As he entered a game for the first time as a member of the Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas was greeted with a standing ovation by the sellout crowd at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Thomas, the All-Star guard who was acquired in a trade with the Boston Celtics this off-season, showed flashes of his former, brilliant self in his return from a hip injury. He threw crisp passes, fought his way to the basket, drew a technical foul for arguing and threw up five shots in his first five minutes on the court. His return helped put an end to Cleveland’s three-game losing streak as the Cavaliers beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 127-110.
Ending the losing streak was a nice bonus, but the return of Thomas, who averaged a career-best 28.9 points for Boston last season, was a moment the Cleveland fan base had been waiting for all season. Thomas, who checked in 4 minutes and 33 seconds into the game, was limited to 19 minutes but performed well in that short amount of time, with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting, along with three assists.
He looked a bit uncomfortable, missing his first two shots, and he seemed perhaps a step slower than normal, but the Cavaliers outscored the Trail Blazers by 17 points with him on the court.
“It was great see him get his first basket and go from there,” LeBron James, who had 24 points, six rebounds and eight assists, told reporters. “He is a spark and the jump we needed on our team right now.”
With 8:10 remaining in the game and the Cavaliers ahead by 11, Thomas exited to another round of applause, letting James and the rest of the Cavaliers sew up the victory.