Shootaround Access: Timberwolves vs. Cavaliers

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Cavaliers coach Byron Scott likes true point guards. During his coaching career he’s enjoyed pass-first leaders like Jason Kidd and Chris Paul—guys who can distribute and make their teammates better by understanding the game.

Tonight at Target Center, he’ll see first hand two of the game’s up and coming point guard talents going head to head for the first time.

When the Cavaliers and Wolves tip off at 7 p.m. tonight, Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving will meet one another in a showdown that could become a matchup to watch in years to come.

“Both of those guy, to be so young and to be able to play the way they play so early in the season, yeah it’s pretty impressive,” Scott said.

Rubio has been an NBA passing sensation since his first preseason game in December, and during his first six regular season contests he’s become the Wolves’ go-to point guard in the closing moments of games.

He’s a staple of Minnesota’s fourth quarter lineup, and his 9.3 points and 7.0 assists per game have been instrumental in the Wolves’ recent wins and comeback attempts.

Even as a rookie, Rubio is relishing those late-game moments.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s when the game comes to the end and you always want to be on the court. You learn a lot of things from this moment.”

Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison, who is currently benefiting from Irving’s leadership at point guard, said Rubio reminds him of a young Steve Nash in the way he creates openings for his teammates.

“Definitely a throwback player,” Jamison said. “Just by watching him it seems like he has a very high basketball IQ.”

Irving, the No.1 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft, is having a similar impact. He has helped Cleveland to a 3-3 record after the Cavs finished 19-63 a year ago, and his ability to shoot and distribute—averaging 14.2 points and 5.3 assists per night—has made him an instant hit.

Scott said Irving has the aggressiveness needed to find his own shots, but he also has that “true” point guard ability. It’s something he said not every young point guard understands.

“You’ve got very few that understand it’s better to give than to receive all the time,” Scott said.

That will be on display tonight, and both Rubio and Irving will be tested. Both have shown the ability to control a game’s tempo, but neither has had the chance to do it against the other.

Until now.

“He’s one of the better rookies this year,” Rubio said. “He was No. 1, and you always want to play against the best point guards. He’s one of the best.”

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