Starting on December 27th, Right Down Euclid will be counting down some of the biggest moments that occurred both on and off the court in 2013 overall. That means we’ll be looking at the latter half of the 2012-13 campaign, this past offseason and what has happened thus far in the 2013-14 season. After every post, you, the fans, will be able to vote on which moment you deem as the most impactful in 2013 (or decide if we missed one of your favorite 2013 memories). Enjoy the New Year, and make sure to let us know what you think of our choices by voting at the end of every post.
Overall in 2013, the Cleveland Cavaliers won a third of their games played over the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Over those 81 games, the Wine & Gold went 27-54: 17-33 in the ’13 portion of the 2012-13 campaign and 10-21 over their first 31 games of this current season. With 27 total wins this past year, I narrowed down what I thought were three of the most exciting and impactful wins for the Cavs during their ongoing rebuilding process for the final segment of Right Down Euclid’s Cleveland Cavaliers 2013 in Review.
With that said, I’ll be breaking down the Jan. 26 matchup against the Raptors in Toronto, the ESPN debut of Kyrie Irving versus the then New Orleans Hornets and an improbable Feb. 2 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’ll do this in chronological order, so let’s get things started by breaking down Kyrie’s walk-off game-winner against the Raptors.
Cleveland Cavaliers 99, Toronto Raptors 98 — Jan. 26 at Air Canada Centre
Coming into this contest across the border, Kyrie Irving had already amassed four game-winners in just his second season in the League. With 12.6 ticks left on the clock and with his team down 98-96, he was about to capture his fifth, taking full grasp of the moniker Mr. Fourth Quarter. Receiving the inbounds pass from Shaun Livingston, Irving already knew what he was going to do and what the result was going to be.
With less than four seconds remaining in the game, color commentator Fred McLeod proclaimed that Kyrie had better get to work. At this point, Irving was still showing no sense of urgency with shooting guard Alan Anderson sizing up the Cleveland point guard. Anderson was too concerned with being beat off the dribble by the extremely crafty Irving that he never expected the proficient three-point shooter to pull up from three feet outside the top of the arc for the game-winner.
The calm, cool and collected poise of Irving upon coming up the court gave Wine & Gold fans a feeling that as soon as the ball was released, there was no doubt it was going in. Livingston emphatically lifted up his arms almost as soon as the ball went in, sending the Toronto fans in attendance into a state of shock. Don’t believe me or remember? See here for yourself:
It’s hard to not make every shining moment from 2013 not about Irving, but when was there a memorable win that didn’t involve Kyrie being involved in some way? Clutch play or no clutch play, wins were usually dictated by how well the All-Star played. In fact, before this game, Irving was selected to his first All-Star Game in just his second year in the NBA and was riding a 40-point performance against the Celtics and a 35-point effort in a win against Milwaukee entering the matchup against Toronto. And his three-point game-winner brought him over the 30-point mark once again, finishing with 32.
All of this had just came after Chris Grant’s wizardly acquisition of Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington from the Grizzlies. The Cavs were down double digits early in the fourth quarter when the newly-acquired Ellington hit two three-pointers, as the Cavs went on a 12-2 run to come within one point of the Raptors with just over nine minutes left in the game. Then Ellington and a couple of Toronto sharp shooters traded threes heading into the final stretch of the fourth frame. Following the trading of threes, former head coach of the Cavaliers, Byron Scott, told Kyrie with 12 seconds left on the clock to go for the win and not leave much time left on the clock for the Raptors to respond. That explains Irving’s calm and collected stroll up to the three-point line. Splash.
Cleveland Cavaliers 115, Oklahoma City Thunder 110 — Feb. 2 at Quicken Loans Arena
Remember when the Cavaliers used to be able to score? I didn’t, until I stumbled upon the Thunder-Cavaliers contest from early February of 2013. I marked this contest off as a sure loss, especially after Kyrie had proclaimed he was “disinterested” in a loss against the Detroit Pistons the night (and game) before. It wasn’t a good thing to hear from our young leader, but that’s just what we have to keep in mind. I think we expected way too much from our 20-year-old point guard last season as far as calling upon him to be a demanding voice in the locker room. Being one of the youngest players on the team and only in his second NBA season, Kyrie was unfairly thrown into a situation where he was expected to act like a six-year veteran when he would still be considered a junior at Duke.
For Kyrie, this was a growing game. If you didn’t believe he was a closer after hitting five game-winning shots, then what he did in the final three minutes of this contest had to make you a believer. With the Thunder currently boasting the best road record of any NBA team at this point in the 2012-13 campaign, Kyrie had to get to work in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter against two of the best scorers in the League: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Something that Irving said postgame actually made me believe that, “Hey, maybe this kid is ready to be the upfront leader of this team.”:
It’s my responsibility as a leader of this team to do this every single night
And, after starting 1 of 7 from the field, Irving stepped into this role. In clutch time–the final five minutes of regulation or overtime with the score within five points–Kyrie and Durant were the best in the League. After this game, Durant had tallied 123 clutch points, while Kyrie had reached 117 to put them at first and second in the NBA respectively according to ESPN Stats & Information. On this specific night, Irving was 5 of 5 from the field for 13 points in clutch time, and Durant was 3 of 5 for 10 points.
With just under three minutes left in the game and the Cavs trailing 101-100, Kyrie maneuvered his way to the hoop around KD and Kendrick Perkins, eventually being fouled by Serge Ibaka. Making good on both attempts, the Cavs now held a one-point lead, and Kyrie was far from finished. Kyrie then made it his goal to get to the rim on every trip down, and the Thunder had no answer to his wishes. After making good on three layups, Irving was now ready to ice the game with under a minute remaining and the Cavs down 110-108. Sizing up Westbrook, who Irving had been schooling all throughout the fourth quarter, Kyrie converted on a three-point attempt–much like his shot against the Raptors–to put the Thunder down for good.
Kyrie was good for 35 points on the night, and you can watch all of them here:
Cleveland Cavaliers 105, New Orleans Hornets 100 — Feb. 20 at Quicken Loans Arena
Following his impressive All-Star debut, Kyrie Irving was now ready to put on a show for an ESPN audience in a matchup of No. 1 picks over the previous two seasons. While Anthony Davis had an unimpressive 12-point and four-rebound showing, Irving showed up in the fourth quarter (surprise, surprise) to score 20 points in the final frame of play. Although it was a low-scoring contest in the first half (most likely because Irving did most of his dishing and distributing during this time), Kyrie was set to explode in the second act to help his team come away with a victory.
In the third quarter, the Cleveland offense started to come alive thanks to the rim-attacking abilities of Mr. Irving. With the Cavaliers trailing by double digits, Irving was able to spark the Wine & Gold in crawling back to tie the score at 68 heading into the final 12 minutes of play. Then, with less than seven minutes remaining in the contest, it was a Kyrie takeover. Down 78-74, it was, again, Mr. Fourth Quarter’s time to shine. By scoring seven straight points to the Hornets’ three, the game was now knotted at 81 with just over five minutes remaining. Then, with the game tied again at 83, Kyrie was now ready to finish off New Orleans by giving Cleveland the lead for good.
With a long mid-ranger to put the Cavs up 85-83, Kyrie’s hot hand was too much for the Hornets’ guards to handle down the stretch, and New Orleans never saw the lead again. Scoring nine straight by himself to put the Cavs up 90-83–also thanks to a New Orleans scoring drought–Irving was now ready to finish off his 20-point quarter after scoring 16 of Cleveland’s past 18 points. Sound familiar?
For a full clip of Irving’s 35 points on the night, make sure to check out the video below:
Cleveland Cavaliers Year in Review Poll