Irving, Anthony Davis flourish in returns
After being sidelined for 11 games due to a broken finger, Irving (28 points, 11 assists) was simply fantastic against the Los Angeles Lakers. Fatigue and rust were apparently not a factor, as Irving started and played a season-high 38 minutes in the Cleveland Cavaliers' victory.
As it happened, Davis also missed 11 games, in his case due to a stress reaction in his left ankle. The top overall pick in the 2012 draft played 25 minutes off the bench, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three blocks against the Washington Wizards. Barring any setbacks, count on Davis' minutes climbing from here, playing time that most likely will come at Ryan Anderson's expense. Remember that Anderson came off the bench to start this season. In his first 14 starts -- all games that Davis missed -- Anderson has averaged 35 minutes. In the six games where Anderson was a reserve behind Davis, he's averaged only 28 minutes. However, Anderson's points, 3-pointers made and shots taken are all about the same whether or not he starts.
That's interesting but perhaps not all that surprising. The Hornets are so weak offensively (28th in the NBA in scoring), they need Anderson to take every shot available when he's in there, particularly when he's playing with other backups.
• Irving and Davis are back, but Pau Gasol (knees) remains sidelined. The Lakers hoped Gasol could go Tuesday, but instead, a frustrated Mike D'Antoni moved Jordan Hill (2 points, 10 rebounds) into the starting lineup ahead of Antawn Jamison (9 points, 2 steals). Jamison did see 29 minutes to Hill's 25, though.
• While overshadowed by Irving and Kobe Bryant, who finished with 42 points, C.J. Miles (28 points, 5 3-pointers) enjoyed a huge night. Miles was making his first start for the Cavs, as Dion Waiters (ankle) missed his fifth straight game.
• Jordan Crawford already had the schedule on his side; now he's earning point guard status. With A.J. Price (hand) out of commission, Crawford (26 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) played 42 minutes against the Hornets. Though he was only 9-of-24 from the field and 2-of-8 from downtown, Crawford did lead the Wizards' comeback with 12 fourth-quarter points. The undermanned Wizards are also forced to lean on rookie Bradley Beal (15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists), who played 39 minutes on Tuesday.
• Marco Belinelli is suddenly an integral part of the Chicago Bulls. Though he was only 6-of-22 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Belinelli did add 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 3-pointers and 2 steals. He not only has started the past five games, he has seen at least 40 minutes in the past four. The Bulls visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
• James Harden (ankle) practiced Tuesday and could play Wednesday. However, Jeremy Lin might not be in the backcourt with Harden when the Houston Rockets host the Wizards. Lin sprained his left ankle toward the end of that practice. If either or both are unavailable, expect to see more of Carlos Delfino and Toney Douglas.
• Andray Blatche (23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals Tuesday against the New York Knicks) continues to excel in place of Brook Lopez. Lopez is practicing, though, so consider him questionable when the Brooklyn Nets visit the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
• Tyreke Evans (knee) is expected to play for the Sacramento Kings, who visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. Speaking of the Bucks, Ersan Ilyasova (leg) is finally showing some signs of life, having reached double figures in three straight. Though Illy has missed a couple of practices, he is expected to play against the Kings.