NEWARK, N.J.: Kyrie Irving entered the Prudential Center to cheers Monday night and he left to them, too.
In between, he and Tristan Thompson put on the type of performance expected when the Cavs selected them first and fourth overall in this same building nine months ago.
Playing in front of his hometown family and friends, Irving scored 26 points (14 in the fourth quarter) and Thompson had a career-high 27 points in the Cavs’ 105-100 win over the New Jersey Nets to end their three-game losing streak.
Irving, who grew up about nine miles away in West Orange, N.J., was introduced to loud cheers from more than just family and friends during pregame introductions.
“I think I got as many cheers as some of the Nets starters,” he said.
He struggled with his shot for the first three quarters, but as he has so often this season, Irving was at his best in the fourth. He scored the Cavs’ final six points, and when his driving layup was blocked at the rim, Thompson was there to tip it in and give the Cavs the lead for good.
The duo became the first set of rookies to score at least 26 points in the same game since Kevin Durant had 42 points and Jeff Green had 27 for Seattle on April 16, 2008. They’re the first Cavs rookies to do it since Dajuan Wagner had 29 points and Carlos Boozer had 26 on Dec. 4, 2002.
Asked if this was the first of many nights when the pair would lead Cavs victories, Thompson said, “It’s the first. We’ll see where it goes from here.”
Thompson added 12 rebounds (one shy of his career high) for his fourth double-double, and the Cavs won their eighth road game, already surpassing their total from all of last season (seven).
Thompson’s best night as a pro came one night after a difficult game Sunday when the Hawks’ Zaza Pachulia outmuscled him and tossed him around the lane.
“Kyrie has had games like that, but Tristan in his second start to come out and play that way I thought was very encouraging,” Scott said. “His learning curve is pretty quick. We knew it wouldn’t take him long to learn pretty quick what he has to do at that position.”
The Cavs built a 15-point lead in the first half before the Nets stormed back to take the lead midway through the third quarter.
Irving’s 3-pointer with 3:44 left gave the Cavs a 93-92 lead, their first since the third, then his driving basket in the final minute that clinched the win was greeted with standing roars of approval from Irving’s father and friends sitting courtside in the fourth row.
“It’s kind of hard to pay attention when you have everybody calling your name and they want to make eye contact with you,” Irving said. “It’s definitely hard to concentrate, but I’m just happy we got this win.”
The Cavs were short-handed because Scott made a “clerical error” and forgot to include Manny Harris on the original lineup card submitted to officials. That error became a little more important when Daniel Gibson left in the third quarter with a sprained ankle and Alonzo Gee fouled out in the fourth. It forced Scott to play newly signed Donald Sloan 19 ½ minutes off the bench and Sloan responded with 11 points, two rebounds and an assist.
Scott said he knew before the game he was going to play Sloan early, but the extenuating circumstances forced him to play nearly 20 minutes.
The Cavs have Tuesday off and will spend it taking a visit to the Ground Zero monument in New York City. Gibson’s status will be updated Wednesday when the Cavs play at Atlanta.
Irving began the night leading the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring since Jan. 27, the night he erupted for 19 points in the fourth quarter against these same Nets. That figure will increase following his performance Monday, but Irving was happier for Thompson’s breakout night.
“He played well,” Irving said of Thompson. “He can have a lot more nights like this and contribute the way he did tonight. He played really well for us.”
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