Wednesday night was something that Cleveland Cavalier players and fans have not experienced in a few years: a game that was televised nationally. This is the first game that fans across the nation have been able to see the Cavaliers play; the last time the Cavaliers played on a national stage was Lebron James' first game in Cleveland after becoming a member of the Miami Heat.
To be fair, the first season after James' departure did not offer much to televise. And last year, Kyrie Irving was the ONLY bright spot on an otherwise dreadful 21-45 basketball team.
Kyrie Irving proved against the Hornets in an ESPN-televised game that he's the real deal. Irving proved on Wednesday that he has the capability to be an elite point guard for many years as an NBA player.
If NBA fans outside of Cleveland did not know much about Irving before – he did only play 11 games in college at Duke – they learned at All-Star Weekend this year. Irving dominated the Rising Stars Challenge, won the Three-Point Shootout, and looked like a veteran coming off the bench in the All-Star Game.
Wednesday was his chance to show what he and his team filled with young potential could do as the Cavaliers took on the New Orleans Hornets.
For the first three quarters of the game, Irving looked like he was suffering an All-Star hangover. He only score 15 points, was not shooting the ball well, and seemed to lack the energy that fans have come to expect. But to those who have watched Cleveland this year, they know the fourth quarter is Kyrie Irving time. In a tight game – where the Cavaliers found themselves down by four with just under seven minutes remaining – the young superstar took over.
He scored 20 of his game-high 35 points in the period, not to mention a vital steal that led to a transition basket and taking a charge that fouled out Robin Lopez on the way to a 105-100 win. He impressed the ESPN crew, who could not come up with enough superlatives for the second-year player.
While the rest of the Cavaliers' budding players did not have great games, they were serviceable. Dion Waiters scored 16 points on just 10 shots, Tyler Zeller had 10 points, and Tristan Thompson scored nine and grabbed 13 rebounds.
While last year's number-one pick was showcasing his ability to the nation, this year's top selection had a tough night. Anthony Davis, the rookie from Kentucky, finished with 12 points, but did not score his first one until the fourth quarter, shooting 2-7 from the field. Also, the big man only managed to pull down four rebounds against a team that is not elite in that department.
One rookie Hornet who had a decent night was their other first-round pick, Austin Rivers. The son of of Boston Celtics' coach Doc Rivers, and the man who replaced Irving as Duke's point guard, scored 11 points, had two assists, and four rebounds. Rivers started in place of star player Eric Gordon, who cannot play back-to-back games due to knee issues.
Brian Roberts scored a team-high 17 points coming off the bench for New Orleans and Lopez, before fouling out, scored 15 points while battling with the young Cavalier big men. Greivis Vazquez scored 13 points and had eight assists in the losing effort.
While the future Pelicans have not been a force to be reckoned with this season (they have a record of 19-36 after this loss), it is always good for the Cavaliers to take care of business at home. It was also nice to see this team do it with a bigger crowd than usual watching, and hopeful the powers that be will include Cleveland in more than one national broadcast next year.
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