Irving’s big shot a big moment for Cavaliers

The moment arose from one of Kyrie Irving’s dreams.

With the Cavaliers trailing by one and the clock fading to its

final seconds, Irving took off toward the basket with the ball and

game in his hands. As he drove and spun in the lane, his father,

Drederick, sat just a few feet away inside Boston’s TD Garden,

where rows of Celtics’ NBA championship banners dangled

overhead.

After slipping past two defenders, Irving flipped in a

left-handed layup with 2.6 seconds to play, giving Cleveland an

improbable 88-87 win.

”It was just a shot,” Irving said Monday.

In truth, it was so much more.

On the same court where LeBron James played his final game for

the Cavaliers, Irving had the defining moment of his promising

career.

The kid who doesn’t act or play likes he’s 19, came of age.

”We’re blessed to have him,” said Cleveland coach Byron Scott,

who never hesitated in drawing up Sunday’s final play for Irving.

”There’s no doubt about it.”

And there’s no denying Irving’s immense talent and potential,

which seem boundless.

One day after making the game-winning shot on a nearly identical

play to one he missed a month ago at Indiana, Irving was taking all

the extra attention in stride. Before speaking to reporters, he

joked around on the practice court with Cavs general manager Chris

Grant and Scott, with whom he has developed a close bond.

Irving’s basket, which capped a game-ending 12-0 run by the

Cavs, was replayed dozens of times on local and national TV. It was

the talk of Cleveland, where the 19-win Cavs of last season are

being viewed in a positive light thanks to Irving.

After he stepped inside the media huddle, Irving was asked if

his clutch shot had changed him.

”No,” he said. ”Same old Kyrie. I just came in ready for

practice. I got some work in and I’ll go home and get some rest and

get ready for another grueling game against Boston.”

Some rookie.

According to STATS LLC, Irving is the third youngest player to

hit a game-winning shot in the final three seconds since 2002-03.

And by comparison, James didn’t make his game-winner until 2006 –

his third season.

While Irving made ”a few” last-second game-winners in high

school, a foot injury prevented him from showcasing his flair for

drama last year at Duke. But although he’s felt the thrill of

destroying an opponent’s hopes, nothing compared to dropping his

shot on Boston’s famed parquet, one of basketball’s Meccas.

”It’s a dream come true for me, first time in Boston, playing

against the Celtics. I’ve been watching them for so long and to hit

a big shot like that feels good.

After his shot slithered through the net, Irving’s next move was

to point at his dad, a former Boston University star who pointed

back at his son.

”He was proud, a proud father,” Irving said. ”He grew up

watching the Celtics as well and seeing him sitting courtside, I

know it was a good feeling, especially seeing me out there.”

Irving’s shot provided some redemption for a miss at Indiana on

Dec. 30, when he weaved to the rim but couldn’t get a layup to drop

at the buzzer and the Cavs eventually lost in overtime to the

Pacers.

Scott wasn’t thinking about that shot when he called a timeout

in the closing seconds to set up the final play against the

Celtics.

He knew Irving should have the ball. He also knew Irving wanted

it

It’s a look Scott has seen before in teammates like Magic

Johnson and players he’s coached like Chris Paul and Jason

Kidd.

”When the game is on the line, he wants the ball,” Scott said.

”I’ve had a few and played with a few as well. I don’t know if

it’s a mindset or whatever, their makeup or in their DNA, but you

can tell when they want the ball. When the game is on the line,

their eyes light up a little bit and they don’t mind being the

goat, just like they don’t mind being the hero.”

Irving is fearless, a trait that served him well in AAU games

back New Jersey and so far as a pro. To him, there was nothing

special about the shot. It’s one he’s taken countless times

before.

So he missed one in Indiana. Big deal.

To Irving, the next one is always going in.

”When you take shots like that, there is no pressure, unless

you’re unprepared,” he said. ”You practice shots like that, moves

like that, all the time. It’s a game of percentages. You’re going

to make some and miss some. If you miss one, you look back on it

and say, `I’ll get the next one.’

You’ve just got to move on. You just have to have a fearlessness

especially taking shots like that. As long as you have the

confidence in your teammates, like my teammates do in me, I’m

comfortable taking game-winning shots.

Although opposing coaches are quick to gush about Irving, Scott

has been careful not to fill his point guard’s head with too much

praise – that will come. Scott sees enough flaws in Irving’s game

to know he’s an incomplete package and there’s room for growth.

Scott doesn’t miss a chance to remind Irving of his rookie

status. His running joke is to tell Irving his breath smells like

Similac, the baby formula

”That guy,” Irving said, smiling and shaking his head. ”Coach

Scott, he’s a jokester. … I don’t expect him to give me any more

gratitude than I deserve. I love to play for him.”

Scott believes Irving’s a star, one rising quickly.

The shot in Boston was the first twinkling of brilliance.

It won’t be the last.

”I see him every day and I know there are a lot of things he

still has to improve on at both ends, offensively and

defensively,” Scott said. ”But do I think that he has the

potential of being a great player in this league and being an

All-Star? Absolutely.”