On his first play back from injury, Kyrie Irving channeled his inner Uncle Drew and nailed a smooth mid-range jumper, causing the Cleveland crowd to erupt. Irving never leveled off from there, finishing with 28 points and 11 assists in leading Cleveland to a 100-94 win at Quicken Loans Arena. C.J. Miles had the best game of his young Cavalier career, matching Irving with 28 points, while Anderson Varejao added 20 points and nine rebounds. Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with a game high 42 points, while Dwight Howard chipped in 19 points and 20 rebounds.
The first quarter between Los Angeles was a fun quarter. Both teams had their moments on offense, but Cleveland seemed to have the edge through out. On defense the Cavaliers out hustled the Lakers, causing (7) turnovers that led to easy transition points. Varejao had the play of the quarter, throwing a vicious dunk down on Lakers forward Jordan Hill. For the quarter, the Cavs were paced by (insert name) with (#) points, while Bryant, who had 12 in the quarter, led the Lakers. At the end of the quarter, the Cavaliers led 29-23. The second quarter started off much slower than the first. In the first four minutes, only six total points were scored. When six minutes had passed, only 14 points had been scored in total. Largely, though, that was due to Irving and Bryant both sitting out to start the quarter. For Cleveland, Irving helped pick up the pace instantly. Replacing Jeremy Pargo, Irving increased the tempo, drove the lane and he hit several shots, including a smooth bank shot from the left wing. Irving also worked in sync with Varejao, setting up the big man on several occasions. C.J. Miles also had a big quarter for Cleveland, scoring 10 of his 28 points in that period. The story of this period was the Cavaliers defense, as through two quarters, the Wine and Gold had forced 13 turnovers. At the half, the Cavaliers led 54-39.
The third quarter started off a lot like the second. Through four and half minutes, the Cleveland Cavs had only scored three points, while the Lakers had scored six. After a Cavaliers timeout, the Lakers went on a run to pull within seven. However, the Cavaliers quickly put that to rest – scoring five straight to pull ahead by 12. On a whole, the third quarter was ugly for Cleveland. They committed seven turnovers in the period, and only made five of 22 shots. At the end of the quarter, after a Kyrie Irving three, the Cavaliers lead was cut down to six.
The start of the fourth was fast paced. Both teams traded baskets, and after three minutes, the Cavaliers still lead by six. With 7:11 left in the quarter, Kyrie channeled Uncle Drew and scored a lay up that also got him to the line. The converted three-point play, followed by a Howard miss, gave the Cavs an energy boost, as they held onto a five-point league. Down the stretch, the teams contributed to trade baskets until Metta World Peace bricked a three with a little over a minute to go. On the ensuing possession, off an Irving assist, Varejao hit a jumper from the elbow to give the Cavs a seven-point lead with 48.7 seconds to go. After some clutch free throw shooting and solid defense, the Cavaliers held on to win the game.
At the end of this game, it was clear how much better Irving makes the Cavaliers. Going against Kobe’s Lakers is never an easy task, and without him, it is hard to see how they would have won that game. His decision making, scoring ability, and leadership are irreplaceable assets for Cleveland, and will be fun to see how good Cleveland can be with him healthy.
On the downside, Dion Waiters is still out with injury, and key reserve Daniel “Boobie” Gibson left tonight’s game with a hyperextended elbow. When the Cavaliers can get everyone healthy, it will be interesting to see how good they can be.
The Cavaliers next take the floor Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers at home. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m., and the game will air live on FSN Ohio and WTAM 1100.