Isaiah Thomas makes debut, Cavs cruise past Blazers 127-110
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
He’s back, finally.
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas hadn’t dribbled a basketball on an NBA court since May, but that changed Tuesday night in Quicken Loans Arena.
After suffering a hip injury that forced him to miss the final three games of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics traded Thomas to Cleveland in August, just before the new season began. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge admitted that part of the reason Boston traded Thomas was because of his hip. Since the trade, Thomas hasn’t been shy letting people know that he was hurt by the trade. Nevertheless, Thomas is a member of the Cavs now, and he’ll attempt to help the team win a championship.
“It’s going to be a process,” Lue said of integrating Thomas in with the team. “Once the minute restriction is off, once the back-to-back thing is off and when he’s able to play a lot of minutes, then it’s going to be different. But for now, we’re just happy to have him back.”
Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, Thomas made his debut with the Cavs and was on a minute restriction, playing only 19 minutes. He didn’t start, but Lue said he expects Thomas to be in the Cavs starting lineup the next time he takes the court. Sometime this season, however, the Cavs hope Thomas will get back to being the player that finished fifth in MVP voting a season ago, just behind new teammate LeBron James.
Last season, Thomas was the heart and soul of the Celtics. He led Boston to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, averaging a career-high 28.9 points, and could have led the Celtics to the NBA Finals if not for the superior Cavs. Tuesday night, he totaled 17 points in his first game in more than half a year, helping the Cavs take a 127-110 victory over Portland.
“It felt good, because I popped right back up,” Thomas said of his fall in the first quarter. “I know that’s going to happen, we just have to figure out ways to hit the ground I guess.”
While Thomas was the story Tuesday night, several other Cavs stars had standout performances against Portland. James finished with 24 points, six rebounds and eight assists, while Kevin Love chipped-in 19 points and seven rebounds. Dwyane Wade totaled 15 points and eight rebounds off the Cavs bench.
Thomas, normally a starter, didn’t let coming off the bench effect him. He looked rusty in the first quarter, scoring five points on five shots in less than five minutes, and even took a hard fall to the floor. Thomas, though, quickly bounced back up showing no signs of pain in the hip. Thomas scored three more points in the second quarter, but Cleveland trailed 56-53 at halftime.
“I felt like myself for the most part, but still a little rusty,” Thomas said. “It’s still going to take some time to get my rhythm back, but my teammates put me in a position to make plays and have the floor space.”
The contest was close through three quarters, after which Cleveland led 91-87. However, the Cavs asserted their will in the fourth quarter to runaway from the Blazers. Cleveland and Portland found themselves tied at 91 less than a minute into the fourth quarter, but the Cavs immediately put together a 12-0 run to take a 103-91 lead with just over eight minutes to play. The Blazers never recovered from the spurt, as the Cavs poured it on the rest of the way.
Thomas, who received a standing ovation from The Q crowd when he entered the game, received another ovation when he subbed out of the game at the end of the Cavs run. As he walked off the court, Thomas’ wide smile could be seen from the rafters.
“It was a special night for me,” Thomas said. “I haven’t played in seven months. Being able to be out there and compete against another team, it was special.
“Obviously, to get the win was even bigger though. Just to be able to compete and be out there again in an arena setting, game setting, it was a great feeling for myself. ”
With Thomas back in the Cavs’ lineup, players are slowly coming off the injury report. Tristan Thompson returned to the team last month after missing 19 games with a calf injury and with Thomas back in the fold, only Derrick Rose (ankle) and Iman Shumpert (knee surgery) remain out.
Despite the injuries, the Cavs won their 13th consecutive game at The Q with the victory over Portland. The Cavs will be in Boston to face Thomas’ former team on Wednesday..
POSTED 01/02/2018 22:20