Irving leads Cavs to overtime win
With rumors of dissent swirling, the Cleveland Cavaliers found a surefire remedy — a virtuoso performance by slumping All-Star Kyrie Irving.
Irving scored nine of his 41 points in overtime to help the Cleveland Cavaliers snap a three-game skid with a 103-96 victory over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Irving scored seven straight points on three possessions in overtime to give Cleveland the lead for good. He later added an 18-foot jumper to match his career high and finish 14 of 28 from the floor and 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Earl Clark hit three key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers, finishing with 11 points. Tristan Thompson added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and oft-injured center Andrew Bynum made his second start in as many years, contributing six points and three rebounds.
John Beal scored 28 points for Washington, which lost its fourth straight game. Nene added 24 points and seven rebounds.
Coming into the game, Irving was shooting just 38 percent from the floor and 32 percent from 3-point range. He broke out of his slump Saturday night while wearing a mask to protect his broken nose.
''Shots were falling with the mask on,'' Irving said. ''I have to wear it for two more weeks. No excuses. Shots were falling.''
In a duel of the No. 1 overall draft picks in back-to-back NBA drafts, Irving got the best of Washington's John Wall, who scored nine points and dealt 12 assists.
''Every time we play against each other we're always trying to go at each other,'' Irving said. ''We always take it as a personal challenge. It's not about being a No. 1 pick, or anything like that. It's just another good point guard going against another good one and putting on a show for the fans.''
After Washington took a 45-30 lead in the second quarter, Irving led Cleveland back. He hit three 3-pointers in the final 89 seconds of the first half to draw the Cavaliers within 49-44.
Washington had a five-point lead with three minutes left, but Matt Dellavedova hit a floater for his only points in 30 minutes coming off the Cavaliers' bench. Irving added a 21-footer and his pair of free throws with 32 second left gave Cleveland the lead. On the next possession, Nene hit his first free throw, but missed the second and the game went to overtime.
Washington also rued an inexplicable turnover by Beal, who stole the ball from Dellavedova with 52 seconds left, but lost the ball as he was going down floor for a breakaway that would have put the Wizards up by three.
''You could point to anything,'' Washington coach Randy Wittman said. ''We have a breakaway layup that I still - I've got to look at it. I turn around thinking he's dunking the ball. Getting ready to hear the crowd and I hear a moan. I don't know what happened.''
It was the first road win this year for Cleveland, which called a players-only meeting after a 29-point loss Wednesday at Minnesota. Coach Mike Brown admitted he is still searching for the right chemistry.
''We were down 15. We could have easily quit. We're kind of discombobulated. Andrew hadn't practiced and threw him out there and started him,'' Brown laughed. ''Not one unit out there knew anything that we were doing. I didn't know what we were doing. Threw Earl in at the four. Earl doesn't know what he's doing at the four. We just kind of made it up on the fly.''
NOTES: Wall was taken first in the 2010 draft and Irving was the top pick in 2011. ... Cleveland guard Dion Waiters did not accompany the Cavaliers on the trip to Washington. When asked if his absence was due to a reported scuffle during a players-only meeting on Thursday, Brown said, ''He's been to the doctor ice.''