CLEVELAND — It hasn’t felt this good in these parts for quite some time.
Oh, the Cavaliers’ 100-94 win over the Lakers on Tuesday was just one game. And no one is trying to hide the fact the Cavs are 5-17, or that the Lakers are an absolute mess.
But this, folks, was NBA basketball at its finest.
It was Kyrie Irving returning and displaying a more remarkable performance than most fans had even hoped. You could even go as far as to say it was Irving’s best game as a pro.
It was also C.J. Miles doing his best World B. Free imitation, boldly shooting from where no man has shot before. OK, guys shoot from those same spots all the time, it’s just that for Miles, they weren’t really going in. At least, not until Tuesday.
And it was the Cavs giving us a taste of what life could be like, on a regular basis, a year or two from now. Or, if you dare to dream, for the rest of this season.
But honestly. There were so many cool things about this game that it’s hard to chronicle them in 10,000 words or less. Unless, of course, you’re Cavs coach Byron Scott.
“We just needed a win,” he said.
Yeah, that about covers it. The Cavs just needed a win, a reason to feel good, a reason to celebrate Irving’s return after missing 11 games with a broken finger.
That was it. That was all they needed. But they got so much more.
Let’s start with Irving, because this night truly was about how he would perform, how the Cavs would look with him in the lineup again.
Well, how does 28 points, 11 assists and six rebounds sound? Not bad, eh.
Throw in the fact Irving did a lot of it with nifty dribbles and fascinating finishes, and … oh man. Throw in the fact he did all of it in an actual victory, over the league’s most celebrated team, in front of a crowded house, and … it’s just that much sweeter.
“He just loves to play basketball,” Scott said. “He loves the competition. He likes being put in the position of having to deliver. He’s just a special young man.”
He just made Cleveland basketball must-see TV again, and it only took him four quarters. Or as Irving proved Tuesday, all of about one shot.
Miles of good news
As for Miles, he couldn’t be benched soon enough after starting the season looking like someone who might not be able to cut it in the professional league in Bosnia.
He later showed some flashes, but only flashes. No one ever expected what took place vs. LA. Not Scott, not Cavs fans, and probably not Miles himself.
But Miles also finished with 28 points, starting the game 4-for-5 from the floor and 3-for-4 on three-pointers. He was, without a doubt, a huge reason the Cavs built a 15-point halftime lead and hung on at the end. Pretty cool considering Miles made his first start in a Cleveland uniform, as regular starter Dion Waiters remains out with an ankle injury.
“I got a lot of good looks, especially in the beginning of the game,” said Miles, who finished 10-for-18 shooting. “I would catch the ball and guys would be three steps away instead of one, and that’s the easiest shot you can get.”
Of course, this came down to more than just Irving and Miles. It was a team effort in the truest sense.
Anderson Varejao scored 20 and grabbed nine rebounds. Alonzo Gee added 17 points and provided the only ray of hope when it came to trying to defend Lakers star Kobe Bryant (who scored 42 points, but probably would’ve gone for 102 if not for Gee). Also, Tristan Thompson hustled his way to 10 important rebounds.
Through it all, the 19,172 at Quicken Loans Arena were given a show to remember — and a reminder that with Irving, there should be plenty more to come.
That may be the best news of all.
This was a win the Cavs needed, a win that they got, and much, much more. In these parts, with this team, that just makes you feel good all the way around.