On the same night that Derrick Williams started for the Minnesota Timberwolves and scored 5 points, Kyrie Irving connected on his fifth game winning shot in his short career. On Saturday night, one guy had 5 points and the other had 32.
With 12.9 seconds remaining in the game, the Cavs found themselves down 98-96 after a Jose Calderon driving layup. It was set up by a high screen at the top of the three point line. Tristan Thompson almost blocked the shot, but he was off by the slightest of margins. Kyrie Irving got permission from Cavaliers coach Byron Scott to go for the win and to run an ISO on the final possession. What was interesting about the sequence was that Alan Anderson gave Irving a lot of space. It was not clear if he would drive the lane for a mid-range shot or jab-step to get open from beyond the arc. Instead, Irving launched a shot from 28 feet that went in with only .07 seconds left in the game. It was ultimately the game winning field goal after the Raptors essentially passed to Alonzo Gee in the closing miliseconds of the game.
Once again, the Cavs found themselves down by double-digits early in the fourth quarter. Byron Scott started Shaun Livingston, Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington, Tristan Thompson and Marreese Speights. This was similar to the group that he started against the Bucks on Friday night with the exception of Daniel Gibson and Luke Walton. Gibson did not return after halftime because of a sore right big toe. Luke Walton did not play because his left foot and ankle were sore. The bench bunch proceeded to go on a 14-2 run to start the quarter which set the table for Kyrie Irving to score 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Once again, the members of the Cavs that came in from the trade with Memphis earlier this week were integral in securing the victory. Marreese Speights had 17 points, 5 rebounds a steal and a block in 26:32 of playing time. Speights was effective for the Cavs on a night when they needed him to be. The Toronto front court is active and has historically given the Cavs problems. It had a lot to do with the 8 game win streak that Toronto had going into the match up. In addition, Tristan Thompson was in foul trouble for much of the game. Speights was not the only new member of the team to help the Cavs. Wayne Ellington was 3-4 from beyond the arc to go along with three made free throws.
The win marked the third in a row for the Cavs. It was also the first time that the Cavs won two games in back-to-back days this season. This winning streak is great and I hesitate to bring this up, but there will be a faction of fans who are going to be upset that the Cavs are hurting their chances in the lottery. I was a big proponent of the Cavs not winning too many games in the two more recent seasons. This feels different. It is one thing when young players who are part of the team's future play well and win games in comparison to when the team is starting two guys in their mid-to-late 30's. It is not frustrating when Marreese Speights plays well and helps propel the team to a win as opposed to when Antawn Jamison takes 21 shots and scored 33 points in a close win.
Kyrie Irving is on quite a streak of great basketball. He became the youngest player to score 40 points against the Celtics on Tuesday, was named as an all star on Thursday, scored 35 points in a 20 point come-from-behind win against the Bucks on Friday and hit a game winning three point shot from far beyond the line on Saturday. The Cavs are lucky to have Irving. The thought of this roster and franchise without him in wake of what happened in the summer of 2010 is downright scary. Irving is doing things on a nightly basis that are breathtaking to Cavalier fans, and we are used to being left speechless by franchise players. The array of crossovers, drives into the lane, clutch play and the ability to play under control in the most high pressure situations that Irving exhibits is unbelievable. Certain detractors and analysts may point to Cleveland's record to make an argument that Irving should not be an all star, but his play should put an end to that.The Cavs return to Cleveland to take on the Golden State Warriors on Tueday. This should be an interesting game because it is widely considered that Stephen Curry was the biggest all star snub this season. Tipoff is at 7:00.