CLEVELAND — On the night he got his first career triple-double, Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and one “I love you.”
With a fan running toward him on the court midway through the fourth quarter, Irving had a night to remember Friday as the Cavaliers downed the Utah Jazz 99-79 in front of 18,601 fans at Quicken Loans Arena.
The 6-foot-3, 191-pounder set a career high by grabbing the rebound he needed to complete the triple-double and tied his career high in assists.
“I was trying not to think about it too much,” said Irving, who grabbed his final board with 4:12 left in the game. “My teammates were telling me to get one more rebound. A few came my way, but I couldn’t get it. Fortunately, (Spencer Hawes) alligator-armed one and I got it.”
Counting the postseason, it was the 50th triple-double in franchise history. The last 34 had been by LeBron James, including the only six recorded by a Cleveland player in the playoffs. James’ last triple-double for the Cavs in the regular season came on March 16, 2010.
“That was well-earned and well-deserved,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said of Irving’s feat. “I’m fired up for him and the organization and the city.”
Irving’s night was made more memorable when what appeared to be a teenage boy ran on the floor with 6:20 to go in the game. The fan, the third to make it on the court at The Q in less than 12 months, was quickly whisked away by security personnel.
“There is no such thing as too much support,” Irving joked. “I enjoyed my guy. It was one of my long-time friends coming on the court.”
Irving spoke in jest, but did relay what the fan said to him.
“He told me he loved me,” he said. “I told him I loved him back.”
Once again playing without Anderson Varejao (back), Dion Waiters (knee) and C.J. Miles (ankle), plus late scratch Anthony Bennett (knee soreness), there was a lot to love as the Cavs (24-36) recorded their eighth victory in the last 11 games and moved within 3½ games of Atlanta for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
After a 39-point first half that left them down two, the Cavs scored 60 points and shot 61 percent from the field in the second (25-for-41). They used an 18-3 run in the third period to go up 10 and later went on a 13-2 spurt to start the fourth period to go up 20.
Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds and Hawes had 13 points and 16 boards as Cleveland dominated the glass 56-31. Luol Deng added 16 points as the Cavs’ starting front line shot 23-for-37 from the floor (.622).
Cleveland also held a commanding 48-22 edge in points in the paint and limited Utah (21-37) to 35 percent shooting from the field (28-for-80).
“It was a big night for us,” Brown said.
It was especially big for Irving, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 17 second-half minutes. He played 39 minutes overall, going 7-for-16 from the field and 6-for-6 at the line.
“He pointed out to me he was close,” Brown said of the triple-double. “I pointed out to him, ‘If that’s the case, then rebound quickly.’ Fifteen-and-a-half minutes later, he came up with the last rebound.”
In reality, 4:29 elapsed between Irving’s ninth and 10th rebounds, but the point guard desperately chased virtually every missed shot in that span.
When Irving finally got the last rebound off a miss by Utah’s Marvin Williams and exited 23 seconds later, the crowd serenaded him with chants of “MVP.”
“He showed why he is who he is in this league,” Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said of the NBA All-Star Game MVP. “He’s becoming a better player in this league. He had a great game.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.