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Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Kyrie Irving, Brandon Jennings look like old selves

Jonas Valanciunas, Kyrie Irving

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving (2) drives past Toronto Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas (17), from Lithuania, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)


If you were watching Kansas beat Oklahoma in triple-overtime, we forgive you. It certainly was dramatic. But here’s what you missed around the Association Monday night.

1) Kyrie Irving looks like dominant self again, drops 25 on Toronto. At the end of the third quarter, LeBron James took control of the game, scoring nine points in a little over three minutes to put Cleveland up by double digits. It’s what he does.

Then Irving blew the game wide open. With LeBron on the bench during part of the fourth, Irving scored nine straight points. This was not the somewhat tentative, getting used to his trusting his knee again Kyrie Irving, but the full speed ahead, wicked handles, can make plays wherever he wants Kyrie Irving. He was stroking threes with confidence; he was blowing past his defender and getting into the lane at will then finishing over bigs. It was fun to watch. Kyrie Irving is back, and that should worry the rest of the NBA.

2) Brandon Jennings has turned Detroit’s bench around. The Pistons have developed a fairly predictable game plan: Have the starters build a lead and hope the reserves don’t blow it.

Brandon Jennings turned it on its head in Detroit’s 115-89 win over the Magic last night.

Recently returned from a torn Achilles, Jennings scored 17 points and dished six assists while the Pistons outscored Orlando by 25 points in his 18 minutes.

Detroit also outscored the Magic by five points with Reggie Jackson on the floor, the first time both Jackson and his primary backup (whether it was Jennings, Steve Blake or Spencer Dinwiddie) were each +5 or better in the same game. In fact, it’s just the fifth time all season both Jackson and his backup had positive plus-minuses at all in the same game.

Jennings breathed life into a listless reserve unit even beyond his scoring. His six assists created four 3-pointers, a dunk and a layup. Jennings drew so much attention, three of his four misses were offensively rebounded.

“When you’re out there with me, just run,” Jennings said. “I’m going to get it to you.”
Nobody -- not even Jennings -- reasonably expected him to look this good this soon. Four games into his return from such a serious injury, there will still be ups and downs.
But if this is a sign of the peaks to come, the Pistons should be dangerous in the Sub-Cavaliers portion of the Eastern Conference.
—Dan Feldman

3) Draymond Green records third straight triple-double in Warriors win. Draymond Green will be an All-Star this season, the coaches will vote him in as a reserve. Right now, every team is looking for their Draymond Green. The versatile big man is at the heart of Golden State’s success, and the triple-doubles are a reminder why — he can put up points, set up teammates, and he just outworks everyone. Against Charlotte Monday Green had 13 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists, helping lead Golden State to a 111-101 victory. That’s 32-2, for those of you keeping track of such things.

4) Dwyane Wade’s driving layup forced overtime, where Heat eventually gets the win. Miami had been down 18 points in the third quarter to Indiana, but Wade’s 13 points in the third quarter started to turn things around. It can be frustrating at the end of games when Miami devolves into running Wade hero-ball sets rather than plays, because when they run ones like the inbounds that allows Miami to tie the game, it’s pretty. With just 2.7 seconds left Paul George wanted to be aggressive and deny Wade the ball, but he fell behind and was trailing Wade coming off a Chris Bosh screen and when Wade turned toward the rim nobody between him and the rim. Straight line drive, and the defensive rotation couldn’t stop him. The Heat went on to win 103-100.

5) DeMarcus Cousins scores 33, grabs 19 boards, Kings win first game in Oklahoma City. The Sacramento Kings were 0-14 in Oklahoma City going into Monday night. It helped that OKC was without Kevin Durant, but it helped more that DeMarcus Cousins was in beast mode. Remember Cousins was getting ejected and not playing great ball last week, but he brought it Monday. The points were nice, but the Thunder are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA and Cousins owned the glass. Steven Adams couldn’t slow Cousins without fouling him, and no other OKC big could even do that much. It was an impressive night for Cousins.