Cavs Get Dramatic Win in Denver
There are several things 19-year-old rookie Kyrie Irving will have to learn as his NBA career progresses. A killer instinct is not one of them.
As he’s already done several times this season, the Cavaliers point guard put the club on his back in the closing seconds and willed them to the win. The latest episode in Denver saw him score 10 of the team’s final 12 points – capping the Cavs’ 100-99 victory with a layup in traffic with four seconds to play.
Wednesday’s matchup was nip-and-tuck throughout, but the fourth quarter was especially dicey – featuring six ties and 16 lead-changes. In the final minute alone, the lead changed hands five times.
Denver’s Nene scored his second layup in the final minute with 15.1 seconds to play, giving Denver the 99-98 edge. But that was more than enough time for Irving – who was picked up by Aaron Aflalo full-court – to go coast-to-coast, splitting Denver’s defenders to spin home the game-winner.
“I was just taking what the defense gave me,” said Irving. “They picked me up full court, and I kind of take it as a test when people pick me up full court. I’m pretty confident in my offensive skill set, and a lane opened up when I got there.”
Ty Lawson’s runner as time expired drew back iron and Anthony Parker rebounded the miss to seal the win.
“I told the guys before the game if you don’t play hard, one thing I do know is playing hard doesn’t still guarantee you anything, but without it you have no chance,” said Coach Byron Scott. “I thought we did that tonight, we compete for a complete 48 minutes and we got a victory.”
The much-needed victory snapped a six-game losing streak that stretched before the All-Star break.
Kyrie Irving closed the deal on Wednesday, but the Wine and Gold wouldn’t have been within range of a win without Antawn Jamison’s 33-point effort. Jamison was 11-for-21 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from long-distance, adding a team-high nine boards.
Alonzo Gee had another solid outing as well – following up with 19 points, seven boards, three assists and a game-high four steals. Gee was an economical 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-of-6 from the stripe.
Irving was the only other Cavalier to notch double-figures – netting 14 of his 18 points after intermission. He led both squads with eight assists and grabbed three steals of his own, despite battle foul problems throughout the second stanza.
The Cavaliers’ mini-road trip continues on Friday night, when the Wine and Gold travel to Oklahoma City for a matchup with Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
- The Cavs snapped a four-game losing streak to the Nuggets and won in the Pepsi Center for just the third time in their last 12 tries.
- Alonzo Gee has averaged 15.0 points and 5.3 boards per contest since being made a full-time starter on March 3.
- With 59.8 remaining, Gee scored on one of the strangest dunks fans will ever see – throwing down the ball while Denver’s Danilo Gallinari was still hanging on the rim. The official call was goaltending, and it put the Cavs up, 96-95.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” smiled Gee. “That would have won the dunk contest.”
- Cavs assistant Jamahl Moseley spent five years on the Denver staff – working as an assistant coach/player development over the last three. Cavs trainer Max Benton was also an assistant trainer with the Nuggets. As the Cavs bus was pulling into the Pepsi Center, two fans displayed two signs that read: “We still love you, Max” and “Welcome back, Jamahl.”
- On the other side of the floor, Melvin Hunt – who was on Mike Brown’s staff for five years in Cleveland – is now a member of George Karl’s staff in Denver.
- George Karl, a proud UNC alum, admitted jokingly during pregame that he told fellow Tar Heel, Ty Lawson, to go hard against former Dukie, Kyrie Irving. “I believe that was mentioned,” chuckled Karl. “I told him if he does a good job against Irving, I’ll give him a post-up. Ty wants a post-up. He says he has a good post-up game.”
- NBA Commissioner David Stern took in Wednesday’s game in Denver and talked pregame. One subject he discussed was the maturity of today’s rookies – including Kyrie Irving – since the ban on high school students entering the Draft.
“I think that our players as a group have come in more mature, worldly and considerably more knowledgeable about what the league is going to do for them and what their obligations are against that,” said Stern. “And if they don’t think that already, we do our best to pound it into them. I met with Kyrie and his dad before the Draft, we meet with the parents again at the Draft. We have the rookie transition program and the like. And we’re very pleased with the crop of players that the NBA sort of ‘harvests’ each year. And Kyrie Irving is a great example.”