Saturday, February 02, 2013 11:07 pm
Irving's 35 pace Cavaliers over Thunder
By TOM WITHERSAP Sports Writer
With one shot better than his last, Irving scored 35 points, including 13 in the final 2:52, as the Cleveland Cavaliers stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-110 on Saturday.
One night after saying he was "disinterested" during a loss in Detroit, Irving was simply spectacular down the stretch. He single-handedly closed out one of the NBA's best teams, making his last five shots and showing why he's an All-Star at age 20. Irving's biggest bucket was a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left to make it 113-108.
"He's a killer," said newly acquired Cavs forward Marreese Speights, who added 21 points. "I knew a little about him, I didn't know THAT."
Kevin Durant scored 32 points and Russell Westbrook had 28 for the Thunder, who came in 35-11 and with the league's best road record. Durant left briefly in the third quarter with an injured rib, but returned and scored 13 in the fourth.
However, it wasn't enough to offset Irving, who sent the Thunder home with a loss.
"He's one of the best in the business," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Give him a lot of credit."
Tristan Thompson added 12 rebounds and C.J. Miles scored 16 for the Cavs, who had played poorly in consecutive losses this week to Golden State and Detroit.
Irving was so frustrated with the Cavs' lackluster effort on Friday night against the Pistons that afterward he admitted to not being as involved as he should have been. Before facing the Thunder, he promised it would never happen again and the reigning rookie of the year more than kept his word.
"I figured he'd be a lot more focused - and he was," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "He's a closer. That's exactly what he did."
With the Cavs trailing 101-100, Irving, who sat out the first 6:12 of the fourth, drew a foul and hit two free throws. On Cleveland's next possession, he drove and dropped a layup to make it 104-101. Durant's two free throws brought the Thunder within one, but Irving, dribbling between his legs and around Oklahoma City's defenders, hit a floater from the baseline.
Westbrook scored seconds later, and after Thompson scored for Cleveland, Durant coolly buried a 3-pointer to tie it at 108 with 1:26 remaining.
Then, with a sold-out Quicken Loans quaking the way it once did when LeBron James starred here, Irving dribbled through the lane, bought some room with a ridiculous hesitation move and hit another layup. Durant missed a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left, giving Irving a chance to ice it.
And that he did, burying a long 3 from the top of the key over Westbrook before clenching both fists in celebration.
"I never know what shot I'm going to take," said Irving, who was just 1 of 7 to start the game. "I saw him back on his heels a little bit."
Durant got the Thunder to 113-110 but Irving did it again, this time knocking down a 12-foot bank shot to cap a performance none of the 20,562 fans on hand will soon forget - and one Irving hopes to draw upon in the future.
"It's my responsibility as a leader of this team to do this every single night," he said. "It has to come from within."
The Thunder surrendered in the final seconds, and after the horn sounded, Westbrook wrapped his arms around Irving, who had gotten the best of him.
"He came through in the fourth quarter," Durant said. "He hit some big shots. He hit a tough 3. He was getting to the rim. He's a quick guy."
Durant appeared to injure his lower back in the third while hustling back on defense. He stayed in the game for two minutes before he was escorted to the locker room, grabbing his right side. When he left, the Thunder led by five but by the time he returned to the bench with 9:55 remaining, the Cavaliers had tied it at 81.
Following the game, Durant said he was fine.
Speights, recently acquired in a trade with Memphis, gave the Cavs a huge spark in the fourth, scoring 10 of Cleveland's 13 points in one stretch. The 6-foot-10 big man has only practiced twice with his new teammates.
"I love what I see," Scott said of Speights, who is helping ease the season-ending loss of Anderson Varejao. "He's a great kid around these guys, and he's very vocal, which is what we need."
Westbrook was better behaved than on Thursday night, when he snapped at his teammates and stormed off to the locker room in the third quarter of a blowout win over the Grizzlies. The Thunder chalked it up to Westbrook being Westbrook, but Brooks said he didn't worry about the outburst having any carryover effect.
Westbrook left before speaking with reporters.
Durant finished just 8 of 21 from the floor. He had several shots rim out in the first half, when he went just 3 of 10. His three-point play with three seconds left gave the Thunder a 57-52 lead at the break.
NOTES: Scott said the only player he has seen score as effortlessly as Durant was George "The Iceman" Gervin. "He got 37 and I didn't see a drop of sweat," Scott said, "and most of it was on me. And to add insult to injury he said, `Don't worry about it, young fella. You'll be all right.'" ... Thunder rookie swingman Jeremy Lamb was inactive because of a back issue. He did not make the trip. ... The Thunder fell to 22-6 when Durant and Westbrook each score at least 20. ... Oklahoma City finished a stretch of playing 12 of 15 games on the road.