I sat on my couch last night feeling completely confident that he was going to score again after the Denver Nuggets regained a one-point lead in the final seconds. After watching Kyrie Irving just convert two three-point plays prior to that last opportunity, there was no doubt in my mind that he had one more in him. Not just one more shot, or one more basket, but one more winning play than the other guy’s got. However many plays that calls for. Just as soon as I felt this air of confidence fall over me, for what felt like the first time in my Cleveland sports fan life, he raced from one end of the court, to the other, and scored again.
Kyrie Irving has now made three game winning shots in the final minute this season. He has played in only thirty-three NBA games. You can get ridiculous with that ratio, calculating it forward for the next ten years, and argue with statistical data behind you that Irving will make one million game winning shots in the next decade. I won’t go so far as to argue that, but I will point out that he does average one game winner for every eleven games he plays. There are no adjectives to describe that either. No words to associate with the way he explodes in that final quarter. No PER to measure the sheer swag and confidence he must feel in those final minutes. He simply embraces each opportunity, he thrives in that critical moment, he is fully aware that nobody can stop him, and nobody does.
Irving scored his season average in points (18 points) last night. He wasn’t shooting NBA Jam style fireballs heading into the fourth quarter. He wasn’t playing over his head, or in some out of this world zone, he was just playing his normal game. He missed the 3 three-pointers that he took on the night, shot 50% from the field (8 of 16), committed 5 fouls, and turned it over 3 times. He got those 3 turnovers back with 3 steals though, dished out 8 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds, but he was by no means playing perfectly. None of that mattered to him though. It was just a routine night for a guy who makes hitting game winning shots look routine. No matter how many shots he might’ve missed, how many mistakes he might’ve made, or whoever else might’ve been standing open in a corner somewhere, Irving put it on himself to make every critical play his team needed him to make down the stretch. Because that’s what Kyrie Irving does.
It’s nights like last night when you have to appreciate Antawn Jamison too. The 26 first half points that he scored gave the Cavaliers a chance to hang around. Each of the remaining 7 he tallied after that were essential too. He helped give Kyrie Irving that end-game chance he then capitalized on. He helped give him another opportunity to take one more big step in his Rookie of the Year campaign, and long after Antawn Jamison is gone that’s something Cavs fans should always appreciate about him. He helped Kyrie Irving show all of us that we don’t need to worry as much as we used too when it’s him taking that final shot for Cleveland. I’m not sure there’s anybody in the entire League who plays the final quarter better than Irving does right now either, and I am sure there’s nobody I’d rather have taking my last shot than him. Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, whoever, I’m looking forward to taking my chances with Kyrie Irving every time.