CLEVELAND — Byron Scott called it a gift, and the man has seen enough basketball to know.
But not even he could truly explain how the Cavs escaped with a 104-101 win over visiting Utah on Wednesday.
“We got lucky,” was the conclusion drawn by Scott.
If you saw the game, you too are probably still scratching your head and checking your pulse, trying to figure out how the Cavs pulled off this dose of magic.
Well, as always, you can start with a few splendid plays by Kyrie Irving.
He hit a layup. He made a steal. He threw a pass to Wayne Ellington for a fastbreak dunk.
Just like that, the Cavs’ six-point deficit with 1:47 left turned into a 102-101 lead.
Old friend Mo Williams followed by blowing a layup that went in … then came back out. Williams is the player who was traded for the draft pick that ended up being Irving. It was Williams’ first game back with the Jazz, after sitting out the previous 32 following thumb surgery.
He also tried a long fadeaway to try to tie it at the final buzzer. It didn’t really come close.
And that, folks, pretty much sums up Williams’ time in Cleveland. Whether he’s wearing a Cavs jersey or not apparently doesn’t matter.
Anyway, back to today’s Cavs (21-40).
They were again without starting guard Dion Waiters, out with a stomach virus for the second straight game.
As for those who played, aside from Tristan Thompson and C.J. Miles — who were all hustle all the time — the Cavs sort of floated through the first three quarters, and some serious change.
When they weren’t heaving up questionable shots on offense, they were standing and admiring Jazz reserve Gordon Hayward (game-high 25 points) on defense.
Thompson finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, altering and blocking shots like it was Game 7 and his opponent was Patrick Ewing.
Miles came off the bench, firing away with the determined look of a guy who was facing a team with which he spent the first seven years of his career. And that was indeed the case, as Miles finished 4-for-7 shooting (and 2-for-3 on three-pointers) for 12 important points.
Miles even swatted a layup by Jazz big man Paul Millsap. It led to a fast break and a couple of free throws for Irving.
Still, this night clearly belonged to the Jazz — who led 88-76 with 7:26 to go.
Then Kyrie started acting like Kyrie, and the rest of the Cavs came along for the fairly weird and extremely wild ride.
Irving finished with 20 points and 10 assists. That includes 11 in the final 4:25, and eight in the final 2:35. Read: They call the kid “Mr. Fourth Quarter” for a reason.
“I’m a fan of Kyrie,” Williams said. “It’s fun to see his growth.”
Adding to the fun (well, the win, anyway) were Ellington and Alonzo Gee, who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively. Also, Marreese Speights came off the bench to contribute 14 points and seven boards in 17 minutes.
So, without a doubt, enough Cavs did their part. It just took them a while to get going. Like, all night.
“The basketball gods looked out for us tonight,” Miles said. We’ve definitely had some tough breaks. Tonight, we got one.”
OK, big picture time.
A win like this isn’t ideal, and it’s far from encouraged by Scott. But it did show, again, the Cavs have their clutch man in Irving. It showed that if you come together as a team, if you play some knees-bent and palms-out defense, if you take the ball to the basket and not settle for one pass and a shot … well, good things can happen.
And they can happen fast.
Mostly, it showed that sometimes, it pays to be lucky. Or more importantly, to put yourself in a position to be lucky.
When that happens, you just get the ball to Kyrie.