CLEVELAND: Final thoughts following one of the Cavs' finest performances of the season...
* Nights like this allow me to reiterate why I think the Cavs are closer to relevance than their record indicates. They've now beaten the Thunder and Clippers, two of the three best teams in the powerful Western Conference. They lost in the final minutes to New York, Brooklyn, Miami and Memphis -- all on the road. So while their 14-34 record is horrendous, they've been competitive until the end against the league's very best.
* When the Cavs were in Los Angeles recently to play the Lakers, Byron Scott reiterated he doesn't think Kyrie Irving has that same rip your throat out to win a game gene that both Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul have, but he thought it could be developed. After watching Irving these last couple of weeks, I'm beginning to think he has it.
* Irving was sensational, making his final five shots and scoring 13 of the Cavs' final 15 points. He didn't miss a shot over the game's final five minutes. He hit on driving layups, bank shots, free throws .... as Mo Speights said afterward, he's so nonchalant about it, yet he gets to his spot every time. Speights compared Irving to Allen Iverson, whom he played with in Philadelphia. I think Irving will soon be better than Iverson ever was.
* But I'm not letting him off the hook that easily for the "disinterested" comment he made Friday night, mostly because he put his foot in his mouth again Saturday when asked about it before the game. "For the first game in my career I said I was disinterested," Irving said. "I'm allowed to have one game. I'm pretty fine. Most of the season, I've been OK. I think my stats speak for it."
* Irving is allowed to have a bad game. He's allowed to have plenty of clunkers over the course of an 82-game season. But he's never allowed to lose interest in a game. Never again, anyway.
* To his credit, he responded the only acceptable way -- with another brilliant fourth-quarter performance. It wasn't the game winner, but I thought his 3-pointer in the final minute was his biggest shot of the night.
* He and Russell Westbrook, a pair of All-Stars, were really going at each other late in the game. Then Irving caught Westbrook leaning back on his heels, expecting Irving to drive, so he pulled up and stuck the 3. It was the type of rip-your-throat-out shot that Bryant and Paul have made careers on. Irving is getting there, too.
* But he didn't do it alone. Mo Speights was brilliant in the fourth quarter. He brings an outward fire and passion that is often lacking on this team. He was the guy trying to rally the troops through Friday's miserable performance. Speights had a powerful dunk and another basket on consecutive possessions Friday, then turned to the Cavs bench and pleaded with his teammates to get engaged in the game. No one seemed interested Friday, but everyone responded Saturday when he scored eight consecutive points and 10 of 13 during one stretch.
* Fans are wondering if the Cavs will try and flip Speights prior to the trade deadline because he has a player option and can become a free agent after the season. I have no idea if he'll pick up the option, but I do know he wants to be here. Speights had to sign off on the trade between the Grizzlies and Cavs because he lost his Bird rights in the deal. But he was eager to come here because he knew minutes were available and this was a young team with some exciting talent. He hasn't been here long, but both he and Ellington have fit in beautifully.
* It will be interesting to see how the Cavs respond from this win, particularly with a horrific Charlotte Bobcats team coming to town on Wednesday. The Cavs will have four days between games. They'll take Sunday off, then have a couple practice days. They've struggled with the "fat and happy" syndrome far too often this season for being so young with such a lousy record. While they've played great against the best teams in the league, they've been awful against some of the worst.
* The Cavs won't get on a plane again until after the All-Star break. Saturday's win kicked off a stretch of seven consecutive home games. Since Dec. 22, this team is 9-11. Hardly extraordinary, but that sure looks better than 14-34.