Kyrie Irving’s first career triple-double leads Cavs past Jazz
CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving didn’t need any reminders he was closing in on his first career triple double Friday night. He got plenty of help anyway.
"I was trying to not think about it too much, but my teammates were hollering at me to get one more rebound, Coach (Mike) Brown was telling to get one more rebound, a couple of fans were yelling at me that I need one more," Irving said. "I said, `I got you guys, don’t worry.’ "
The All-Star Game MVP had 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 99-79 win over the Utah Jazz.
Two rebounds shy of the mark going into the fourth quarter, Irving grabbed his ninth rebound early in the period and pulled down his 10th with 4:12 to go to become the first Cleveland player with a triple double since LeBron James on March 16, 2010, at Detroit.
Irving gave credit for his last rebound to center Spencer Hawes, who joked he pulled back a bit on a missed shot by Marvin Williams.
"Luckily, Spence alligator-armed that one, like he said, to let me get that last one," Irving said.
Irving received standing ovations when he reached the milestone and when he was pulled from the game a few seconds later. That support went a step too far earlier in the quarter when a young fan wearing a stocking cap raced on the floor and patted Irving on the shoulder. The fan was wrestled to the floor by several policemen and security guards and led away in handcuffs.
Irving joked that the fan was a long-time friend and suggested it might have been better if he had waited until after the game.
"He told me loved me and I told him I loved him back," said Irving, who also had a fan enter the court at Quicken Loans Arena last season to congratulate him. "My teammates said I was scared. I don’t think I looked scared. I flinched a little bit. I was surprised."
Cleveland dominated the second half to earn the win and gain ground in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers trail Atlanta by 3 games for the eighth position. The final game of February capped quite a month for Irving and the team. An embarrassing loss to the depleted Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 6 stretched Cleveland’s losing streak to six games and general manager Chris Grant was fired the following day.
Just when it looked like the season was a lost cause, the Cavaliers won six in a row and Irving took over the All-Star Game with 31 points and 14 assists. With 22 games remaining, Cleveland has a chance to reach the playoffs in Irving’s third season in the NBA.
"Kyrie has got so much talent, so much ability, I think the numbers are always going to be there for him," Utah forward Richard Jefferson said. "But no one is going to judge his career on numbers. The next thing for him is about winning. That’s what everyone expects to happen."
Luol Deng scored 16 points as the Cavaliers placed five players in double figures.
Gordon Hayward scored 18 points for Utah on the first stop of a six-game road trip.
Irving scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Cavaliers turned a three-point deficit into a 63-51 lead. The margin reached 23 late in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland’s long injury list grew when Anthony Bennett, the top pick in the draft last year, missed the game with a sore right knee. Center Anderson Varejao (sore back) and guards Dion Waiters (hyperextended left knee) and C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle) were also sidelined.
Utah has lost nine of 11 on the road.
The Jazz missed only one 3-pointer in seven attempts in the first quarter and built a nine-point lead. Utah maintained the lead until early in the third quarter when Irving took over. He hit a 3-pointer, scored on a twisting drive to the basket, knocked down two jumpers and hit two free throws. Irving also assisted on Alonzo Gee’s buzzer-beating jumper from the corner that gave Cleveland a 69-60 lead.
Jefferson scored 13 points and Alec Burks added 11 for Utah.
"It’s the road," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "You’ve got to find out how to be ready every night. That’s another thing we’re still learning as we try to bring this young bunch along."
Rookie Trey Burke, a native of Columbus, Ohio, played his first NBA game in his home state and was held to four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, and Hawes added 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Hawes was given a technical foul in the third quarter, his second in five games since joining the team last week.
NOTES: Bennett will be a game-time decision Saturday in Memphis. … Jazz G John Lucas III didn’t play until the final 2:46 with what the team called "gastric distress." … Varejao missed his ninth straight game, Waiters was out for the sixth contest in a row and Miles was unavailable for the fifth consecutive game. … All six games on Utah’s trip are against Eastern Conference teams.