With just over seven minutes remaining in the game, Kyrie Irving did what he does best: go off in the fourth quarter. This time against the New Orleans Hornets (19-36) was a little different, as the game was nationally televised on ESPN.
Coming off of an impressive weekend – which included a 32-point performance in the Rising Stars Challenge, a victory in the Three-Point Contest and a 15-point effort off the bench in the All-Star Game – the reigning Rookie of the Year took off when his team needed him the most. Irving, who is fourth in the league in fourth-quarter scoring, shot 6-of-9 from the field and tallied 20 points in less than seven minutes of play.
Irving finished with 35 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals – a very solid outing from the one-time All-Star.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (17-37) went into the final period down by one, but finished off the Hornets in a 105-100 victory. Even though the big men didn’t show up tonight, the guards on both squads were still there to put on for the fans. The starting backcourt duo of Irving and Dion Waiters combined for 51 points and 19-of-32 (59.4 percent) shooting from the field. C.J. Miles and Wayne Ellington also had 11 and eight points off the bench respectively.
Austin Rivers, who got off to a hot 3-of-3 shooting start in the first quarter, finished with just 11 points, two assists and four rebounds. It was instead point guard Brian Roberts who picked up for Rivers off the bench, as he finished with 17 points and shot 7-of-8 from the field.
Both teams shot relatively well in this somewhat low-scoring affair. It was an offensive struggle for three quarters, but the lanes were open for the ones and twos to score at will throughout the game. Waiters had a nice mix of a long-range and at-the-rim game. He schooled defenders all night long and finished with 16 points.
This matchup was supposed to be a marquee stage for the two back-to-back No. 1 picks. But Anthony Davis did not show up to help out his team. He managed to score 12 points, but that was on 2-of-7 shooting. He only grabbed four rebounds, while Tristan Thompson was able to corral 13 boards, including five on the offensive end. Thompson played 33 minutes and struggled with his hook shot and getting planted most of the night.
We know by now that Shaun Livingston has a slim chance of staying with the Wine and Gold next season. The stat lines may not show it, but Livingston showed a lot of heart and hustle. He made smart fouls, moved the ball around well and finished with a +/- of +6. I wasn’t on board to resign him in the offseason, but I think he is a very valuable member to this team. He showed it in small ways tonight.
Kyrie proved why he is an elite player in the league,and was receiving MVP chants once again. Those are really premature cheers, but I believe he will be lifting that trophy someday soon. He already has achieved a lot in less than two seasons; that includes a Rising Stars Challenge MVP, Rookies of the Year award, All-Star selection, fourth quarter phenom and Three-Point Contest champion.
But the thing that is always consistent is that he is always making sure the Cavaliers get their due. He does everything for his team, and that’s what makes him one of the most special players ever to don the Wine and Gold.
The Cavs will be going up against the Orlando Magic at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The game will take place at Amway Center.