By Zach Zeltman
March 13, 2015
In what Charles Barkley described as “One of the best NBA games I’ve seen in person, ever”, Kyrie Irving had a night to remember. In 47 minutes, Kyrie put up a ridiculous and efficient 57 points, shooting 62.5% from the field (20-32), 100% from 3 (7-7), and 100% from the line (10-10). He also added 5 assists, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, and only 2 turnovers in the 128-125 Overtime win for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This impressive performance came on the road against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, who had a great defensive scheme to stop Kyrie and LeBron. Each shot Irving hit had a high degree of difficulty, most of which were either contested fadeaways or points in the paint finishing amongst the bigs. The 57 points is the most scored in the NBA this season and marks Kyrie’s second 55+ point game of the season. Doing so against the Spurs is a huge testament to how well Kyrie really played. The last time San Antonio gave up a 50+ point performance was all the way back in 1984 (Bernard King). Oh, and Kyrie is still just 22 years old. Spurs coach, Gregg Poppovich, said after the game, “Kyrie was unstoppable. He went to a new level tonight.”
The Spurs seemed to be in control the whole game, despite it being close throughout. Last year’s Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, looked like the best player on the floor early, playing stifling defense while also impacting the game with his scoring, assisting, and rebounding. Leonard finished the game with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Tim Duncan nearly had a quiet triple double with his 18 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 blocks. Tony Parker and Danny Green also had excellent games for the Spurs, finishing with 31 and 24, respectively.
Most nights the Spurs play that well, they are going to come away with a W. Tonight was not most nights, though.
The game came down to the Spurs tremendous brand of team basketball versus two of the best players on the planet doing what they do best. Fortunately for Cleveland, Kyrie and LeBron were clicking on all cylinders, and the Cavs were able to steal a game that they really had no business winning. To complement Irving’s career night, LeBron finished with 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists.
A win like the Cavs got tonight over a reigning champion could continue to snowball the success that they have had lately. However, as much as this was a good team win, Cleveland settled for a high quantity of low quality shots. The good thing was that tonight the shots were going in. There will be plenty of nights, thought, that they are not as fortunate. If they Cavs and Spurs met in the Finals, Kyrie and LeBron would not be able to combine for 88 points every game.
If they have any hope in winning a championship, they are going to have to cut down the amount of 1-on-1 offense they have been getting by with and play more as a team offensively.
For tonight, the Cavs will take a win and a career night from Irving. Tim Duncan’s look after the final buzzer said it all. He stood near mid-court, motionless for a few seconds staring at Kyrie. Then he saluted to an incredible performance as he turned and walked back to the locker room.