Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

February 2, 2013

Irving carries Cavaliers past Oklahoma City

CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving scored 35 points, including 13 in the final 2:52, and the Cleveland Cavaliers stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-110 on Saturday.

One night after saying he was “disinterested” during a loss in Detroit, Irving was simply spectacular down the stretch. He single-handedly closed out one of the NBA’s best teams, making his last five shots and showing why he’s an All-Star at age 20. Irving’s biggest shot was a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left to make it 113-108.

Kevin Durant scored 32 points and Russell Westbrook had 28 for the Thunder, who came in 35-11 and with the league’s best road record. Durant left briefly in the third quarter with an apparent back injury.

Marreese Speights scored 21 points, including eight straight in the fourth when Cleveland’s reserves opened a lead.

Tristan Thompson added 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who had played so poorly in consecutive losses to Golden State and Detroit.

Irving was so frustrated during the Cavs’ lackluster loss on Friday night against the Pistons that afterward he admitted to not being as involved as he should have been. Before facing the Thunder, he promised it would never happen again and the reigning rookie of the year more than kept his word.

With the Cavs trailing 101-100, Irving drew a foul and hit two free throws. On Cleveland’ next possession, he drove and dropped a layup to make it 104-101. Durant’s two free throws brought the Thunder within one, but Irving, dribbling between his legs and around Oklahoma City’s defenders, hit a floater from the baseline.

Westbrook scored seconds later, and after Thompson scored for Cleveland, Durant cooly buried a 3-pointer to tie it at 108 with 1:26 remaining.

Then, with a sold-out Quicken Loans quaking the way it once did when LeBron James starred here, Irving dribbled through the lane, bought some room with a ridiculous hesitiation move and hit another layup. Durant missed a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left, giving Irving a chance to ice it.

And that he did, burying a long 3 and clenching both fists.

Durant got the Thunder to 113-110 but Irving did it again, this time knocking down a bank shot to cap a performance none of the 20,562 fans on hand will forget.

The Thunder surrendered in the final seconds, and after the horn sounded, Westbrook wrapped his arms around Irving, who had gotten the best of him.

Durant appeared to injure his lower back or side in the third while hustling back on defense. He stayed in the game for two minutes before he was escorted to the locker room, grabbing his side. When he left, the Thunder led by five but by the time he returned to the bench with 9:55 remaining, the Cavaliers had tied it at 81.

Speights, recently acquired in a trade with Memphis, gave the Cavs a huge spark in the fourth, scoring 10 of Cleveland’s 13 points in one stretch.

Westbrook was better behaved than on Thursday night, when he snapped at his teammates and stormed off to the locker room in the third quarter of a blowout win over the Grizzlies. The Thunder chalked it up to Westbrook being Westbrook, but coach Scott Brooks said he didn’t worry about the outburst having any carryover effect.

Durant finished just 8 of 21 from the floor. He had several shots rim out in the first half, when he went just 3 of 10. His three-point play with three seconds left gave the Thunder a 57-52 lead at the break.

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