Anderson Varejao played like an Eastern Conference All Star again on Tuesday night. He opened the game by scoring 10 points in his first ten minutes on the floor, finished with career highs of 10 offensive rebounds to go with a career mark of 20 total boards, and chased all that with 20 points of his own as well. If you insist on a statistical argument to validate Varejao's worth as a player, use those. Beyond that, which makes stats lines the 20/20 he posted that some guys get by taking plays off on the defensive end even more impressive, he tirelessly defended the Boston frontline essentially by himself for 42 minutes too. Varejao, alone, out-rebounded the starting frontline of the C's collectively - Pierce (4 rebs), Garnett (4 rebs), Jermaine O'Neal (3 rebs) - by nine. Throw Boston's top big off the bench into that mix too, Brandon Bass (6 rebs), and you can also say that Andy out-rebounded all four of those guys by three. Because he did.
Varejao left everything on the floor on Tuesday night, and utilized every ounce of his NBA effort to will his team to a victory they finished three points away from stealing. After the game Byron Scott echoed the Andy is an All Star sentiment, by offering the following on his 20/20 performance: “I don’t know what to tell you. I already said it last week-he’s playing like an all-star. I don’t know what else to say.” There isn't really too much else to say on the topic, actually. Despite that though, Doc Rivers weighed in anyways: “Varejao’s energy is just amazing. It’s amazing to watch him run around relentlessly, and pursue (loose) balls…Varejao’s always an All-Star as far as I’m concerned. I think they should keep a spot for a role player. That’s what he does, he plays his role…He had 20 points and they didn’t run one (offensive) set for him…Down the stretch, he and Kyrie (Irving) were tough for us to handle.”
Below is video of Andy talking about that effort and his young PG post-game; for the first time all night he did appear tired:
Andy might not actually have any go-to type scoring moves, well actually he doesn't, but he does find ways to not only secure those loose balls he has no business securing, but he also finds ways to score anyways too. His energy is amazing, and he played relentlessly all night again on Tuesday. If his teammates played with something close to that same energy during that stretch where they let the Boston lead extend to twenty-two late in the third quarter, than maybe they'd have been making that final surge from down a more reasonable of 14 or 15 points. Or maybe it would've never even gotten that far away. It did though, and the Cavaliers did rally late, they kept fighting down the stretch, and those are the type of things a young team can and is learning by playing alongside an All Star like Varejao. It's good to see, and it's tangible progress for this group too I think.
Kyrie Irving Teams Are Never Out Of It: With Sports Illustrated in town writing a feature on Kyrie Irving, following his heroics on Sunday, Kyrie The Closer almost pulled out another stunner on Tuesday. Alongside Varejao, Kyrie led a fourth quarter surge that eventually brought his Cavaliers all the back from that 22-point second half deficit. The lay-up he hit to give him his ninth fourth quarter points on Tuesday, 18th for the game, and 39th in the previous three fourth quarters combined, cut that Boston lead to 89-87 with just about one minute to go. I did kinda wish that run came sooner, but I also sat there thinking that maybe I shouldn't think the Cavs are ever out of it again so long as Kyrie Irving's out there ballin with time still on the clock. I feel like I kinda learned that about Kyrie and this squad on Tuesday. Maybe they learned that if that type of effort is sustained for four quarters, they can beat anybody too.
At the final horn, Kyrie hit a three to give him 21 points on 7 of 16 shooting for the game, to go along with his 6 assists. Through these twenty games, Irving is now averaging 18.1 points and 4.9 assists per game on less than 29 minutes per night. Varejao's double-double puts him up over the 10 ppg plateau at 10.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game too. The Rookie of the Year in a landslide, and an All Star big man this season respectively. The ROY also noted that importance for four quarters of effort all around afterwards too: “Going forward, we need to sustain that energy we had in the fourth quarter. We were competing with them, even though we went down 22 points. We still fought back. They gave us their best shot and it came down to the final two minutes of the game. We’ve just got to keep our energy up for 48 minutes.”
Boston 93, Cavs 90 / Game Notes: Mychel Thompson made his first NBA start and scored 8 points in 31 minutes. I caught up with him for a few minutes after the game, and will have more on that later today. Omri Casspi finished two for two from three range, Jamison hit a big driveway style shot down the stretch on his way to 12 points for the game, and Alonzo Gee - who said after practice Tuesday that he didn't think he'd want to be in the dunk contest but probably should be in it - finished with 11 points off the bench including a thunderous throw in. "Throw-ins" are when you are actually too high in the air to dunk, so you in throw the ball downward from about the 11-feet mark into the basket. Their pretty impressive, easy on the rim too. My man Samardo took a big charge late in that fourth quarter as well, made all four of his FT's, and finished with 6 points and 3 rebounds. No Skyenga on Tuesday, but give it time. Shouts out to everybody who wore their shirts and jersey in support anyways.
Next up for the Cavaliers is Friday's game at Orlando, featuring a match-up of the two All Star Centers from the Eastern Conference.