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Fans at The Q for Tuesday night’s preseason game got to see a little bit of everything – from Mike Brown’s anticipated return to Anthony Bennett’s impressive debut to Kenny Kadji’s … well … just about everything Kenny Kadji did was interesting in the exhibition season opener.
Most importantly, Cavalier fans saw a victory – as Cleveland essentially went wire-to-wire over the Bucks, taking an 11-point lead midway through the first quarter and not looking back en route to the 99-87 win.
Tristan Thompson led five Cavaliers in double-figures with 17 points, going 7-for-10 from the floor and 3-for-4 from the stripe – displaying his new right-handed touch. The third-year forward added eight boards, three helpers and a blocked shot.
The Cavs young backcourt was just as impressive on Tuesday.
Kyrie Irving followed up with 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting, adding three assists and a pair of steals. Dion Waiters notched 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a massive first-half tomahawk jam. The duo combined went a combined 3-for-6 from beyond the arc in 23 minutes of action apiece.
As good as the Wine and Gold’s youngsters were, the most welcome sight on Tuesday night might have the return of center Anderson Varejao, who finished with 10 boards, including four on the offensive end. Injuries have limited the Wild Thing to just 81 combined games over the past three seasons.
Through much of the second half, the Cavs youngsters gave way to an even younger group – as some rookies got their first opportunity to shine for the home folks.
Anthony Bennett – the top pick in this June’s NBA Draft – was solid on the boards, grabbing 10 rebounds in his pro debut. As most 20-year-old rookies do in their first pro action, Bennett had some difficulties – going 2-of-12 from the floor and piling up five personal fouls in 22 minutes.
”I don’t expect anything from (Bennett) but to give me effort every play, that’s it,” said Coach Brown. “Whatever he does on top of that is great. It’s real simple for him. He’s a talented, talented, talented kid with great athleticism. His skill set is off the charts. He just has to make sure he takes care of his body, get some rest, eat the right way, stay in the gym and play with a big effort when he’s out on the floor. If he does those things, I’ll be happy.”
Bennett’s Draft classmates, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix, also made their rookie debuts at The Q. Karasev went 1-for-4 from the floor for thee points, but that one make showed his smooth long-distance shooting stroke. Felix went scoreless, but pitched in with two steals and a blocked shot.
Two of Cleveland’s rookies teamed up for possibly the night’s best play – an alley-oop from Karasev to Bennett late in the third quarter to put the Cavs up 20.
Undrafted Kenny Kadji was probably the most impressive (and entertaining) of all the rookies. The big man from Miami scored 15 points in less than 13 minutes.
Kadji had a sweet spin move to free himself up for a dunk, fought back two of his own misses to score on a layup, missed a reverse dunk to the amusement of the Cavs bench and, two minutes later, fired an errant alley-oop pass near Anthony Bennett that Stephen Graham tipped and was called goaltending.
The game featured a slew of early timeouts by a displeased Mike Brown that definitely got the team’s attention. No Bucks were in double-figures headed into the third quarter.
”I think we showed flashes of getting defensive stops and we had a couple of mental lapses, but that’s a part of the whole process of learning a new defensive scheme and learning what Coach Brown wants,” said Tristan Thompson. “I think we took steps forward tonight and we just have to keep doing that.”
And just to top things off, there was a prolonged second-half appearance by an energized Green Man.
Andrew Bynum, Tyler Zeller and Alonzo Gee didn’t play for the Cavs on Tuesday. Bynum is continuing to rehab his knee, Zeller injured his hip in the Wine and Gold Scrimmage on Saturday and Alonzo Gee was resting a sore hamstring.
After practicing Wednesday and Thursday, the Cavaliers will hit the road for the first time this preseason, traveling to Orlando to face the Magic on Friday night.