CLEVELAND: Kyrie Irving capped a successful February with a historic night.
Irving had 21 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for his first career triple-double and the Cavs beat the Utah Jazz 99-79 Friday for their first winning month of the season.
The Cavs went 8-6 in February, just their second winning month over the last four seasons. But as the schedule turns today along with the calendar, this team will have to improve on last season’s March to have any shot at the playoffs.
The only other winning month for the Cavs in the last four years was last February, when they went 7-5 under former coach Byron Scott. They followed that up with a brutal 2-12 March and Scott was fired after the season.
This March schedule could be just as brutal, starting with Saturday’s game at the Memphis Grizzlies. Only three of the 15 March opponents this month are presently out of the playoffs, and one of those is the Grizzlies, who entered their game Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a winning record and just a half-game out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
If the Cavs are going to make the playoffs, they’re going to earn it starting now.
Irving was terrific throughout the night, completing the triple-double late in the fourth quarter after the game was out of reach. He received a warm ovation when he was subbed out moments later.
Irving was supported by Luol Deng, who rediscovered his shooting stroke and scored 16 points after shooting 36 percent (26-for-72) in his last five games.
Spencer Hawes had 13 points and 16 rebounds and Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds on a night the short-handed Cavs shrunk a little more. Anthony Bennett missed the game with a sore right knee, the fourth regular member sidelined from the rotation with injury. But the Cavs didn’t need him Friday.
They outscored the Jazz 30-19 in each the third and fourth quarters to run away with a game they started slowly. The game was briefly interrupted in the fourth quarter when a fan ran on the floor and made it up to Irving before he was tackled by police. It’s the third time in about a year a fan has made it onto the floor and up to a player at Quicken Loans Arena.
One fan made it up to LeBron James last season then another fan made it up to Irving earlier this season before he was apprehended.