When the Cleveland Cavaliers waived veteran point guard Baron Davis prior to the start of the campaign and named rookie Kyrie Irving the starter; many questioned whether the number one selection in the 2011 NBA Draft could live up to the pressure of playing against some of the greatest point guards on the planet. Irving took on future Basketball Hall Of Fame member Steve Nash on Thursday night as the Cavaliers went to Phoenix to face the Suns and more than held his own. The rookie scored a career high 26 points while veteran forward Antawn Jamison knocked down 23 as Cleveland topped the Suns 101-90. Nash led Phoenix as he recorded a double-double with 16 points while Marcin Gortat also racked up a double-double including 14 points in the loss.
Irving is a natural floor general who can control the offense already like a seasoned veteran. So far in his brief career in the Association he has shown the ability to pass the ball to the open man and is constantly gaining confidence in his own shot as well. Nash is not the player he was five years ago, however he knows the game as well as anybody in the NBA and for Irving to perform that well playing against him was a coming of age moment for the rookie.
The two opponents traded the lead throughout the opening period and it would end knotted up at 30-30 as Suns forward Markieff Morris buried a 27-foot trey with two seconds left. It looked as if Phoenix was about to run away and hide at the start of the second as they opened up on a 10-2 run making it a 40-32 affair. The Cavaliers however would get momentum on their side late in the period. Omri Caspi jammed the rock through the hole with seven seconds remaining and as the game reached the half the visitors were on top 56-48.
The Cavaliers would retain the advantage for the rest of the night as the Suns would get within three points in the third but failed to bridge the gap. They would trail 79-71 at the end of the quarter. Cavaliers had at least a five point lead for the final 12 minutes of play and got their second win of their road trip to go along with three losses.
Irving scored 26 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals while Jamison added 23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Daniel Gibson came off the bench with 10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and an assist while Anderson Varejao chipped in just 8 points, but he had 17 boards, 1 assist, 1 block and 1 steal in the win.
Nash had 16 points plus dishing off 15 assists in the loss while Gortat put up 14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 assists for the night. Markieff Morris scored 13 points, 8 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal while Channing Frye added 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals and an assist. Veteran Michael Redd in his first game in a Suns uniform came off the bench with 12 points, 1 assist and 1 steal while former Lakers guard Shannon Brown came off the pine and chipped in 11 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal. Cleveland improves to 5-5 and head to Los Angeles as they take on the Lakers on Friday while Phoenix drops to 4-6 and will host the New Jersey Nets on Friday.