The Cleveland Cavaliers are still waiting for Kyrie Irving to find consistent form in his comeback from a long and rough knee injury. In a 110-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks in overtime, they still needed a lot from LeBron James, but got just about enough from his second in command.
Irving finished with 22 points on 8-of-20 from the field, none bigger than his dagger three pointer with 13 seconds left in overtime, making a 106-105 lead turn into a two possession game, pretty much finishing it. James tried to take the ball to the hoop and hopefully draw a defender on him. In a bizarre sequence Irving got hopen and the shot clock almost ran out. James hurried the ball to his point guard, who didn’t blink or wait, nailing the three that secured a tough win in Dallas.
James finished with 27 points as the Cavaliers won their 8th straight game, improving to 27-9 and now have a 4.5 game lead over the Atlanta Hawks as they continue to distance themselves away from the rest of the division. He had 10 rebounds and 7 assists in another good shooting performance (9-of-17 from the field, 3-of-6 from beyond the arc) while getting help from Irving and five more players in double figures, including Kevin Love scoring 15 points and Matthew Dellavedova adding 12. Iman Shumpert scored 10 points, but it was his defense, including stopping Dirk Nowitzki from getting off a shot on the final play of regulation, that made the bigger impact.
And after a game or two without anything coming off the bench to help, Dellavedova showed how important he is to this team. Not just by playing in the clutch, but by doing incredible stuff in other times as well, like his 3-pointer, steal and another pointer during the first half, all in one sequence. Dellavedova was hoping for someone to give him more money during the offseason, but he’s probably more valuable on this team than on any other, giving them something special off the bench, with one year of playing for a championship making him a much better player.
Ever since losing to the Mavericks in the 2011 NBA finals James has been fantastic against them with the Miami Heat or the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s got plenty of help next to him. And just as we mentioned in our most recent post about the Cavaliers, when Irving is having a good day, LeBron doesn’t have to do it all by himself, and it helps out everyone else as well. J.R. Smith doesn’t go off the handle. This time it was Kevin Love with 5-of-19 from the field, although that is extremely rare for him, with shots not falling for him most of the time, instead of the Mavs playing excellent defense. They didn’t.