Thompson Sets the Pace, Irving Seals the Win

Cleveland Cavaliers v New Jersey Nets

The kids are indeed alright.

On Monday night, just a few hours after we deliberated whether or not he deserved some additional burn at the center spot, Tristan Thompson came out of the gates on all cylinders — dunking and rebounding and even showing near-range touch. The 6-foot-9-inch rookie was converting in transition, grabbing offensive boards and providing the New Jersey Nets with a source of offensive firepower that they most certainly were not anticipating prior to tip-off.

Kyrie Irving, as if it were Groundhog’s Day, did his part yet again. With a contest’s outcome within reach, the first-overall pick buckled down, took on all would-be defenders and provided yet another dagger-like fourth quarter performance as one of the game’s best point guards was relegated to watching the show unfold.

With a first-half lead erased, having just been dunked on by Deron Williams — Sportscenter! — Irving, once again, took over. When the newly acquired Gerald Wallace attempted to mark him at half court, Irving merely blew by him with a crossover dribble at the top of the key, leading to an and-one lay-in. The next trip down the floor resulted in a Kyrie Irving three-pointer. Moments later, it was Gerald Green’s turn to play “who can stop the rookie?” Irving promptly disposed of him, forcing weak-side help to adjust; the point guard’s tipped shot would find Thompson who would subsequently record two points the easy way. And then it was Williams. Irving went left, collected the ball and high-stepped into the key for yet another bucket. Williams, who had run-ins with the officiating crew all evening, was none too pleased. One can hardly blame him as his team went from up-six to down-six in roughly seven minutes of play. An amazing sequence of play, capped off by a flurry of Irving free throws.

Just two nights after St. Patrick’s Day, the St. Patrick’s product returned home, stole the show and left with the win.

When it was all said and done, the two first-year kids totaled 53 points (20-of-36 shooting), 17 rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a block. Thompson’s season-high 27 points along with 12 rebounds came on his second start at center, a game which represented his second consecutive night of career-high minutes. Big-time play from a kid who has been putting in big-time work before games and after practices.

We know Kyrie has had games like that, but Tristan in his second start, to come out and play that way was very encouraging,” said Byron Scott following the win. “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.”

Thompson may never touch 27 and 12 again, but the potential is there. After all, what is an athletic, rookie big man without potential? A kid with an incredibly raw skill set, Monday night showed us all what it could look like if cooked and seasoned and prepared just right.

Irving’s 26 and 7 arrived not only on the second night of a back-to-back, but one night after his first career double-double. Fourteen of his 26 points came in the final period of play. Over the last 25 seasons, Elias states that only one other pair of rookie teammates have each registered at least 25 points and five rebounds in a regulation game: Seattle/Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. And if this all wasn’t poetic enough, this all went down on in the same building the two players became Cavaliers just nine months earlier during the 2011 NBA Draft.

Late June, arriving via bus and seated next to one another, each in a freshly pressed suit, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson would both be handed hats clad in Wine and Gold. Leaving by bus on a mid-March evening, Irving and Thompson were, for at least one night, tag-team champions of the world, providing the city of Cleveland with a small taste of what the future may hold.

(Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

  • Harv 21

    Re Tigger, hope he’s realizing that his motor and athletic ability alone will let him destroy certain opponents on certain nights. If he can polish just a few offensive skills and a jumper from anywhere in the next few off-seasons this kid may be a star. He’s already a very rich man’s JJ Hickson.

    Re Kyrie, could not be more impressed with a teenage point guard. He did NOT carry the ball in the last few minutes; the ref just thought he saw something because few players can control dribble speed like that while switching hands in traffic. And the clutch 3-ball after pretending to duck behind a screen, reversing course and calmly rising up – no one teaches you that.  That’s instinct meets supreme confidence. 

    Worst case scenario is the last draft produced an excellent PG and a decent big man. Best case is they both end up ridiculous.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I guess it takes more then stars to make a team NJ is horrible.  Coach Scott may have pressed another successful button starting Thompson in the middle.  At the least the rook will get some valuable experience and who knows maybe he’ll turn into a L.Alridge type player.

  • Mike E

     The ref definitely bailed out G Wallace there, cause Kyrie definitely made him look like a fool. 

  • jimkanicki

    i tweeted this earlier and it’s worth repeating in this thread.  check out the kyrie/deron ‘dual’ played out after the dunk.

    it kinda says it all.  how do you respond to a mistake?  do you step up in the biggest moments?  are you looking for the ball at the end of the game?  do you have a ‘finisher’ mentality in the jordan mold?

    kyrie is answering these questions in the best of ways.

    [everything else has been said by harv et al, so let me add this: he even went 5 for 5 on the FTs.]

  • Vindictive_Pat

    He’s got the switch, which I would compare to the way Jordan, Bird, and Kobe play (even Dirk in last year’s playoffs).  He can spend 3 quarters of the game drifting around finding his teammates for shots and shooting it inconsistently, then someone gets up in his face in the 4th quarter and challenges him, and he destroys them.  It happened against Deron Williams last night and it happened against the Nuggets in Denver, too… Lawson goes off for a few points and talks some trash and Kyrie buries him.  I think Irving has the mentality of players who win championships.  There, I said it.

  • Ritz

    Scott starting Thompson at center reminds me of how he did the same thing with Hickson last year – and Hickson played his best at center in Scott’s system.

  • Nate Ogden

    I DVRd a couple Sports Centers last night wanting to see what they thought of the 4th pick going off for 27 points. In 3 Sport Centers they didn’t even give the score of the game once. The only mention that it was even played was Derron WIlliams getting two of the top 10 plays. Neither of which was more impressive then what Kyrie and Triston did last night.

  • Coldstreetz

    I was at the game and what was ever funnier about that situation, Kyrie was so pissed about the call, he can back again even harder and the exact same move….and then gave the same ref a look like “Call it a carry now bitch”  The look on Williams, Wallace and Green face after each consecutive play was truly a Kodak moment.

  • Coldstreetz

    I was at the game and what was ever funnier about that situation, Kyrie was so pissed about the call, he can back again even harder and the exact same move….and then gave the same ref a look like “Call it a carry now bitch”  The look on Williams, Wallace and Green face after each consecutive play was truly a Kodak moment.

  • FearTheRoo

    I’m sure if Jeremy Lin scored 27 points ESPN would have talked about it for hours. It’s crazy that even Kyrie gets ZERO publicity. They showed a stat on YES last night that showed he’s averaging more points as a rookie than Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, and even Williams did. But how often do they actually talk about him? 

  • Nate Ogden

     Jeremy didn’t score 27 but the crack journalist at ESPN were able to confirm he has finished moving into his apartment. He does like it more then the sofa, said with a good humored laugh. He hasn’t had time to unpack and had a street hot dog for lunch because he is a true New Yorker like them.

    They were also able to squeeze in what a dozen New Yorkers tweeted about his Hot Dog for lunch, boy those New Yorkers are profound with their tweets.