PHOENIX: Byron Scott tried to slip out of the desert without using the old guy and The Kid in the fourth quarter. But when the lead dipped below 10, he was left with no choice.
Scott had Antawn Jamison, the second-oldest player on the team, and Kyrie Irving (the youngest) tucked away on the bench Thursday night. With a big game Friday against the Lakers that Scott would love to win, and remembering how lousy Irving looked in his last attempt at playing on consecutive nights, Scott unsuccessfully hoped to make it out of Arizona without having to go back to his two top scorers.
What Irving did upon entering the game in the fourth quarter wasn't as dazzling as what he did in the second quarter, but it was just as important. In the second quarter, he scored 12 points in less than 3 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, he scored as soon as he re-entered. With the Suns hanging around just six behind, Irving scored on another jumper to stretch the lead to eight in the final minute and seal the win.
Irving has demonstrated all season the courage to take big shots. He just hasn't always hit them. He knocked down two big jumpers in the final 3:23 Thursday, however.
Without the Princeton offense this season, the pick-and-roll is quickly becoming a staple of Irving's game. He is recognizing how teams are defending him and said after the game he noticed the Suns' guards going under, or behind, the screens. That left him an extra foot or two to get his jumper off and they were falling nicely all night.
If teams switch on the Cavs' pick-and-rolls and defend Irving with a big, that player will have to back off to honor Irving's tremendous ability to get to the basket.
"Coming off that screen, when a big man’s back, it’s an automatic shot for any guard in this league," Irving said. "So having that respect and getting that respect is an important aspect of my game going forward.”
Irving still has much to learn, and Scott will be there every day to remind him as much. Scott is very careful with his praise of Irving. He doesn't want to put too much on him too quickly, but he also doesn't want Irving's head to swell and suddenly have him start playing outside of his game.
But the longer this goes and the more Irving plays, the more obvious it's becoming that his game doesn't have many limits.
Irving scored 12 consecutive points in the second quarter to turn a four-point deficit into a six-point lead. Irving finished with a career-high 26 points.
Irving's scoring outburst in the second quarter. Scott said he energized the rest of the players, who fed off his momentum. It showed. The Cavs held the Suns to 60 points over the final three quarters and led the rest of the way after Irving single-handedly delivered them thge lead.
"Once I took him out and brought him back in I thought he was fresh. He just went to work. He had some open shots he knocked down, some great drives to the basket he finished and I think everyone else started to feed off that. He was being aggressive and got us back into the game. From that point on, we played pretty solid basketball at both ends." -- Byron Scott, on Kyrie Irving's outburst in the second quarter