For three quarters the Cavaliers dominated the Bobcats in Charlotte, and at one point had an 18-point lead over the ‘Cats. But for whatever reason, the Cavs lacked intensity down the stretch and saw that lead evaporate to the point where they fell behind by one with only 4:30 left in the game. However, Kyrie Irving led the team by capping off the game with his fourth game winner of his young career. Cleveland escaped with a 106-104 victory. Irving led the Cavaliers with 33 points, including 16 in the final frame. Tristan Thompson added a season high 19 to go along with 13 rebounds, while new starter C.J. Miles added 18. Ben Gordon led the Bobcats with 27 points, while Ramon Sessions added 20 off the bench. Gerald Henderson led Charlotte’s starters with 17 points.
The first quarter saw the Cavaliers get out to a hot start, and Miles, who scored 11 points in the quarter, led them. In fact, the two of the Cavaliers first three buckets were three pointers from Miles. As a whole, the Cavaliers benefited from Miles’s hot start and some luck in order to jump out to their first quarter lead. For example, Irving looked out of sync early on, and Thompson traveled the first two times he touched the ball on offense. For Charlotte, no one really stood out, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist did score five points off the bench. The end of the quarter saw Irving steal a pass and throw an alley-oop to Alonzo Gee, who threw it down with authority. At the end of the first quarter, the Cavaliers led 29-23.
At the beginning of the second quarter, new signee Shaun Livingston was in at point guard, and he started off hot. On one possession he threw down a vicious two-handed dunk, and on the ensuing possession, stole a pass and threw an alley-oop to a slashing Dion Waiters. A few minutes later, Waiters, who looks very comfortable as the Cavs new sixth man, stole a pass and scored on the fast break. This quarter was also key in the sense that both Thompson and Tyler Zeller played with toughness and confidence inside. Zeller, in particular, made several good defensive plays and fought for almost every rebound. Near the end of the quarter, Irving got into his groove and scored on two straight possessions. Another Miles three, giving the Cavaliers a 62-48 lead at the half, capped off the quarter.
In the third, the Cavaliers extended their lead to its peak of 20. Irving, in particular, really got hot in this period, and scored five points in the first four minutes. Zeller and Thompson continued their stellar play, and they both held down the paint against Charlotte’s attacks. The Bobcats were only kept in the game by stellar play from Henderson, and solid three-point shooting. At the end of the quarter, the Cavaliers led 86-74, and appeared to be on their way to an easy victory over one of the NBA’s worst teams.
In the fourth quarter, the wheels almost completely came off. Slowly but surely, the Cavaliers had their lead eroded by the Bobcats. Within the first three minutes, the Bobcats pulled within six. Led by the former Clevelander Sessions, the Bobcats picked up the pace and almost were able to change the whole course of the game. After Zeller made a bonehead pass that was stolen by Sessions, the Bobcats took a one-point lead with 4:30 to go. The Bobcats one-point lead was their first since a 6-5 lead in the first quarter. From there on, the game was back and forth, with Irving living up to his moniker of “Mr. Fourth Quarter” by carrying the Cavaliers down the stretch. And with one second left on the clock, Irving nailed a jumper off of a slick crossover, giving the Cavaliers their 106-104 win.
While the Cavaliers were able to get their eighth win of the season, there was a lot to not to like in this game. In the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers were outscored 30-20, and that fallout almost cost them a game that was so close to being in the bag. Also, it was odd to see Livingston in for Waiters down the stretch, and it took away one of the Cavaliers best offensive threats when they may have needed it most. Lastly, there were too many stupid decisions and plays made by youngsters, whether it was Thompson’s travels, Zeller’s passes or Gee’s offensive foul in the tailend of the fourth quarter.
All in all, though, a win is a win. Irving did what he does best in carrying the Cavs down the stretch, and the win takes them out of the cellar in the Eastern Conference. Also, with Anderson Varejao still out, it was good to see Thompson and Zeller step up and hold down the front line for the majority of the night. It may not have been pretty, but at least the Cavaliers can return home with another “W” on their ledger.
The Cavs next play Saturday night against the Houston Rockets at 7:30 PM at Quicken Loans Arena.