Uncle Drew has been in Collin Sexton’s shoes. Kyrie Irving was once a promising rookie getting nightly lessons from the NBA’s best point guards. He understands being the hope of a re-building franchise in the aftermath of a LeBron James departure. He struggled through a 21 win inaugural season (we’ll see if Sexton and this iteration of the Cavs get anywhere close to that), while shouldering the dreams and expectations of a fanbase that’s more used to winning than losing.
But now, the shoes are on the other feet. The roles are reversed, and Irving got to take out all of the vengeance he’s been saving up (probably mostly for the Cavs ownership and front office) in a domination of his former team, while handing the Cavaliers their most lopsided loss of the season. He didn’t really get the satisfaction last season (most likely), as the Cavs won the season series with wins in the opener that featured Gordon Hayward’s gruesome ankle injury, and a blowout on Paul Pierce night. In Boston’s lone regular season victory, Irving got outplayed by his back up, Terry Rozier. Then KI missed the entire post season and another chance to show up his old team in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It all came full circle tonight, though, as Uncle Drew was in full effect… teaching young bloods not to reach, and showing Young Bull how it’s done. Irving played about as perfect a 27 minutes as a scoring point guard can. He torched the twine at an 11 for 15 clip, including 5-7 from deep (some that were way back there) for 29 points, chipping in four rebounds and four assists for good measure. About the only blemish on a night he spent reminding Cavs fans of what once was, were the two uncharacteristic missed free throws out of four.
The Celtics didn’t really need much more than Irving’s offensive onslaught to handle the undermanned and overmatched Cavs, though they got nearly 100 points from the rest of their squad… even without the presence of Al Horford and Jaylen Brown. Six other guys in green reached double digits, while the guys in wine and gold struggled to stop them from doing so. The Cavs also had a second straight miserable shooting night, knocking down just 39% of their attempts.
Though the Cavaliers kept things close and interesting for the better part of the first two quarters (they actually tied the score at 47 with four minutes to go in the first half), the Celtics pulled away with a 15-5 run going into halftime. The bullying continued in the third, with Boston dropping a 39-20 quarter on the young Cavs, and effectively ending the competitive section of the evening. Like the Thunder in the previous game, the Celtics dominated the paint (54-32), won the rebounding battle (55-45), dished out 30 dimes (to 18 for the Cavs), outraced the Cavs on fast breaks (18-7), and shot the lights out from the field (53%) and from beyond the arc (55%).
Aside from delaying the almost inevitable blowout for most of the first half, there weren’t a ton of bright spots for Cleveland. One modest one, though, was the continued tenacity of Sexton. The kid who wears Irving’s old number, and his current signature shoes, did what he could to fight through screens and put a body on his predecessor. Yet, that wasn’t going to be close to enough to slow down Uncle Drew on this night. It also didn’t help his cause that he missed a lot of his own initial shots on the other end. Sexton still finished with 15 points, and matched Irving’s four rebounds and four dimes… yet he was only 6-18 in getting there. Though Kyrie hasn’t had much nice to say about Cleveland since he left, he did reserve some pretty positive comments for the Young Bull…
“I’ve been a fan of his since he was in high school. I watch all these young guys that come into the league, drafted high. Obviously I’ve been doing a little studying as well and just waiting for that moment to play against a young guy like that. He’s very talented.”
It was a fairly brutal night for the rest of the Cavalier shooters, however. Cedi Osman in particular had a very forgettable night with just seven points on 2-8 shooting, 1-6 from downtown. Somehow the Turk swingman wound up with a -39 for the game. Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson weren’t much better, despite both reaching double digits. While Hood made half of his shots… he only took six of them. And, though Clarkson led the team with 16 points, it took him 14 shots to do it (though he did make 3-5 from deep).
Tristan Thompson did notch yet another double double with 13 points and 12 boards, yet he struggled to stop any of the Celtics from scoring in the paint. He was also roundly booed for his “the Eastern Conference goes through Cleveland” troll of Boston in the pre-season. In other positive news, newly acquired guard Alec Burks played his first game in a Cavs uniform, and contributed off the bench with 15 points in 26 minutes of action. Burks was 0-4 from three, but did get to the line to make 7-8, and showed a well-rounded game with six boards, four assists and two steals.
All in all, a pretty forgettable 33 point loss at the TD Garden for the Cavaliers, who now must turn around and face a formidable Toronto Raptors team on the second night of a back-to-back. That’s the new reality for this Cavs team, though. With no King or Uncle to lead them, they’re simply a collection of pawns and nephews… learning lessons and finding their way.