After dropping two straight, the Cleveland Cavaliers started their west coast road trip with a 108-101 win over the Clippers that had Cavs fans delighted late Monday night. Rookie Dion Waiters was absolutely unconscious from three-point range, raining threes from all over the court and boosting the Cavs to a second-half lead. When the Clippers had all the momentum and pulled things even in the final five minutes, Waiters hit cold-blooded back-to-back threes from opposite corners to push the lead back to six. Needless to say, it was a breakout performance from the rookie, who finished seven of 11 from behind the arc for 28 points.
Of course, it wasn't a solo Waiters act, as the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year was right there with him, going blow-for-blow with Chris Paul. This was the first time the two matched up, with Irving often drawing comparisons to Clippers All-Star. The Cavs point guard facilitated the offense all evening, but stepped up and "got buckets" when called upon. With the Clippers closing it back to a one-possession ball game in the final minute, Deandre Jordan sagged off Irving and Uncle Drew cooly stepped up to the arc and drilled a three-pointer to ice it with 28 seconds remaining. Irving added 28 points on four of eight from three-point range, but also dished 10 assists.
Anderson Varejao joined the young backcourt and added to the late night thriller, hitting a number of mid-range shots down the stretch from the free-throw line extended. Andy pulled down 15 boards and chipped in 15 points in another impressive first-week performance. Also helping out in the frontcourt was Tyler Zeller, who had his best game as a pro, scoring 15 points. He left the game in the middle of the fourth quarter, however, after taking an elbow to the eye from Jordan. Zeller contested the LA bigs on the glass throughout the night, and was running in transition with Irving and Waiters to pick up some easy points -- much like he did at UNC.
But most people will come away talking about the young backcourt that combined for 52 points. It's early in the season, but that will certainly qualify as one of the most exciting games of the year when it's all over. A nice little treat for Cavs fans who stayed up late.