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They say you can’t go home again. But tell that to the Cavaliers dynamic rookie duo of Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland’s freshman tandem – who both played their high school ball in New Jersey – returned to the Garden State in style, combining for 53 points, 17 boards and eight assists, powering the Cavaliers to the 105-100 win, snapping their three-game skid.
In just his second start, Thompson got it going early, netting nine points in the first quarter. Irving, the Cavaliers “Mr. Fourth Quarter” worked his magic in the final period, but Thompson tipped home the game-winner with 1:11 to play.
After that, Irving put on a game-closing clinic – scoring the Cavs’ last six points of the game with seemingly half of the Prudential Arena crowd in his corner.
Irving scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, going 4-for-8 from the floor and 5-of-5 from the stripe in the final period. Overall, this past June’s top pick was 8-for-20 from the floor, adding seven assists and five boards in the win.
“It felt good, having the confidence in my teammates, especially going down the stretch,” said Irving. “In previous games they’ve always trusted me down the stretch, especially in the last two or three weeks, so it felt good.”
Thompson, the No. 4 overall pick, was even better – leading the team with a career-high 27 points to go with 12 boards. The Toronto native finished 12-of-16 from the floor and even went 3-of-4 from the stripe.
“It was fun out there playing with Kyrie tonight – playing in the pick-and-roll,” said Thompson. “He was throwing that lob, and I like to dunk. He throws the lob and it makes it easier for me.”
Thompson’s hot start propelled the Cavs a lead that lasted until midway through the third quarter. But New Jersey reclaimed the advantage, 65-63, on Kris Humphrie’s jumper. But Samardo Samuels and Antawn Jamison put the Cavs back in front before the quarter concluded.
The fourth period was a slugfest, with five ties and five lead changes. With 8:22 remaining the fourth, the Nets ran their edge to six, 86-80. But again, Cleveland was undaunted, and Irving’s three-pointer with 3:44 to play gave the Cavs the lead again.
Anthony Morrow tied the game again with 1:51 to play, but Thompson’s bucket put the Cavs ahead to stay.
“We know Kyrie has had games like that, but Tristan – in his second start – to come out and play that way was very encouraging,” praised Coach Scott. “Again we talked about with him his learning curve is pretty quick. To have a career night like he did tonight was big time because the first half he really kept us with that lead because he played so well.”
Antawn Jamison doubled-up with 13 points and 13 boards and yet another Jersey boy – Samardo Samuels – finished with 10 points and six boards off the bench.
The Nets had their own dynamic duo in Deron Williams and recently-acquired Gerald Wallace – who combined for 55 points in the loss.
The Cavaliers continue on their three-game road trip on Wednesday night when they face a Hawks team that beat them by 16 three days earlier at The Q. They wrap up on Friday night in Orlando before heading home.
“It’s going to be different, but this has been in the works for a long time; it was in the works when I was here,” said Scott. “So it’s not like it’s a big surprise. It’s going to be different not going to Meadowlands or down here and going to Brooklyn. But if this is best for the organization, I wish them all the best.”
Kyrie Irving also weighed in whether the team’s final six weeks in the Garden State are special for him.
“I would say so. I haven’t played in this arena since high school. It’ll be that much more special, especially with them moving to Brooklyn next year.”