CLEVELAND — Bright lights bring out the best in Kyrie Irving.
Coming off an impressive showing during All-Star weekend in Houston, Irving carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 105-100 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.
Irving scored 20 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, including 11 in a row and 18 of 20, to help the Cavaliers break away from an 83-all tie in the final 4:23.
“In the fourth quarter especially when it’s winning time, obviously I want to win and my teammates want to win,” he said. “Luckily, some shots went in.”
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott sensed something big was about to happen when he put Irving back into the game with 7:08 remaining.
“You can see it coming,” Scott said. “He gets a little bit of a gleam in his eye. He hits one or two shots and just kind of gets going.”
The Hornets were obviously impressed.
“Kyrie had a real good game,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “He got to the basket whenever he tried to, especially late.”
“Kyrie really took the game over and put his team on his back,” guard Austin Rivers said. “We did a bad job trying to be physical with him. We just let him walk in the lane and get buckets. You’ve got to take some hard fouls and make guys earn it at the line, and we didn’t.”
Irving’s performance brought the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena to its feet during the final minutes and had Irving pumping his fist on several occasions.
The game featured two former No. 1 overall draft picks: Irving and Hornets center Anthony Davis. Irving made 13 of 22 shots and all seven of his free throws while having seven assists. Davis had 12 points and four rebounds.
The Cavaliers placed five players in double figures in breaking a three-game losing streak, but the night belonged to Irving. After his fall-away jumper gave Cleveland a two-point lead, he hit a 3-pointer from a couple of steps behind the arc to put the Cavaliers ahead 88-83 and prompt New Orleans to call a timeout. It didn’t help. Irving was just getting going.
New Orleans missed again on its ensuing possession and Irving converted a layup between two defenders on a fast break for a 90-83 lead. He added another basket after driving the lane and two free throws.
Irving drew national attention with his performance over the weekend. He scored 15 points in his first All-Star game, won the 3-point contest and put up 32 points in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Dion Waiters scored 16 points for the Cavaliers while C.J. Miles added 11.
Rookie Brian Roberts led New Orleans with 17 points, tying a season high. Robin Lopez scored 15 points before fouling out, while Greivis Vasquez added 13.
Irving had his worst performance of the season in the final game before the break against San Antonio with six points on 2-of-15 shooting. He admitted before the game he was still catching up on his rest, but it didn’t look that way with the game on the line.
“He was just kind of making shots everywhere,” Scott said. “He made some great shots, did some great things and the crowd was fantastic.”
“It stems off the trust that my teammates have in me and the coaching staff has in me,” Irving said.
Cleveland played the finale of a seven-game homestand, which began with three wins. The Cavaliers then lost the last three games before the break.
New Orleans lost at home to Chicago on Tuesday and then made the trip to Cleveland for an unusual back-to-back set.
Hornets guard Eric Gordon didn’t play for precautionary reasons as he continues to recover from knee surgery. He has yet to play on back-to-back nights on orders of the team’s medical staff. Gordon, who is averaging 16.6 points, missed the final game before the All-Star break with a sprained right hand, but scored 20 points Tuesday in a 96-87 loss to Chicago.
Rivers started in Gordon’s place and scored 11 points. Ryan Anderson, who leads New Orleans in scoring with a 16.9 average, was held to seven points.
New Orleans F Al-Fasrouq Aminu had 10 rebounds in 36 minutes. ... Gordon has appeared in 19 games, but it’s unclear when he’ll be able to play on consecutive nights. “I wish that (policy) was over, but we don’t see it ending anytime soon,” Williams said. “For whatever reason, the doctors feel that’s best for Eric. But he’s healthy, so it’s tough.” ... Scott will attend funeral services for Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss on Thursday in Los Angeles. Scott played for the Lakers for 11 seasons and remained close to Buss over the years. “I’m trying to remember how great he was as a person and how great he was as an owner,” Scott said. ... Assistant coach Paul Pressey will run Thursday’s practice and Scott will return for Friday’s session.
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