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NBA All-Star MVP Irving sets sights on playoffs

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP)

Now that Kyrie Irving has added NBA All-Star MVP honors to his list of accomplishments, he and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers are focused on a push toward the Eastern Conference playoffs.

On a stage of stars Sunday night in New Orleans, Irving captured the biggest prize. He scored 31 points and had 14 assists to help the East squad overcome an 18-point deficit for a 163-155 victory over the West. He was 14 of 17 from the field, and scored 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Irving returned from his whirlwind weekend and took part in practice with the Cavaliers on Monday night before the team left for Tuesday's game in Philadelphia. The Cavaliers, who rolled into the break with a four-game winning streak, are 11th in the East with a 20-33 record, three games out of the final playoff spot.

While it didn't seem realistic a couple of weeks ago, a postseason berth for Cleveland is now a possibility.

''We're taking it one game at a time,'' Irving said. ''It's a goal in the back of our mind, but at this point we're just trying to compete on a consistent basis every single night and come out with wins. We want to have a winning record in the second half of the season. Hopefully something amazing happens. Anything is possible.''

The Cavaliers hit rock bottom with an embarrassing home loss to the injury-decimated Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 5. The Lakers finished the game with a player who had already fouled out but was forced to stay on the floor because they had run out of bodies.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert fired general manager Chris Grant the following day, and Cleveland hasn't lost since. The somber atmosphere that hung over the team has been lifted, and the Cavaliers are finally looking like the club many predicted to be a playoff contender when the season began.

''Honestly, those wins don't really mean anything right now,'' Irving said of the winning streak. ''We're focused on getting this next game.''

Irving joked that he was going to get 14 hours of sleep Monday night following his long weekend. While in New Orleans, he also participated in the 3-point shooting contest. He was eliminated in the first round during a bid to defend the title he won last year.

''It's a tiring weekend,'' Irving said. ''I'm glad it's over. Now we can move on and get the second half of the season started.''

Irving said he gave the MVP trophy to his father, Drederick, who attended the game.

''It was an extension of our organization, my teammates and my coaching staff,'' Irving said. ''I definitely wouldn't be there without them and their support.''

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown enjoyed watching Irving's performance.

''The sky's the limit,'' Brown said. ''There wouldn't be anything he does that would surprise me ... 31 and 14, those are MVP numbers.''

Cleveland took Irving with the first pick in the 2011 draft. He was voted the NBA's top rookie that season.

The Cavaliers have won four straight for the first time since March 2010, the last season LeBron James was on the team.

Brown said center Anderson Varejao, who missed the last two games before the break because of a sore back, didn't make the trip to Philadelphia.

Tagged: Cavaliers

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