Rookies Impress in Preseason Win
Head Coach Byron Scott left his youngsters on the floor in the waning seconds of Friday’s win, and they didn’t disappoint – warding off a late Pistons run and closing out the game with four straight free throws from the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s Draft.
Irving, along with fellow first-rounder Tristan Thompson, made their NBA debut with 2:35 in first quarter. And while Thompson struggled early – picking up four fouls in the first half – Irving had the look of a veteran, getting wherever he wanted on the floor and piling up 14 points before intermission.
On the night, the precocious point guard led all scorers with 21 points – going 4-for-14 from the floor and 13-of-15 from the stripe, adding six boards, three assists and a pair of steals in 26 minutes of action.
“Nerve-wracking, especially trying to get my nerves out,” smiled Irving, describing his first outing. “It was a good start for our team and we're going to continue to get better as we go through this process. I was happy with our effort from everybody.”
Thompson had to wait a while longer before cracking the scoring column – netting his first field goal on a dunk with 9:24 remaining in the ballgame. The No. 4 overall pick, who fought through foul trouble, finished with eight points, four boards and a pair of impressive blocked shots.
“I feel that’s one of my strengths – blocking shots,” said the former Longhorn. “You just have to be active on the boards. It helps the team get another possession or gets us into fastbreak situations That’s what I do best.”
Both teams began the ballgame by shaking off several months of rust – evidenced by an ugly first quarter that saw the first field goal scored almost three minutes into regulation. The two clubs each shot 23 percent in that unsightly opening period.
But Irving and Samardo Samuels picked up the slack in the second – with the duo combining for 20 of the Cavaliers’ 24 points.
The Pistons took an early edge to start in the second, but Luke Harangody’s layup gave Cleveland a one-point lead and the Wine and Gold didn’t trail the rest of the way.
Samuels didn’t shoot exceptionally well in the game but, like Irving, did his damage from the line – canning 11-of-16 free throws and finishing with 15 points, seven boards, a game-high three steals and a pair of blocks. The second-year forward from Louisville also took a pair of key charges.
“We finally got a game under our belts,” said Coach Byron Scott. “I'm happy with the effort. I thought our effort was terrific defensively and offensively. Obviously we have a lot of work to do but we kind of knew that going into it that the defense was going to be ahead.”
The Cavaliers rookies played almost exclusively with the second unit. The Cavaliers started a mostly veteran first team, including a pair of veterans who hadn’t seen action in quite a while. Anderson Varejao – who finished with 10 points and four boards – hadn’t played since January 5. Antawn Jamison, who finished with 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting, hasn’t seen action since last February 27.
The Pistons were led by third-year forward Austin Daye, who came off the bench to tally 18 points and a game-high five blocked shots.
The Cavaliers get a rare day off on Saturday and will face off against one another in the annual Wine and Gold Scrimmage on Sunday afternoon at The Q. They’ll welcome the Pistons to Cleveland for their second and final preseason game before opening the 2011-12 NBA season on December 26 against Toronto.