Less than halfway through his rookie season in the NBA, Kyrie Irving keeps adding to his reputation as a clutch player.
The 19-year-old guard scored 17 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Detroit Pistons 101-100 Tuesday night.
”It’s a good feeling,” said Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. ”I feed off the energy of my teammates and the crowd. When you have the confidence ot your teammates going down the stretch it’s easier to make those plays.”
Irving and Alonzo Gee combined for for 30 of Cleveland’s 35 points in the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers rallied from a 72-55 deficit late in the third period. Although Irving won’t turn 20 until next month, he’s the team’s unquestioned leader.
”Kyrie said he was gonna turn it up, and he did,” said Gee, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth. ”He turned it up. He picked it up for us, and were gonna follow him.”
Detroit coach Lawrence Frank had a good handle why his team’s three-game winning streak came to a crashing end.
”Really, two guys dominated for them in the fourth quarter,” he said. ”Irving and Gee kicked our tail. They willed it back for them.”
Brandon Knight led the Pistons with 24 points while Greg Monroe had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Antawn Jamison scored 32 points for Cleveland, but Irving, whose two free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining gave the Cavaliers a one-point win over Sacramento on Sunday, came through again in the clutch. He hit two 3s that sparked Cleveland’s run and cut the lead to 80-76 early in the fourth period.
”When I hit my first one, it really felt good,” Irving said. ”From there on out, I felt like I had to take over the game.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
Five points by Gee made it a two-point game before Irving found a wide-open Jamison in the corner for a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers an 86-85 lead with 5:53 to play. Rodney Stuckey’s two free throws gave Detroit the lead back, but Irving’s 3-pointer from the top of the key and a left-handed layup in the lane put Cleveland ahead 91-87.
Irving poked the ball away on Detroit’s next possession and flipped the ball to Gee, whose dunk put Cleveland ahead by six with 3:09 to play. Detroit responded with five straight points before Irving’s basket put the Cavaliers ahead 95-92.
”He was the first overall pick in the draft for a reason,” Frank said. ”He’s an outstanding young player.”
Knight’s 3-pointer tied the game with 1:02 to play, but Gee rebounded his own miss with a dunk that put Cleveland ahead for good.
Ben Gordon missed on a layup attempt and Irving hit two free throws with 11.2 seconds remaining gave Cleveland a 99-95 lead. Gordon’s layup cut the lead two two, but Daniel Gibson, who missed the previous two games with a sprained ankle, hit two free throws with 2.4 seconds left.
Gordon’s 3-pointer at the buzzer left Detroit one point short.
Irving was 2 ofor 6 from the field and commited six turnovers in the first three quarters. He was 6 for 9 and had no turnovers in the final period.
”He wasn’t assertive in the first three quarters,” Cleveland coach Bryon Scott said. ”In the fourth quarter he was looking to be aggressive creating shots for himself and his teammates.”
The contest was a bruising affair with players from both teams hitting the floor on several occasions. Gee and Cavaliers center Semih Erden were both taken to the locker room after sustaining facial injuries in the first quarter, but both returned shortly before halftime. Erden was poked above the right eye by Jamison while the two were going for a rebound and needed four stitches to close the cut. Gee suffered a nose contusion after being hit by a forearm from the Pistons’ Tayshaun Prince while he was driving to the basket.
Monore was elbowed in the nose by the Cavaliers’ Omri Casspi in the third quarter. He was treated by Detroit’s trainer and remained in the game.
Monroe was given a technical foul for protesting a foul call in the third quarter.
The Pistons had won seven of nine coming in after a seven-game losing streak. The Pistons were trying to win three straight road games for the first time since 2009.
Irving and Tristan Thompson will represent the Cavaliers in the rookie/sophomore game as part of All-Star weekend in Orlando. Irving will also particpate in the Skills Challenge. Knight and Monroe will also play in the rookie/sophomore game.
NOTES: Both teams play their final game before the All-Star break on Wednesday. The Pistons visit Toronto while the Cavaliers host New Orleans. … Cleveland signed G Manny Harris to a 10-day contract. He had been playing with Canton of the NBA Development League, averaging 21.4 points. Harris played in 54 games last season for the Cavs. … Cleveland G Anthony Parker missed his 11th straight game because of back spasms.