Irving, Varejao pace Cavaliers over Wizards 94-84
CLEVELAND (AP) — Anderson Varejao was already having the most prolific rebounding game of his career when he looked at the scoreboard and noticed he was close to his first triple-double.
One point, one assist was all he needed.
"I was like, 'Whoa, I wish I had a little bit more time,'" he said with a smile.
On a night when Cleveland unveiled its backcourt of the future, Varejao did a little bit of everything for the Cavaliers, who blew a 16-point lead in the second half before holding on and beating the short-handed Washington Wizards 94-84 on Tuesday night in the first game on the NBA schedule.
Playing his first home game after missing the final 41 last season with a broken wrist, Varejao had a career-high 23 rebounds. Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and rookie Dion Waiters added 17 for the Cavs, who needed big plays from Irving and Varejao in the final minutes to hold off the Wizards.
Varejao, the Cavs' 6-foot-11 frizzy-haired Brazilian bundle of energy, added nine points and had a career-high nine assists, two setting up dunks by Tristan Thompson in the last two minutes.
Irving, who typically dishes during the game, handed his teammate a big compliment afterward.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world just having somebody that you know what you're going to get from them every single night," Irving said of Varejao. "He almost had a triple-double, that's typical Andy."
Jordan Crawford scored 11 points to lead the Wizards, who were without star point guard John Wall, power forward Nene and forward Kevin Seraphin. Wall, the former No. 1 overall pick, is expected to be out until late November with a knee injury and the Wizards missed him badly as rookie guard Bradley Beal and AJ Price combined to shoot 4 of 21.
Beal scored eight points — all in the first half — and Emeka Okafor had 10 points. Washington coach Randy Wittman has high hopes for his young team, but he won't know what he has until he gets Wall and Nene, who is out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, on the court.
"That wasn't the team I've seen the last four weeks," Wittman said. "I watched them do things tonight that I didn't ever see these guys do. They (Cavaliers) dictated the tempo, which I thought was key. We can't get beat up on the boards like we did (54-39) or shoot free throws like we did (12 of 20) and have a realistic chance to win."
Irving, the NBA's reigning rookie of the year, began his second season with a strong performance alongside Waiters, a surprising No. 4 overall pick by the Cavs. Waiters didn't start a game at Syracuse, but coach Byron Scott has been impressed with his progress and wanted to pair his two young guards together from the outset.
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