Was it the shoes? Kyrie Irving, fresh from the launch of his first signature shoe in Chelsea on Wednesday night, debuted the Kyrie 1 at Madison Square Garden and the proceeded to carve the Knicks up en-route to a 90-87 Cavs’ win.
Irving finished with a season-high 37 points (12-of-18), 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He has now scored 20 or more points in 10 straight games against the Knicks
“He released his shoe and wore them for the first time and then put up those gaudy numbers in the Garden,” said LeBron James, himself no stranger to putting up big numbers when debuting a sneaker. “That’s what we do at Nike. You know, spectacular.”
“Obviously when you come to Madison Square Garden, it’s a special place,” said Irving after the game. For me it was all about staying focused and doing whatever it took to win the game.”
Irving’s spectacular showing was just what the Cavaliers needed against the Knicks. With James struggling for the most of the evening, it was left to the point guard to take over the game. He scored 17 points in the second quarter on a variety of shots – including this reverse layup – that the Knicks just had no answer for.
“For me it was just about quick attacking and getting the ball in transition, trying to screen for guys and trying to get guys open, and when my number was called, just be ready to shoot it,” said Irving. “Bron did a heck of a job tonight of just finding me and setting great ball screens for me.”
James (19 points and 12 assists) was happy to play second fiddle to the guy with the hot hand.
“Anytime we needed a bucket, he made it,” James said. “Anytime we needed some energy, he gave it. I took over the point guard duties, as far as getting guys involved, and he took over the scoring and we needed it.
“I read the game. I saw Kyrie got it going. You feed the hot hand and make sure you get everyone else involved.”
Irving sealed the win with a teardrop layup with 10 seconds remaining in the game. The play followed an unusual timeout call from Cavs’ coach David Blatt with 16.8 seconds left in the game which had Irving visibly upset at his coach.
“I trust him 100 percent,” Irving said when asked about his initial inclination to reject the timeout call. “I saw something different out there. But that’s just part of the game. He called timeout, drew up a heck of a play, trusted me with the ball at the end of the game, and we’re just getting used to one another …”
Blatt poked a little fun at Irving post-game: “Kyrie’s doing a lot better when he’s playing than when he’s coaching.”
Still, the Cavs sealed their fifth win in a row and are now just one game behind rival Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We have to continue to get better, it’s a process for us,” said James. “We are a young group as far as our experience together. We will continue to build.”
With Irving playing as he did Thursday, the team’s only going to get better.