Ricky Rubio Stole the Show at Madison Square Garden but Still Took the Time to Praise the Cavaliers’ Rapidly-Budding Rookie Sensation

Cleveland Cavaliers veteran point guard Ricky Rubio made NBA history on Nov. 7 at Madison Square Garden, yet he still made sure to shine the spotlight on rookie big man Evan Mobley.

Rubio dominated the New York Knicks and left a typically noisy crowd at MSG gasping for air with a remarkable performance. Despite his heroics, he quickly turned the attention to Mobley, who is already showing why he might be the best player from the 2021 NBA Draft.

Ricky Rubio became the first player in NBA history with at least 30 points, 10 assists, and eight made three-pointers off the bench

Ricky Rubio chose a proper venue to have the best game of his NBA career.

Madison Square Garden played host to some of the most classic performances in NBA history, from Michael Jordan‘s “Double Nickel” game to Kobe Bryant dropping 61 in 2009. On Nov. 7, Rubio made sure he’d also be remembered by the NYC faithful.

Rubio scored a career-high 37 points on 8-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc, also dishing out 10 assists. In so doing, he became the first player in NBA history to record at least 30 points, 10 dimes, and eight made threes coming off the bench.

The 31-year-old did just about everything for the Cavs. He worked off screens and found baseline cutters with his patented no-look passes. When the Knicks played the roll man, he got to the cup and finished. But the most surprising aspect came from Rubio’s willingness to shoot from deep.

Rubio is a career 32.8% three-point shooter. That’s not horrendous, but it’s not very good, either. Still, the Spanish point guard showed no fear in firing away from the perimeter, knocking down catch-and-shoot looks and even pulling up off the dribble.

The night most certainly belonged to Rubio. Only, he chose to single out rookie big man Evan Mobley, who is playing a massive role in making the Cavs fun again.

Rubio praised Cavs rookie Evan Mobley

Ricky Rubio had some help in leading the Cavs to a marquee win over the Knicks at MSG.

Rookie big man and No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley showcased his all-around dominance. Mobley scored 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting while grabbing nine rebounds and recording five assists. He finished the game +26 in terms of plus-minus, the best mark of any player on either team.

The former USC star ran the floor and filled the lane in transition. He rolled hard to the rim for lobs from Rubio, but also ducked into the lane for floaters and shot 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Mobley’s blend of size and skill made him one of the more highly-touted prospects in the most recent NBA draft. Indeed, Rubio said (h/t cleveland.com) the Cavs aren’t even sure what Mobley’s ceiling looks like going forward.

“[Mobley]’s special and he will be special. We don’t even know how [high] his potential can be.”

–Ricky Rubio, via cleveland.com

Rubio also praised Mobley for playing like a veteran in his first game at The Garden, lauding his maturity and saying the 20-year-old “knows how to play the game the right way.”

Opponents are every bit as high on Mobley as his teammates. Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis previously praised Mobley and said the Cavs rookie might be even more advanced than The Brow was when he came out of college in 2012.

Mobley’s vast array of skills are on display through the first 11 games. He is averaging 14.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.0 steals, shooting 52% from the field and leading all rookies in value over replacement player (VORP) and win shares.

With veterans like Rubio setting the tone and youngsters such as Mobley infusing some excitement into this Cavs franchise, is it possible Cleveland could be a surprise playoff contender in the Eastern Conference?

Can the Cavs contend for a playoff spot?

L-R: Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio dribbles the ball and Cavs rookie Evan Mobley looks on
Ricky Rubio (L) and Evan Mobley (R) | Left to Right: Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images and Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Strong starts do not necessarily project future success. However, the Cavs’ 7-4 mark has to encourage fans in Cleveland because of how they’ve gotten here.

The frontcourt of Mobley and Jarrett Allen is quite imposing for opponents, with Mobley’s ability to play on the perimeter and handle the ball giving the Cavs some diversity. Darius Garland keeps elevating as one of the more promising guards in the NBA.

Then there are the vets. Rubio gives the Cavs valuable playmaking and minutes off the bench. Kevin Love is struggling to shoot the ball, but still provides excellent leadership by accepting a different role.

Cleveland ranks 14th in net rating, which is respectable. But the Cavs could surprise fans, especially if Mobley keeps growing and improving throughout the season.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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