There are always arguments about who is the best shooter in “money-time” this season in the NBA. Kevin Durant gets a lot of appreciation when it comes to crunch time performance, but Kyrie Irving, facing Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, has proven that it might be him.
Many big names are often associated with “most-clutch” – Kobe Bryant, although his shooting numbers in fourth quarters, also due to the sheer volume of shots, are among the worst in the NBA. Carmelo Anthony is among the best when it comes to final shots. Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, is second-best, scoring 123 points in the clutch this season (final five minutes of a game, five points or less as a margin) with a 52.9% effective field goal percentage, and the Thunder going 13-11 in those games.
Kyrie Irving? He has scored 117 points, but with a 60.1 eFG%, including 5-5 in the win over the Thunder by the Cavs (115-110), handing the team with the best record in the NBA their 12th loss this season, as the Cavs are 11-12 in games with that kind of finish.
He’s a killer… He’s one of the best in the business… He’s a closer. That’s exactly what he did.
Everyone, including the Thunder’s head coach, Scott Brooks, was all about praising Irving and his closing performance. It also showed once again what an un-motivated defensively Russell Westbrook can do to damage the team. On a pick n’ roll late in the game Westbrook did nothing to try and help the others after Irving blew by him. He was also the one guarding Irving as he was sending a three-point dagger to end the game. Why Westbrook, who has failed in one-on-one defense more than once this season?
Kevin Durant had a huge game with 32 points and 11 rebounds, but also had to leave the game in third quarter to get some treatment after he bruised his ribs. Russell Westbrook was great as well, 28 points to his name. But in the clutch, both couldn’t carry their team against the one-man show that Kyrie Irving is sometimes, telling us a lot about how good he and the Cleveland Cavaliers can be very soon, and a little bit about some problems the Oklahoma City Thunder might have along the way.