Cavs Come Home, Clip Celtics
Wrap-Up – After consummating a big trade earlier in the day, the Wine and Gold look refreshed from a five-game roadie and outlasted the Celtics in a 95-90 thriller on Tuesday night at The Q.
The Cavaliers Class of 2011 was almost unstoppable, with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson taking it to Boston all night. Irving – going against the Eastern Conference’s starting All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo – meant business from the opening tip, scoring 19 of his game-high 40 points in the first quarter. The reigning Rookie of the Year went 16-of-24 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the stripe and outscored the Celtics, 7-3, in the final minute of the ballgame. Thompson, going against his boyhood idol – Kevin Garnett – finished with 21 points, nine boards, five assists, a steal and a blocked shot.
Tyler Zeller led the Cavaliers with 10 boards and Alonzo Gee added 10 points, six boards and a pair of assists.
Earlier on Tuesday, Cleveland dealt Jon Leuer to Memphis in exchange for F/C Marreese Speights, G Wayne Ellington, G Josh Selby and a future first round pick.
Turning Point – Tuesday’s matchup was close throughout – featuring 12 ties and 17 lead changes. So it’s not surprising that a single play turned the game. That play came with 2:19 remaining in the contest and the Cavs leading by a point, 84-83. Rajon Rondo chased a loose ball down into the Celtics’ end of the court, but before going out of bounds, tried to fire it off a trailing Kyrie Irving. (Breaking a basketball axiom of never saving the ball under your own basket.) Irving snagged the ball and went in for an easy layup. The Cavaliers didn’t trail the rest of the way.
Game Ball – Alonzo Gee – Kyrie Irving had a sensational scoring night and Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller did a great job against Kevin Garnett and the Celtics’ frontline. But it was Gee who minimized Boston’s Cav-Killer – Paul Pierce. In the two teams’ last meeting, Pierce went off for 40 points. On Tuesday, Gee – along with Omri Casspi and Shaun Livingston – teamed up to hold Pierce to just 3-for-15 shooting and just 12 points.
By the Numbers – 28.6, 12.3 … points per game for Kyrie Irving vs. Rajon Rondo, respectively, in their three head-to-head matchups.
Quotable – Coach Byron Scott, on the Cavaliers’ defense against Paul Pierce, a player who’s killed them in the past …
“The one thing that we wanted to do was take away (Pierce)’s space and make him put it on the floor. I thought Zo did a great job and I thought Shaun, in the fourth quarter, did a great job of using his length to affect his shot. So both of those guys took the challenge tonight and did a great job on a great player.”
Up Next – The Cavaliers get a rare two-day respite – perfect to get three new teammates acclimated – before another weekend back-to-back. On Friday night, the Cavs welcome Milwaukee to The Q before heading north of the border for a meeting with the Raptors on Saturday. Cleveland closes out the month of January next Tuesday night when the high-octane Warriors roll into town.