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- Isaiah Thomas received a standing ovation as he checked in for the first time as a Cleveland Cavalier.
- In just 19 minutes, Thomas scored 17 points and helped lead the Cavs second unit on a huge run against the Blazers.
- While his appearance was brief, Thomas gave basketball fans a look at just how valuable he could be to Cleveland’s effort to return to the NBA Finals.
Isaiah Thomas made his long-awaited Cleveland Cavaliers debut last night and immediately showed just how valuable he could be to LeBron James and the rest of his teammates.
In just 19 minutes of action, Thomas scored 17 points and notched three assists, providing a secondary spark for the Cavaliers’ offense that could prove vital if Cleveland hopes to make yet another run at the NBA Finals this year.
As he checked in to the game for the first time, Thomas received a standing ovation from the Cleveland crowd.
In his limited minutes of game action, he showed flashes of the brilliance that lead him to lead the league in scoring last year, including this hard drive to the basket that should quell any concerns fans have about Thomas coming back from injury a bit timid.
While Thomas will no doubt be a part of the Cavs crunch time lineup once he’s worked back from injury and is off a minutes restriction, another role of his was even more evident during his brief showing on Tuesday – captain of the second unit.
For eight minutes, the Cavaliers played with a lineup with no starters – Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green, and Kyle Korver – and scored 28 points. Cleveland’s bench exploded with a 61-point performance on Tuesday that led to a comfortable 127-110 victory over the Blazers. In his 19 minutes, Thomas had a usage rate of 32.7% – highest of the night for the Cavs.
It might not be the same role that Thomas played in Boston, but it could prove to be the difference between another Cavaliers title or sputtering short in the postseason. LeBron James already has 42,653 career minutes on his legs – more than the likes of Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. He has also played in seven straight NBA finals. At 33 years old, LeBron is still third in the league in minutes per game this season.
James has proven to be super-human in seemingly every way on the court, but at some point, players tire, something that could be seen in him last year in the Finals.
With Thomas finally suiting up for the Cavaliers, it can relieve James of some of the stress that comes with carrying a professional basketball team. Not only can he take over games himself when things are coming down to the final play, but he can also lead a second unit on a run that allows the fourth to be a bit more stress free.
It was just 19 minutes in one game from Thomas, but his performance went a long way to show just how valuable he could be to another Cavaliers championship run.