NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers finally got a glimpse of rookies Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson hitting on all cylinders.
Thompson scored a career-high 27 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and gave Cleveland the lead with a tip-in with 1:11 to play, and Irving added 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds as the Cavaliers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 105-100 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Monday night.
The performance was something Cavaliers fans have been anticipating since the club took Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft last June and followed three picks later by grabbing Thompson.
“We’ll see,” Irving said when asked if this might have been the first of many big nights for the rookies. “He played really well tonight. Hopefully, he’ll have a lot more nights like this and contribute as well as he did tonight. He played really big for us, especially down the stretch. Him playing well, as long as me and Antwawn (Jamison), if we get all of us on, especially everyone in the starting five, we’re dangerous.”
The rookies were the difference down the stretch in sending New Jersey to its third straight loss. Thompson broke a 97-all tie with his tip-in and Irving scored the final six points for Cleveland, with the first four coming after Thompson grabbed defensive rebounds.
Thompson’s big performance came just one night after he was limited to seven points and six rebounds in almost 35 minutes in his first career start. No. 2 was a lot better.
Thompson, who has known Irving for years as former high school opponents in New Jersey, laughed when asked if this was a start for the two.
“It’s the first of the first,” said Thompson, who had about six dunks working pick-and-rolls with Irving. “We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Newcomer Gerald Wallace had 27 points and 12 rebounds to lead New Jersey. Deron Williams added 28 points, but threw the ball away with roughly 16 seconds to play when he passed up a 3-point attempt to make a pass underneath with New Jersey down 103-100.
Williams blew off reporters after the game. Forward Kris Humphries took the blame for the turnover, saying he was supposed to roll to the basket and didn’t, making Williams look a little foolish.
“I thought Deron was going to put it up,” said Humphries, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. “I take responsibility for that. We were out of timeouts as well. If I had just rolled, I would have been wide open, so it’s on me.”
There were six lead changes and five ties in the final quarter in which neither team led by more than six points.
Thompson, who had never scored more than 16 points in a game, tipped in a missed drive by Irving to give Cleveland a 99-97 lead with 1:11 to go.
“I was just being active,” said Thompson, who was 12 of 16 from the field. “That’s what I am here to do. That’s what I’m on the court to be active and get second possessions. I got up high enough where I could tip it in. That was big for us.”
Wallace missed a jumper on the ensuing possession and Thompson collected the rebound. Irving then drove the lane for a 101-97 lead.
After a timeout, Williams missed a shot and Thompson again cleaned up on the boards. Irving was fouled and pushed the lead to 103-97.
New Jersey gave itself one last chance when Gerald Green hit a 3-pointer and Irving was called for an offensive foul on the ensuing inbounds play.
However, Williams turned the ball over instead of shooting and the Cavaliers iced the game.
“It was definitely a game where we were both hitting,” said Irving, who looks like a shoo-in for rookie of the year. “Some of the reliance fell to me and Tristan at times. Tristan was making big plays, like with the tip-in. It felt good. Everybody contributed.”
Jamison had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Williams was the only reason the Nets were still in the game at halftime. He scored 17 points in the second quarter to rally New Jersey from a 15-point deficit to within 53-50 at the half.
Cleveland built its lead by dominating inside. Thompson had 17 in the first half and the Cavs scored 40 points in the paint, hitting 20 of 34 shots. Samardo Samuels came off the bench to score eight points.
Notes: Nets G Jordan Farmar missed his third straight game with a groin injury. … Neither team made a 3-pointer in the first quarter. … Because of a clerical error, the Cavaliers forget to make G Manny Harris active for the game. … Williams got two early fouls and was hit with a technical foul in the first quarter for arguing with the officials from the bench. … Cavs coach Byron Scott said neither team was thrilled with the officiating in a game in which 49 personal fouls were called. … The Cavs outrebounded New Jersey 55-37 and outscored the Nets in the paint 66-40.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)