a gold star for tonight’s game. He pulled out Bynum at the right time , stuck with lineups that worked and clearly had this team ready to go. He even properly used Matthew Dellavedova down the stretch, as he provided solid energy minutes and hustle. If he can move Earl Clark to the starting lineup and figure out what he wants to do with Clark and Bennett, I’ll be happy with where Brown is as a coach.