Wine and Gold Win Thriller in Beantown
Sunday night’s rollercoaster win is just one more reason why it’s hard to believe that Kyrie Irving’s career is just 19 games old.
Cleveland’s young star cut through Boston’s defense and capped a wild rally – not to mention biggest win of the Cavaliers season and Irving’s burgeoning career – sinking a twisting, left-handed layup with 2.6 seconds to go, giving the Cavaliers the thrilling 88-87 win.
Brandon Bass’ second free throw with 4:25 remaining gave Boston an 11-point edge, 87-76. That marked the beginning of the Kyrie Irving-Anderson Varejao Show and ended Boston’s scoring for the night.
Irving canned a jumper and a pair of free throws and Varejao scored on tough back-to-back baskets – sandwiched by a pair of man-sized offensive rebounds – and the Cavs found themselves down by three, 87-84, with just over a minute to play.
Alonzo Gee sank a pair of free throws and, after a traveling call against Kevin Garnett, Varejao stole a defensive rebound from Bass, setting up Irving’s last-second heroics.
This June’s No. 1 overall pick scored 21 points in the final six minutes of Friday’s loss to New Jersey, and picked up right where he left off, hitting his first six shots on Friday. Irving would go on to lead all scorers with 23 points, going 10-of-14 from the floor. Kyrie also led both squads with six assists and snagged four boards.
“I just give credit to my teammates having the confidence in me and the coaching staff giving me the ball at the end of the game,” said the humble freshman. “You know, that play was designed and Andy (Varejao) set a great screen and freed me up a little bit. It was a tough shot. So I’m just happy we got the win.”
Varejao continues his assault on All-Star consideration, netting 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, with nine boards and a pair of steals – each of which seemed to come at a critical juncture of Sunday night’s nail-biter.
The two clubs came into Sunday’s matchup headed in different directions. The Celtics had won a Conference-best four straight and the Wine and Gold had dropped five of their last six – including three-and-a-half quarters of listless ball on Friday.
But Cleveland brought it right out of the gate in Beantown, and even got big contributions from some unlikely heroes – Alonzo Gee and Mychel Thompson – each pressed into service. Gee finished with 14 points and six boards and Thompson, in his first real action of the season, canned a pair of big fourth-quarter jumpers.
“I guess the last day-and-a-half of me yelling and screaming about playing hard every night, I guess they got tired of hearing it,” quipped Coach Scott after the win. “They came out and did a great job.”
The two clubs will face off again as the home-and-home series concludes with a clash at The Q on Tuesday night.
Thompson, son of the former Lakers center, hit a pair of big buckets early in the fourth to get the Cavs to within five and played solid defense on Ray Allen throughout.
“I’m confident enough to take open shots and I was lucky enough to be able to knock them down., so I was staying ready and struggled to get out there,” said the rookie from Pepperdine. “That was a dream come true. I was waiting for it and I was blessed to be here.”
“I thought (Irving) dominated the fourth quarter,” said Rivers. “He single-handedly, in my opinion, willed that win for them.”