5. Irving wins the game from the line: February 19
Cleveland Cavaliers 93, Sacramento Kings 92 at Quicken Loans Arena
While in the process of trying to stave off a late Sacramento comeback, Kyrie approached the free throw line with the utmost confidence. Despite the circumstances (down by one point, had missed two previous attempts and 0.4 seconds on the clock), Irving proved why he was the most deserving choice for 2011-12 Rookie of the Year. There had been many circumstances throughout the season in which the former Duke Blue Devil had pulled off late game heroics, but being able to hit two shots from the charity stripe was one of the more impressive ones. Although it contains the word free in its name, a free throw has to be one of the most gut-wrenching shots in the final moments of a game. All eyes are on you and the arena is either painstakingly loud or quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Irving proved once again why he is the most important asset to the Cavs moving into the future.
4. Cavs snap Oklahoma City’s 14-game home winning streak: March 9
Cleveland Cavaliers 96, Oklahoma City Thunder 90 at Chesapeake Energy Arena
Going into this game, the Thunder had been an impressive 17-2 at home, while the Cavaliers were reeling with an away record of 7-11. I know we talk a lot about Kyrie Irving here at Right Down Euclid, but he is very deserving of it. This game pretty much summed up what Irving does to teams in the waning minutes of a close game. He was the second-best scorer with under three minutes to go in a game behind Chris Paul, and he proved that against the Thunder. Kyrie scored five points and grabbed two rebounds in that time (along with a career-high 12 assists), helping his teammate Antawn Jamison, who tallied 21 points against a lanky Thunder defense, bring home the victory against the Western Conference champs.
3. Jamison scores season-high 33 points against Nuggets: March 7
Cleveland Cavaliers 100, Denver Nuggets 99 at Pepsi Center
Even though he scored the game-winning basket with four seconds to go in the game (an amazing drive by the way), I had to give Jamison the title in this victory. 33 points from an aging veteran is not an easy task, especially when it was done on the road in a shortened and rushed season. The current Los Angeles Laker got off to a fiery hot start, tallying 14 of his 33 points in the first quarter alone. The aggressiveness that Jamison displayed in this game may have been overshadowed by Irving’s incredible shot, but you can’t fail to recognize the effort from a veteran player who is playing on one of the bottom feeders of the league. 33 points on 11 made shots (along with three made free throws) was an impressive task for Jamison to finish. Luckily Kyrie helped him in that category.
2. Gee tip results in thrilling victory for Cavaliers: November 30
Cleveland Cavaliers 113, Atlanta Hawks 112 at Philips Arena
Alonzo Gee may have shot 4-of-12 from the field, but only one shot mattered in the grand scheme of things; a tip from a missed Dion Waiters’ attempt. It was the classic case of being at the right place at the right time, as Gee’s put back with under one second to go was enough to lift the Cavaliers over an Eastern Conference power. The scene of Gee jumping up and down in the midst of wine and gold was enough to make the audience spring out of their seats in shared joy. While Atlanta players were too concerned with waiting to see if the Watiers’ three pointer was on its way into the hoop, the Cleveland small forward was anticipating everything. His thought process proved to be helpful, as the Cavs came away with one of the most exciting games that I have watched all season long from any team. With an 11-point halftime deficit looming over the Cavaliers, the team decided to ban together and win a game that many wrote them off from the start due to the absence of Irving. I am very pleased with the way Gee has started at the three (he’s a traditional bench player), and this game increased my pleasure rating.
1. Kyrie redeems self in front of dad against Celtics: January 29
Cleveland Cavaliers 88, Boston Celtics 87 at TD Garden
Missing a game-winning layup against the Indiana Pacers in the third game of his NBA career was probably the best thing to happen to Kyrie Irving. That may sound silly, but it all makes sense after seeing what has transpired since. The Cavs couldn’t possibly go on a 12-0 run to end the game against the Boston Celtics at their place to come away with a W; but they did. Irving’s father, Drederick, was in attendance for his first peek of Kyrie playing clutch NBA basketball. He shot lights out in front of his dad, finishing with a mark of 71.4 percent from the field. Irving also finished with 23 points, but the most important of those buckets came in the final seconds. Against a team that had shot over 50 percent, it almost seemed impossible that the Cavaliers could come back at Boston with just over four minutes to go in the contest. Impossible isn’t even a word when you have a player with the charisma that Kyrie displays. Along with clutch scorers Varejao and Gee, Irving scored six of Cleveland’s final 12 points. The game winner game with just under three ticks on the clock, as he drove down the lane for the go-ahead basket. The play, similar to his drive against the Pacers earlier in the season, is turning out to be a career-defining basket. The ceiling is almost limitless for the emerging All-Star point guard.
I hope you enjoyed our first “Best of 2012″ post, but make sure to check back to read what else we have to rank regarding your Cleveland Cavaliers from 2012.