Cavs Sink Free Throws, Kings
David Liam Kyle
When it comes to facing down pressure-packed situations, Kyrie Irving is no normal 19-year-old.
As he’s already done in several late-game situations this year, the No. 1 overall pick put the team’s final fate in his hands – calmly draining a pair of free throws with 0.4 to play to give the Wine and Gold the thrilling 93-92 victory on Sunday night at The Q.
Irving’s two free throws were the game’s final points, but the closing minute was an adventure unto itself.
Trailing by two heading into final minute of regulation, Tristan Thompson tipped home a rebound to tie the game at 90-apiece.
Seconds later, Alonzo Gee rebounded a Marcus Thornton miss and was fouled by DeMarcus Cousins – splitting the pair to give Cleveland the 91-90 edge. But Cousins scored on a reverse layup with 2.9 remaining in regulation, giving the Kings the lead back.
On the Cavs final possession, Irving in-bounded to Antawn Jamison, who gave the ball back to Irving. Tyreke Evans immediately reached in and fouled Irving, sending the rookie guard to the stripe, where he canned the game-winning tosses.
After a Sacramento timeout and some game-clock confusion, Cousins’ desperation heave drew
Byron Scott was measured with his praise following Sunday’s win.
“I thought we were kind of messing around in the first half and in the second half,” said Scott. “That team had a lot of confidence that they could win the game and we tried to turn it on. Like I’ve said before, you can’t just turn it on and off, so I thought we got lucky.”
Irving led the Cavaliers with 23 points – going 8-for-21 from the floor. Kyrie was 2-of-4 from long-distance and, more importantly, 5-of-5 from the stripe. The former Dukie did manage just a single assist and had his hands full with Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas, who led the Kings with 23 points and 11 assists.
“I just imagined myself back in my backyard, honestly, shooting my free throws,” explained Irving. “I practice them almost every day with Coach Scott and it was just a routine thing.”
Antawn Jamison followed up with 21 points and eight boards – the only other starter in double-figures. Instead, it was Byron Scott’s bench that gave Cleveland a much-needed boost.
Rookie Tristan Thompson had his best game as a pro, doubling up with 15 points and 12 boards – seven of those off the offensive glass. The former Longhohrn went 6-of-10 from the floor and led both clubs with three blocked shots.
Ramon Sessions had another solid outing, notching 14 points, six boards and a team-high five helpers , committing just a single turnover in 36 minutes of play.
The Cavaliers keep the homestand rolling with a back-to-back at The Q – against Detroit and New Orleans – before pausing for the All-Star Break later this week.
“It’s more mental than anything, just being in a new system, new coaches – two new coaches in less than two months,” said Hickson. “(It’s) a new style of play, new personnel on the court, new front office, new way of running things. Everything is just a blur to me, everything is new. So it’s going to take me a while to get adjusted and keep continuing to get better on the court.”
In 16 minutes off Sacramento’s bench, J.J. went 0-for-3 from the floor for zero points and four boards. The affable big man spent several minutes at halfcourt, exchanging hugs and handshakes with his former Cavalier teammates following the game.
“It’s in my head, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t,” admitted the diminutive rookie guard. “He was the number one pick, I was the last pick. I mean why not? That’s extra motivation. He’s a great player. He’s real (fundamentally sound). He’s got talent. Hopefully (when) we play them again we get the win.”