Kyrie Irving has been gone for five games, and the Cavaliers have dropped their last four games. It was almost in an eerily same fashion, as Cleveland was outhustled without their best clutch player in the game. Irving became known for his fourth quarter antics, which often ended up winning the Cavs games. He was a true NBA star in the final 12 minutes, almost like there was a flip switching somewhere.
To put it simply, every opponent, even in their one win, outscored the Cavs, they faced during this five-game stretch. Their opponents had a combined edge on the Wine and Gold of 23 points, and the only player who seems to have any life in the fourth frame right now is Anderson Varejao.
In the Cavaliers two wins with Kyrie, he had three rebounds, four points and one assist against the Wizards and tallied three assists and four points against the Clippers. To put that into perspective, the Cavaliers, despite a 13-point blown loss in the fourth quarter to the Grizzlies, lost two of their games by four points and two by only one. The Cavs could have clearly used Kyrie in crunch time, and they will be missing him for another three weeks or so.
Just look at some of the more in-depth statistics that Irving has put up this season; 56.7 true shooting percentage, 49.3 points value added (how much better a certain player is than their replacement and 29.4 usage rate (third best in the NBA). Kyrie is valuable, and there is no understating that. Every person who watches the Cavs knows how much of a blow it was to the team as a whole when Irving’s one-month absence was announced.
It is definitely a tough task going up against opponents such as Miami and Memphis on foreign ground, but the Cavs held leads virtually throughout the first 36 minutes of the game. To put it simply, the Cavs led somewhere around 75 percent of the time on their last three-game road trip, and they came up with zero wins to show for it. The Cavs’ season has been no easy path to wins, though, with the Wine and Gold playing 10 of their last 13 games away from home. That’s a brutal schedule for any team to start the season, and hopefully the NBA will never let a stretch like that happen again.
From the announcement that Irving would be out four weeks starting on Monday, November 19, the Cavaliers still have around 18 days without their All-Star. That means that fourth quarter problems could persist for another 10 games, a stretch in which they will visit the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks and host the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. It won’t be fun, but role players will need to step up if they want to come out of these next few weeks still in one piece.
Kyrie is the finisher, and lately games have needed that certain someone to come in and apply the dagger. We all miss Irving, but we especially miss him when the Cavs look like they could use a late surge.