By no means did Kyrie Irving impress through the Cavaliers first four preseason games. There were flashes of brilliance in his play, but his shooting has been so off that it had me questioning who was on the floor at point guard for the Cavs. Irving shot well under 50 percent, and in fact only hit 23.9 percent of his field-goal attempts.
On Monday against the Orlando Magic, a game that the Cavaliers won 114-111 in overtime, we again saw a different Kyrie than last season. I mean that in a good way.
The leader of this young, athletic Cavaliers team was in rhythm from the start, finishing with 22 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals in 26 minutes. To make it even better, Irving only coughed up the ball twice, and has only managed to average that much over five games. Irving as a rookie averaged 3.1 turnovers, but is also looking much smoother with his ball-handling skills.
With all that aside, Irving’s stroke was on tonight. He was 5-of-8 from the field (including converting on his only three-point attempt) and a perfect 11-of-11 from the charity stripe. There was a lot to like from the Cavs tonight, but right now we’ll break down Kyrie quarter-by-quarter to analyze just how impressive he was.
- 10:07 – Kyrie starts the night off with an errant pass, while Glen Davis comes away with the steal. Panic?!
- 8:08 – Almost four minutes into the game, Irving makes his first shot from more than 20 feet out.
- 6:26 – After converting on his first attempt from the free throw line on the night after a technical foul, Irving came right back and hit a nice jumper in the paint.
- 4:05 – Irving misses on his next two attempts, but after making a shot from the same side where he missed those two shots, he collected a rebound.
- 3:35 – After taking the ball down the court, Irving made good on an E’Twaun Moore foul. The and-one make put the Cavaliers up 19-15 before Kyrie was pulled from the game for Jeremy Pargo
Irving totaled two rebounds, two turnovers and 11 points (4-of-6 from the field, 3-of-3 from the free throw line).
- 4:52 – Irving, who usually sees a lot of rest in the second quarter, relieves Pargo at the point guard position.
- 4:41 – After coming in, Irving is denied by former St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson, a player that was on the Cavaliers draft radar.
- 0:55 – After another Moore foul earlier, Irving makes his lone three-point attempt on a Dion Waiters assist.
- 0:36 – Irving again draws the foul from Moore, aggressively attacking the rim to draw it.
Irving totaled seven points (1-of-1 from three, 4-of-4 from the free throw line).
- 10:15 – Kyrie starts the third quarter, finding his first assist on the night due to a Dion Waiters three pointer. This duo is looking better and better each night, something that was bound to happen eventually.
- 3:06 – The sophomore point guard was playing with Moore all night, drawing another shooting foul from the Magic forward.
- 1:10 – Irving finds C.J. Miles for the three-point jumper, something that is developing very nicely for the Cavaliers. Miles finished with 17 points.
Irving totaled two assists and four points (4-of-4 from the free throw line). Irving took the rest of the night off after playing the entire fourth quarter.
After analyzing what Kyrie did and where he did it in the game, it spoke a lot about what kind of player he is becoming. He needed to get the jumper going tonight, and that’s exactly what he did. We know that he can dice his way to the hole, so having a game like this to get his confidence back made the team around him better. Miles has looked great all preseason, and registered his 17 points in just 19 minutes on Monday. Although Kyrie may have struggled in his four previous games, what you can’t get from a stat sheet is the way that he’s affecting the players around him. Waiters, who started off slow tonight, is going to catch fire very soon. That will all come with time.