Kyrie Irving struggles as the Tortonto Raptors rip the Cleveland Cavaliers 104-96
CLEVELAND — Rookie Kyrie Irving scored six points and hardly played like the No. 1 overall pick as the Toronto Raptors spoiled the Cleveland guard's NBA debut with a 104-96 season-opening win over the Cavaliers on Monday night.
Irving, who played just 11 games at Duke before turning pro, finished just 2 of 11 from the field — he made a meaningless 3-pointer in the final minutes — with seven assists and one turnover in 26 minutes. The Cavs are counting on the 19-year-old to turn around a team that won just 19 games last season.
Toronto, which went only 22-60 last season, won its first game under coach Dwane Casey, who was an assistant last season for the champion Dallas Mavericks.
DeMar DeRozan scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth for Toronto, which had seven players score in double figures. Jose Calderon scored 15 with 11 assists, Amir Johnson scored 13 with 13 rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 14 and Andrea Bargnani 13.
Ramon Sessions led the Cavaliers with 18 and rookie Tristan Thompson, taken three picks after Cleveland selected Irving, added 12.
Alonzo Gee had 15 points and Anderson Varejao 14 and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which trimmed a 13-point deficit in the second half to 82-80 on Daniel Gibson's layup with nine minutes left, igniting a crowd at Quicken Loans Arena which came hoping to see the Irving era start with a win.
But DeRozan came up big down the stretch, scoring nine points in the final six minutes. His jumper from the right corner put the Cavs away in the final minute.
Although it was assumed Irving would start, Cavs coach Byron Scott didn't inform the youngster that he would be on the floor for the opening tip until the morning shootaround. Scott broke the news to Irving by telling him to "put on a red (practice) jersey on." Cleveland's starters wear wine-colored tops during practice.
Scott offered Irving some advice before his first game as a pro.
"I told him to relax and have fun," Scott said. "You only get to do this once, where it's your first NBA game. I told him to enjoy the moment, but when that ball gets thrown up to get back to business."
Irving wasn't showing any nerves before tip-off. He popped on large headphones and listened to music while sitting in a chair in front of his locker before walking over to a large TV screen to watch film of the Raptors.
It was only when he got on the floor that Irving seemed a little overwhelmed. He started slowly, missing his first three shots and didn't score his first point until making a technical foul with 3:50 left in the first half. He scored his first field goal five seconds later, banking in a runner from the right side to pull the Cavs within six.
But he forced other shots and the Raptors never let him get into a rhythm.
The Raptors trailed 31-27 in the second quarter before going on a 15-2 tear. Barbosa and Jerryd Bayless hit 3-pointers in the run and Toronto was able to keep Cleveland at bay while building a 52-42 halftime lead.
Notes: Gee somehow survived a spectacular crash after a dunk in the second quarter. Gee threw the ball down — he was called for traveling — grabbed the rim, and nearly did a backward flip before landing on his neck and shoulders. He got up, brushed himself off and went back on defense. Even LeBron James tweeted "Ouch!!" after watching Gee's tumble. ... Toronto backup C Aaron Gray was kept out as a precaution because of a rapid heart rate. Gray, who signed with the Raptors as a free agent when camp opened, may visit a specialist at the Cleveland Clinic while the team is in town. ... Toronto F Jamaal Magloire is the Raptors' first Canadian-born player. ... Cleveland's home opener was not sold out for the first time since 2004.
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