ORLANDO, FLA.: Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters looked terrific playing alongside each other Wednesday. Now there is hope the Cavs’ 19th different starting lineup combination might be the last.
Irving had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds in his first game back and Waiters scored 26 points in the Cavs’ impressive 119-98 dismantling of the Orlando Magic to keep pace in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
Irving was cleared to return following shootaround Wednesday morning and Mike Brown elected to try to the combination with Waiters one more time. Waiters has twice been removed from the starting lineup in less than two full seasons in the league, but most everyone is optimistic they can get it to work this time.
“He’s my wing man,” Irving said.
The Cavs attacked the interior of the Magic’s pillow-soft post defense, shot 61 percent in the first half and scored 70 points, the most they’ve scored in a half this season and the most the Magic have surrendered.
Tristan Thompson had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Spencer Hawes had 20 points and eight rebounds and Jarrett Jack had 13 points and four assists in his first game back in a bench role since the end of January.
But the focus of the night was Waiters and Irving, who are still trying to share the ball and develop chemistry in their second season together. There was a bit of concern prior to the game about how Irving’s return would impact the team’s chemistry, particularly since the Cavs have played so well in his absence.
For at least one night, there was no reason for concern. The Cavs scored 64 points in the paint, built a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter and were never threatened.
“We’ve been trying to figure it out for the last two years,” Irving said of playing alongside Waiters. “It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s at a point now as professionals and mature individuals playing we’re doing a great job of figuring it out. He’s doing a great job of making everybody better, and now me coming in is just going to make his job a lot easier.”
The Cavs went 4-4 in the eight games Irving missed, averaged 98.3 points and shot 44.3 percent.
“We’re continuing to make (strides) in the right direction,” Irving said. “.I had to step up my play when Dion was down and Dion had to step up his play when I was down. And now that we’re playing together back again in the starting lineup, I’m excited.”