Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — Although the Brooklyn Nets walked away with the victory, many in attendance at Tuesday night's matchup at Barclays Center were in awe of Cleveland Cavaliers sophomore point guard, Kyrie Irving. Irving is considered one of the up-and-coming stars of the NBA and gave the Nets some unexpected praise after his Cavaliers endured a 114-101 loss at the hands of Deron Williams and company.
When it was all said and done, the Cavaliers got career nights from both Irving and Anderson Varejao. Each set a new career-high in points scored, Irving scored 34 while Varejao dropped in 35. What was especially impressive about Irving was that 27 of his points came in the second half and he refused to quit, despite his team trailing by as many as 24 points.
Afterward, Irving dismissed his career night. "Individual stats really don't mean anything if you don't get a win," he said.
"They hit us in the mouth on both ends of the floor," he added. "We got in a hole and it is hard to fight back against a great team like Brooklyn."
He spoke with great admiration when discussing the Nets' performance. "When a team is making shots like that in the fourth quarter, it is kind of hard to come back," he said.
"Brooklyn is a team to beat... They're definitely looking forward to the playoffs."
The Nets overcame the career night from Irving and have now won three consecutive games. At 4-2, the Nets now trail only the New York Knicks in the NBA's Atlantic division.
Williams and Joe Johnson combined to score 51 points on 19-36 shooting from the field. Johnson, who was the subject of my ire after Sunday's victory, was easily the man of the match. Early in the second quarter, he anchored the Nets second unit and helped them storm out to a lead that was ultimately insurmountable.
The Nets played a good pace and moved the ball well. Five players scored in double figures and Irving took notice.
With a few more efforts like this, more of the NBA's players and teams may be calling the Nets a team to beat.
On Thursday night, the Nets will have an opportunity to give further credence to Irving's compliments, as the Boston Celtics will pay a visit to Barclays Center.