HOUSTON: Kyrie Irving played the big minutes he was expecting, busted some ankles and wowed the crowd. But he couldn’t pull off another victory in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge.
Irving had 32 points, two shy of his MVP performance last year, and Dion Waiters had 23 points, but Team Shaq was blasted by Team Chuck 163-135 on Friday. That made a winner out of Tristan Thompson, who was the lone Cavs representative on Team Chuck. Thompson finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Tyler Zeller had four points and four rebounds for Team Shaq, bringing the Cavs’ collective game totals to a staggering 79 points and 20 rebounds. Put another way, 27 percent of the points scored in the game were scored by the Cavs.
“We’re on the rise,” Waiters said. “Once we build that trust, everything else will fall in place. Watch out the next couple years. We’re coming.”
Despite closing the first half of the regular season with dead legs, Irving promised to play big minutes in the Rising Stars game that featured first and second-year players – in part because he was chasing the $25,000 check for the winners and the $50,000 prize for the MVP.
Instead, he’ll go home with $10,000 for playing on the losing team. The Denver Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried was named MVP after scoring 40 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for Team Chuck.
Faried received four of seven MVP votes. The other three went to Cavs players -- Thompson received one vote and Irving had two despite playing on the team that lost by 28.
Irving played nearly 27 minutes. The only player on either team to play more was Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
The highlight of the night was Irving and Brandon Knight going at each other in the final minutes with the outcome long decided. Irving’s filthy crossover on a step-back jumper left Knight lying on the court, but Knight responded immediately with a basket at the other end.
Soon the crowd was roaring as the first two point guards selected in the 2011 draft took turns attacking each other. Knight beat Irving off the dribble a couple of times, but couldn’t finish at the rim. Irving mixed in some jumpers with a couple of drives and shook his head at Knight each time down the floor.
“That kind of rivalry with me and B. Knight has been happening since high school, since we started playing against each other,” Irving said. “We were battling for the one and two spot in high school. He’s a good friend of mine, it’s great competition.”
The Cavs are the first team to have four representatives in the Rising Stars game, including one of them also playing in Sunday’s All-Star game.
The Rising Stars Challenge kicked off a hectic weekend for Irving. He also participated in a charity project Friday afternoon and now will compete in the 3-point shootout during All-Star Saturday night before participating in Sunday’s All-Star game – although he won’t get the start on Sunday.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra finally confirmed Friday what everyone already knew – he will start Chris Bosh and not Irving in the All-Star game.
The East needed a replacement for injured Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Irving seemed the logical replacement. But Spoelstra wiggled Bosh, a power forward, into the lineup by shifting LeBron James to point guard.
“I’m perfectly OK with it,” said Irving, who spoke to Spoelstra about the decision Friday morning. “It’s not really about starting or anything like that. It’s about being part of the All-Star game.”