Cavaliers coach Mike Brown delivered a simple message for Kyrie Irving after the All-Star point guard had the first scoreless game of his career Friday night: forget about it.
Brown’s advice worked.
Irving scored 20 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, and Cleveland defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 88-82 Saturday night.
Irving made his first shot of the night on a layup a little over three minutes into the game. The basket snapped a streak of 14 consecutive misses dating to the third quarter of Wednesday’s game against Denver. Irving, who was 0 of 9 Friday, hit 6 of 15 from the field Saturday. His two free throws with 15.7 seconds left put the game away.
"I was out there, (but) I wasn’t myself," Irving said of Friday’s performance. "This feels good. To come back against a good Clippers team, you always get up for good teams."
Brown doesn’t want Irving to back down on offense even if he is struggling.
"I don’t care if he goes 0 for 30," Brown said. "I want him to keep being aggressive. If he misses five in a row and he feels like he can a great look his next time, take it. We need him to score and that’s what he can do. He can score and he can play make for his teammates. Have a short memory."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game he was concerned Irving would go off for 50 points against his team.
"We were already at the orange threat level in terms of concern about Kyrie, so we couldn’t get any higher based on what happened (Friday) night," he said.
Tristan Thompson added 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Andrew Bynum added 18 points for Cleveland, which has won three of four.
Jamal Crawford scored 19 points for the Clippers, who have lost three of four. Chris Paul scored 13 points and DeAndre Jordan added 12. The Clippers, making their third stop of a seven-game road trip, were coming off a 101-81 win in Memphis on Thursday in one of their best all-around efforts of the season, but Rivers was unhappy with what he saw Saturday.
"We did a lot of pouting today," he said. "You can’t play like that. I think we had a lot of emotional hijacks, then we missed shots."
Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao got into a scuffle with 2:21 to play. Varejao bumped his shoulder into Griffin, who responded by shoving Varejao to the floor. Griffin continued toward Varejao, who was on his back under the Clippers’ basket. Players and coaches from both teams surrounded the two players.
Varejao was given a personal foul while Griffin and Cleveland’s Jarrett Jack were hit with technicals.
"It’s just a basketball play," said Varejao, who was laughing when Griffin charged toward him. "I was surprised the way he reacted. To me, it was funny. I didn’t think he was going to do anything."
Griffin had little to add about the incident, saying, "He initiated contact and I pushed him. That’s about it."
Crawford’s 3-pointer with 26.8 seconds left cut Cleveland’s lead to 85-82, but a free throw by Dion Waiters and two more by Irving pushed the lead to six.
Cleveland led 60-52 late in the third quarter, but the Clippers hit four 3-pointers in the final 2:37, including two by Darren Collison and one each by Paul and Crawford, to take a two-point lead with 1.9 seconds remaining. Jack’s 3-pointer from midcourt at the buzzer put Cleveland ahead for good 67-66.
A young fan interrupted play in the second quarter when he ran toward Irving near midcourt. Several security personnel quickly grabbed the fan and escorted him off the court. Irving said the fan was wearing a "Don’t leave Kyrie" T-shirt, a reference to keeping him in Cleveland.
Irving said the fan tapped him on the shoulder before he was led away.
"I was a little scared but it happened," Irving said. "I was running back in transition, trying to get my man. I was like, `Who is this guy?’ I was surprised, but security handled it."
NOTES: Jordan sent an Irving layup attempt into the backcourt with a one-handed swat that resulted in a shot-clock violation in the third quarter. … Jordan strained his right arch in the second half and is day to day. … Brown, who has been searching for the right combination to spark the team, started the same starting lineup for the fourth straight game. Brown has used eight starting lineups in 20 games. … Clippers F Antawn Jamison scored one point and is five short of 2,000 for his career. … Clippers rookie F Reggie Bullock was taken to the locker room with a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter.