Prior to taking the court against the visiting New York Knicks on Tuesday, Kyrie Irving said that he and his teammates were becoming more comfortable in Mike Brown's system. He also mentioned that he felt like things were starting to come together.
After suggesting as much, Irving then capitalized on the building momentum in Cleveland by posting a superstar-like line of 37 points, 11 assists and only one turnover. He led, he finished, he closed, he balled.
Irving was consistently brilliant throughout the night and proved to be the best player on a floor that also included Carmelo Anthony who finished with 29 points on 12-of-19 from the field. When Irving checked out with two minutes remaining in the first quarter he had already scored nine points. The Knicks, as a team by then–thanks in no small part to Andrea Bargnani–had only combined to score 11.
But even though Irving's next basket wouldn't come until New York had rallied to score 40 during the second quarter, he'd provide more than enough offense during the critical moments to close out the 109-94 victory.
This was the Irving we had come to expect heading into the year. It was the Irving capable of making sure his team wins those games on an NBA schedule you're supposed to win in order to keep building.
This was the Irving that made November's losing streak feel like a world away on Tuesday night.
“I have the confidence of the coaching staff and my teammates and I was making plays within our offense," Irving said after the game. "I was trying to stay aggressive; that’s all I can do and just try to lead."
The Cleveland Cavaliers have now won four of their last five games overall. They have also moved to 7-3 at home, specifically, which ranks third in the Eastern Conference behind only the Indiana Pacers (10-0) and Miami Heat (8-2).
Despite being also tied with the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz for the worst road record in the NBA (1-10), the Cavs are now only one game behind the Chicago Bulls for the No. 8 seed based on their Cameron Indoor-like defense of Quicken Loans Arena.
In case you were wondering, the Cavaliers didn't win their seventh home game last season until February 2. This time around they have put themselves in position to win their eighth at home by December 17 with a potential victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. If they manage to win a road game or two in the meantime down in Florida we could be onto something here.
Tristan Thompson Finishes With 12 Points and 9 Rebounds In Win
On Monday I mentioned that Tristan Thompson had outscored his season average by finishing with at least 12 points during each of the Cavaliers seven victories. On Tuesday, he finished with 12 points to go along with nine rebounds and the Cavs won again.
So he has now scored at least 12 points in all eight of Cleveland's victories to date. Despite just missing his seventh double-double during those wins, Thompson has also collected at least nine rebounds in all of eight of those games.
Tristan Thompson = X-Factor, in other words.
If he can continue doing his thing on the road, Thompson could go a long way to helping Irving, Bynum and the rest of these Cavs even their overall record at .500 by January 1.
Photo: Mark Duncan, AP