Think back (or fast forward) to a time when you were (or are) a 20-year old. What had you accomplished in that short time span? Now take a look at Kyrie Irving. He was the seventh player in the history of the NBA to enter the elite class of players under the age of 21 to be selected to the All-Star game. On Saturday night, he showed off his All-Star talent across the border, hitting a game-winning three to beat the Toronto Raptors (16-28), 99-98.
Kyrie walked up just before the arc like a cool veteran, and then hit a three-point shot that put his team up by one with just 0.7 seconds left on the clock. He finished with 32 points on 13-of-26 shooting from the field, capping off one of the best weeks of his life. He was selected to the All-Star game, helped his team to their first three-game winning streak of the season and averaged 35.7 points. The Cleveland Cavaliers (13-32) are finally starting to look like a team, and that’s thanks to one of the many special qualities of Kyrie Irving.
There shouldn’t have been any argument in him being named to his first All-Star game in just his second season; he deserved it, and rightfully so. He tallied 12 points in the fourth quarter. Can we finally admit league-wide that Kyrie has arrived? He should be a contender for Eastern Conference Player of the Week, and that means a lot for a sophomore point guard.
Let’s not let Kyrie’s lone performance overshadow the third Cavalier win in as many tries. New additions to the bench, Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington, combined for 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field. For players that have been in the league for four years and threes year respectively, they sure learned how to mesh with the Cavs really quickly. In just their second games in Wine and Gold uniforms, they helped Cleveland mount an 11-point fourth quarter deficit.
Five Toronto players finished in double figures, but point guard Jose Calderon wasn’t as much of a problem as he usually is. Kyle Lowry, who finished with six points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field, wasn’t the greatest threat to Kyrie’s game-winning performance.
Alan Anderson continued to be a problem off the bench, as he shot 50 percent from the field and scored 17 points. Also, Amir Johnson ended up being the main threat to the Cavaliers’ defense, as he scored 18 point and corralled 12 rebounds. Even though it seemed as if the Raptors were dominating the Cavs all night on the boards, both teams recorded 39 rebounds. A pretty subpar shooting effort turned into a victory, as Cleveland finished 48.8 percent from the field, while Toronto shot at a 47.4 percent clip from the field.
Since it was a low-scoring win, Tristan Thompson did his job by finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds. 7-of-12 from the field highlighted the type of performance that we need from Tristan every game. He played 33 minutes, but Mo Speights 27 minutes will take a lot of pressure off of Tristan’s game. That will help down the road because Thompson has been one of the prominent proponents for the team’s performance over the last week.
The Cavaliers are finally starting to play like a team, and the highlight of the night for me came when Speights rebounded a Kyrie miss and converted his shot in the paint in the third quarter.
Cleveland will face the Golden State Warriors next on Tuesday, January 29 at 7 p.m. The game will be taken place at Quicken Loans Arena.