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Irving shows All-Star worthiness in Cavs' win over Celtics

The SportsXchange

CLEVELAND -- If anyone had any doubts about Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving making the Eastern Conference All-Star team, they should watch video of Tuesday night's game.

He was magnificent with a game-high 40 points in the Cavs' 95-90 victory over the Boston Celtics before an announced crowd of 14,192 at Quicken Loans Arena.

"I thought it was a pretty loud statement tonight," Cavs coach Byron Scott said of Irving's All-Star chances. "Some Eastern Conference coaches will look at his stats and his accomplishments, but they'll also look at our record. Some will say, 'He's playing great, but he's not winning.' Name me one point guard in the Eastern Conference having a better season."

Irving had 15 points in the fourth quarter, 11 in the last 2:31.

The 6-foot-3 Irving converted 16 of 24 shots from the field, 1 of 3 from behind the arc and 7 of 7 from the foul line.

"In the fourth quarter, we didn't get much better and then Kyrie Irving happened," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

He must have convinced Rivers that he belongs on the All-Star team. He said he voted for Irving as one of the reserves when he sent his ballot to the NBA. The reserves will be announced on Thursday.

"Absolutely," he said. "It's amazing how hard that was, though. It's a hard one for me, but he's just playing so well. I think it's going to be close, though."

Irving said his play was needed against the Celtics (20-21), who have lost four in a row.

"The last time, they really handed it to us in Boston," he said.

It was the second 40-point game of Irving's career. He had a career-high 41 points on Dec. 15 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

"In my mind, he's a top-five point guard in this league," Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson said.

Scott instructed Irving that he needed to be more assertive.

"You only need to tell me once," Irving said.

At times this year, the Cavs were tentative down the stretch. On Tuesday night, they went for it.

"It was us trying to put our foot on their neck," Scott said. "Sometimes we try not to lose. Tonight we tried to win."

Thompson was also outstanding against the Celtics' front line. He added a season-high 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

"He's oozing with confidence," Scott said. "He has that natural-born leadership in him. He's playing great basketball. He had five assists tonight. I don't know if he had five all of last year. The game has slowed down big time for him.

"Both (Thompson and Irving) are capable of impacting the game every night."

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo flirted with a triple-double with 17 points, a game-high 13 rebounds and eight assists. Center Kevin Garnett added 16 points, five rebounds and a game-high five blocks.

"I just want it so bad," Garnett said. "I got to find a balance. I've got to do better. I got to be more effective for 48 minutes."

Celtics forward Paul Pierce was limited to 12 points. He had 40 against the Cavs in their last meeting at TD Garden.

"For us, obviously, we don't like (the losing)," Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. "I can't even imagine how Doc feels. All we have to do is keep working and keep grinding."

NOTES: The Cavaliers showed how valuable salary-cap space can be. They sent power forward Jon Leuer to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday in exchange for forward/center Marreese Speights, shooting guard Wayne Ellington, point guard Josh Selby and a future first-round pick. They also waived point guard Jeremy Pargo. "Marreese will strengthen our front court, while Wayne and Josh will add depth to our backcourt," Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. "At the same time, we are adding a valuable asset with another future first-round pick, while also maintaining our future flexibility." The Cavs were able to make the deal because they had almost $10 million in cap space. The move will save Memphis almost $6 million, keep them out of the luxury-tax threshold and allow them to hang onto high-scoring small forward Rudy Gay. ... The new players will get their physicals on Wednesday and won't be available to practice. The Cavs hope they'll practice on Thursday. ... The Cavs now have a logjam at shooting guard with Ellington, Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Daniel Gibson. "Guys will be fighting for minutes," Scott said. ... Speights was a member of the Gators' 2007 NCAA championship team that beat Ohio State in the finals. ... The Cavs recalled power forward Kevin Jones from the Canton Charge on Tuesday. ... Boston forward/center Chris Wilcox (right thumb sprain) and Bradley (rib soreness) continue to play through their injuries. "It hurts to breathe (for Bradley) and it hurts every time you get hit anywhere near your ribs," Rivers said.
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