NEW YORK: Kyrie Irving walked into a small room adjacent the Cavs’ locker room 50 minutes prior to tip-off and pled his case to play Saturday night in a private meeting with coach Byron Scott.
For one of the few times in his career, Irving found an opponent he couldn’t get past.Scott ultimately chose to bench Irving and his sprained right shoulder for Saturday’s 91-75 loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“He said it was a little sore and I said, ‘That’s the key word. It’s sore,’” Scott said. “It’s my call. At the end, I told him to trust me.”
With Irving out and Antawn Jamison struggling through another miserable shooting night, the result was predictable. The Cavs tied a season-low in points and it’s the second time they’ve been held to 75 points in the last four days. The Cavs are averaging just 80.3 points in their last six games.
It was their seventh consecutive loss and 10th in their last 11 games, but at least this one was much more competitive than Friday’s debacle in a 37-point home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Jamison led the Cavs on Saturday with 13 points, but shot just 5 of 15. Alonzo Gee had 12 points as the Cavs struggled – as usual – to put the ball in the basket against the Knicks, who have their own point guard concerns again.
The Knicks announced prior to Saturday’s game that Linsanity needs Linsurgery. Jeremy Lin will have arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and will miss the rest of the regular season.
That left the Cavs’ former point guard, Baron Davis, starting for the Knicks against Donald Sloan, the only remaining healthy point guard on the Cavs’ roster. Sloan made his first NBA start and scored 10 points after he was signed two weeks ago out of the Development League.
“You have to stay mentally ready for anything,” Sloan said. “Being out there with the guys made it that much more comfortable. I had a great group of guys that put their arms around me and told me, ‘You can do it, let’s go.’”
There was one stretch in the second quarter when the Cavs’ five players on the floor – Anthony Parker, Luke Hudson, Omri Casspi, Luke Walton and Semih Erden – combined to average just 20.3 points this season.
Yet the injury-depleted Cavs hung around against the Knicks, who in addition to Lin are also without Amar’e Stoudemire while he nurses a bulging disc in his back.
Both teams shot less than 40 percent, which is the only type of game in which the Cavs have a realistic chance at winning. They haven’t shot above 40 percent in 10 days.
The Cavs never led Saturday, but they pulled within 51-49 on Sloan’s short jumper with 6:52 left in the third quarter. They were within 76-72 on a basket by Samardo Samuels with 5:18 left in the game, but J.R. Smith and Davis hit 3-pointers on consecutive Knicks possessions to push the lead to 84-74 with 2:53 left and the Knicks cruised from there.
In two surprising moves, Scott benched Tristan Thompson for most of the second half because Thompson was in foul trouble and Scott didn’t think he was playing particularly well. He finished with three points and a rebound in 15 minutes.
Scott also played Lester Hudson, signed less than 48 hours earlier, for 24 minutes while Manny Harris never got off the bench. Scott said he didn’t want to play Hudson until he got at least one practice in, but he played more than 32 minutes in the two games over the weekend.
“It was a little surprising that (Hudson) knows a lot more than I thought,” Scott said. “He looked pretty comfortable out there.”
Asked if that means Hudson has already jumped Harris on the depth chart, Scott said “I’ll let you know Tuesday.”
With off days today and Monday, Irving will have a couple of extra days of rest before the Cavs’ next game Tuesday at home against the San Antonio Spurs. This is the last time this season the Cavs will have more than one day off between games.