A matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics has been intriguing for the last several years. Many believed a exciting rivalry had died when LeBron James left Cleveland, but that has not been the case. Last night's game showed that there is still a lot there between these two teams.
While these teams are in different situations in the Eastern Conference – the Cavaliers with the third worst record and the Celtics competing for playoff position – this game is one to be watched if just to see the battle between the two starting point guards. Rajon Rondo has developed into one of the top players at his position in the league, while Kyrie Irving, in just his second season, is already being talked about in that some group.
On this night, it was Irving who shined the brightest. He finished the game with 40 points and five assists, the first Cavalier to score 40 at Quicken Loans Arena since James did it in March 2010, in a 95-90 win. Scoring 40 though really does not describe what Irving was able to do for his team. He got going early to help his team and then was the super closer Cleveland needed to get the win and send Boston to their season-high fourth-straight loss.
Kyrie had 19 points in the first quarter, four in the second period, two in the third, and 15 in the fourth. He closed out the game by scoring 11 of the team's final 13 points and had two consecutive steals from Rondo with just over two and half minutes left in the game to help the Cavaliers take control of the game.
When Irving was not scoring, he was helped out by fellow second-year player Tristan Thompson. The big man, going up against Kevin Garnett, scored a season-high 21 points to go along with nine rebounds, five assists, and one blocked shot. He played a very good game against one of the league's most intense players, and someone he has looked up to while growing up.
Alonzo Gee scored 10 points and had six rebounds on the night to help with the win.
Luke Walton also had one of his best games since joining the Cavaliers. He scored seven points, had seven assists, and three rebounds on the night, but was important in his 18 minutes for other reasons. The former Los Angeles Laker forward brought leadership and experience on the court when many of his teammates were much younger and less experienced than him. While many Cleveland fans have been upset by Walton's lack of production, the man who had been dealing with back issues for the last couple of years could be a vital part of this team going forward, just due to his championship experience alone.
Boston, who have been struggling over the last four games, were led by Rondo in all the main offensive statistics. He finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. While Irving kept him from getting yet another career triple-double, but he was still able to keep his team going.
Garnet finished with 16 points, but only managed five rebounds going against Thompson. Paul Pierce was limited on the night to just 3-of-15 shooting and just 12 points and seven rebounds.
Ohio native, and former Ohio State star, Jared Sullinger continued his successful rookie year. He finished with a solid 12 points and 10 rebounds, but ended up fouling out.
The Cavaliers have a couple of days before they take to the court again. After going on their first two-game home-winning streak since February of last year, Cleveland will welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to The Q on Friday and go for three in a row.
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