Kyrie Irving left the basketball world in awe on Thursday night as he set a new career high and franchise record, scoring 57 points for the Cleveland Cavaliers in their overtime victory against defending NBA champions San Antonio.
Irving made all of his seven three-pointer attempts and his ten free-throws and went for 20 of 32 shooting from the field in what was a spectacular and somewhat surreal display. 57 points tops Eastern All-Star Kyrie’s previous best of 55 against Portland on January 28th. It also breaks LeBron James’s franchise record of 56 against the Toronto Raptors in 2005 and the former owner of the record was in awe of his teammate’s amazing shooting:
‘The kid is special, we all know it, we all see it. For him to go out and put on a performance like he did tonight was incredible.”
The game itself was one of the best contests this season by far. Both teams came out and produced some amazing basketball. The intensity from the crowd inside the AT and T Arena truly made it feel like a playoff game.
The teams traded the lead from opening tip and ended the half with Cleveland holding a 64-62 lead in what was an utterly gripping game to watch with so many great match-ups and so many talented players giving their absolute all.
It was a battle right up to the last few seconds of the game when it seemed that Spurs had victory in their grasp as they led 104-110 when Kyrie hit a crazy three-pointer from an impossible angle in the corner right in the face of some great Danny Green defence to cut the lead to three points with 31 seconds to go.
The Cavs fouled Kawhi Leonard and the Finals MVP (who is an 80% free-throw shooter) incredibly missed both opportunities from the line allowing Irving to hit a clutch three-pointer to send the game into overtime.
The former Duke guard then poured in eleven points in the overtime quarter while LeBron hit a crucial three-pointer to give his team a 125-120 lead. From then on they managed to close out the game, eventually winning 128-125.
It was fantastic spectacle as both teams were battling each other physically and mentally, producing some amazing plays. Along with his record-setting 57 points Irving also had 5 assists and showcased his other-worldly ball-handling skills on almost every play.
Lebron had 31 points with 5 rebounds and 7 assists on 10 of 20 shooting as he had an epic battle with Kawhi Leonard in his first game against The Spurs since they dismantled his Miami Heat team in the NBA Finals last year. Tristan Thompson had 12 points and 9 boards off the bench while Kevin Love struggled to get in the game with only 8 points.
Kyrie wasn’t the only point guard who had an awesome offensive display on Thursday however, as Tony Parker had 31 points and 6 assists. For the most part of the game it seemed like Irving and the French guard were just having their own private game of one-on-one.
Leonard had nine assists, himself and Danny Green grabbing 24 points each. Tim Duncan continued to make Father Time look like a fool as the 39-year-old had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists including two ferocious dunks that made him look like a rookie again.
The night belonged to Kyrie however, and even Spurs legend Manu Ginobili voiced his admiration at the performance:
“He was outstanding every time we had an opportunity to beat them. He came up with crazy plays.”
The display marked the most points an opposition player has scored against The Spurs in their home court and if this game is a dress rehearsal for the Finals this year then this writer could not be more excited.
However, we have a lot of the season to go yet, starting with the Cavs traveling to Orlando on Sunday while the Spurs look to bounce back from Thursday’s loss when they host Andrew Wiggins and The Minnesota Timberwolves the same day.
Ciaran Darcy, Pundit Arena.