ORLANDO, FLA.: When the Eastern Conference needed a substitute for Joe Johnson in Sunday’s All-Star Game, Rajon Rondo was named the replacement. Kyrie Irving’s performance in Friday night’s Rising Stars exhibition proved that might have been a mistake.
Irving had 34 points and nine assists to win the Most Valuable Player award in Team Chuck’s 146-133 victory over Tristan Thompson and Team Shaq on Friday.
A night that began with Jeremy Lin holding his own new conference — the only player to do so this weekend — ended with Irving making all eight of his 3-point attempts and shooting 12-of-13 from the floor to dazzle a crowd that came to cheer Lin and left witnessing the guy drafted No. 1 overall last summer carrying out the MVP award. Lin had two points and an assist in nine minutes for Team Shaq.
“Once I got going, I was locked in,” Irving said. “It’s kind of unfortunate that it comes in the All-Star Game. These stats don’t carry over to the season. But at the end of the day, it was still fun to get out there with those talented guys.”
Thompson had 20 points for Team Shaq, giving the Cavs a great showing with a combined 54 points in the game. Thompson and Irving combined to shoot 22-of-24 from the field, but the night belonged to Irving.
He scored 11 consecutive points and 14-of-15 during one stretch in the first half, nailing 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions for Team Chuck.
As sparkling as it was, Irving’s performance didn’t set any records. Teammate Daniel Gibson made 11 3-pointers in 2008 (11-of-20 shooting), and Kevin Durant holds the record for most points in the Rising Stars game with 46 in ’09.
“Big-time game by a big-time player,” Gibson tweeted right after the game. “Had me sweating over here for a minute.”
Irving’s eight 3-pointers are the second most in the 18-year history of the event.
“I knew before the game [Gibson] had 11 3s,” Irving said. “I wanted it.”
Irving was thrilled just to be part of All-Star weekend, but the first half of his season certainly presented a strong case for inclusion in Sunday’s main event.
Irving has averaged 18.1 points and 5.1 assists. Rondo has averaged 14.8 points and 9.5 assists, but missed 10 games to a wrist injury and then a suspension.
“The fans voted and the coaches voted and it just so happens I wasn’t picked my first year,” Irving said. “It’s not anything that’s going to be harped on by me. It’d be an honor to be picked for that game, but I have a few more years left in this league.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://cavs.ohio.com Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.