CLEVELAND: Two things became apparent about Kyrie Irving in Tuesday’s 95-90 victory over the Boston Celtics: Irving knows how to take instructions and he is most certainly worthy of a place on the All-Star team.
Irving dazzled with 40 points, including 11 in the game’s final 2:31, and the Cavaliers knocked off the Celtics in a wild game that included 12 ties and 17 lead changes.
In his final audition before the Eastern Conference reserves are announced on Thursday, Irving made 16-of-24 shots, scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and carried the Cavs to victory. He fell one point shy of his career high, set earlier this season in a loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
He sliced through a weary Celtics defense in the fourth quarter, outsmarted the veteran Rajon Rondo on a loose ball late in the game and reinstated to Celtics coach Doc Rivers why he voted for him to play in his first All-Star Game.
“If you look at point guards in the Eastern Conference, name me one that is having a better season,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “I’ll wait.”
Scott and Irving spoke after the Cavs’ recently completed West Coast trip about when he should attack and when he should include his teammates. Irving acknowledged after the loss at the Utah Jazz on Saturday he was struggling to know when to be aggressive. Scott told him to come out attacking and let the rest of the game flow through it.
Irving listened, scoring 19 points in the first quarter. That means 34 of his 40 points came in the first and fourth quarters.
“He told me to be more aggressive,” Irving said. “It picks everybody else up. I told him, ‘You only need to tell me once for the rest of the season.’ ”
As for the All-Star debate, it will be intriguing to see if Irving garners enough votes to make it. His numbers are certainly there. He leads all of the NBA’s point guards in scoring, although he still hasn’t played in enough games to qualify among the league leaders, and he is third among Eastern Conference point guards in shooting percentage (minimum 100 attempts).
But the Cavs’ horrendous record is likely to scare away coaches from voting for Irving — like it nearly did Rivers, who said he voted for him, but only after a long debate.
“It’s amazing how hard that was,” Rivers said. “A guy with 10 wins, well, 11, it’s a hard one for me. But he’s just playing so well. I think it’s going to be close. I think it will be very close for him. I don’t do that very often, I can tell you that. Maybe it was the Duke love.”
Rivers’ son, Austin, played for Duke last season.
Rivers was impressed Tuesday with the way Irving controlled the game. The Celtics trapped Irving off pick-and-rolls in the third quarter, so Irving avoided them in the fourth.
“He’s crafty enough and good enough to get away from it,” Rivers said. “That’s on us, but it’s also on him. If it was that easy, he wouldn’t be Kyrie Irving.”
For as dazzling as Irving was throughout the night, his craftiest moment might have been while chasing a loose ball alongside Rondo from baseline to baseline during a Celtics possession.
Rondo got to the ball first, spun and tried firing the ball off Irving before falling out of bounds. But Irving backed up a step, caught the ball and laid it in for an easy layup.
Tristan Thompson had a season- high 21 points to go with nine rebounds and Tyler Zeller had 10 rebounds despite a 2-for-10 shooting night. Luke Walton also tied a season-high with seven assists in just 18 minutes.
The newest Cavs, Marrese Speights, Josh Selby and Wayne Ellington, obtained in a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies earlier on Tuesday, aren’t expected to practice with their new team until Thursday. If that happens, they should be available for Friday’s home game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
By then, the Cavs could have an All-Star.
Anderson Varejao will be going home today, he wrote on his Twitter account late Tuesday night.
Varejao has been hospitalized since Thursday with a blood clot in his right lung. He is out for the season.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.