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Cleveland Cavaliers

Final thoughts: Cavs 88, Celtics 87

By Jason Lloyd Published: January 29, 2012

Maybe this is how it all works. Maybe this is how it is supposed to be. On the very court where LeBron James played his final game in a Cavs uniform, Kyrie Irving rose to make his first game-winning basket in a Cavs uniform.

There will be many more like it. The kid is too explosive, too good and too fearless for it not to happen again and again. Byron Scott said he saw it in the kid's eyes. He wanted the ball. He's earned the ball in clutch situations. The rest of the players, some nearly twice his age, know it, too. Set him a screen and get the hell out of his way. Let the kid do his thing.

Remember this day, Jan. 29, 2012. This is the day Kyrie Irving rose to prominence in the NBA, snatching a victory away from an old and brittle -- but still talented -- Celtics team playing at home and starting to feel a little swagger again.

It's hard not to blame the Celtics if they felt like they had the game won up 11 with 4:25 to play. This Cavs team gave up all too easily last season, when the outlook wasn't even as bleak as it was Sunday. But Irving has helped transform the image and identity of this team in less than 20 games.

Actually, he simply GAVE this team an identity. Last season they were best known as the team LeBron left and nothing else. They bobbed in a sea of pity from others and perhaps themselves. All of that is gone now. If the rest of the league wasn't sure how to approach the Cavs, this gives them a little bit better of an idea.

Remember, they nearly pulled this off the other night against the Nets, when Irving scored 17 points in the last three minutes. The Cavs trailed by 17 with under seven minutes to play and they lost by three. If they had another minute, I think they would've won that game, too.

That's not to say the Cavs should get in the habit of falling behind by so much. This is still a very flawed team, but it's clear now they have a closer capable of bringing them back from the depths of defeat.

I wasn't here the night the Cavs were eliminated from the playoffs. I didn't take over the beat until a couple weeks after that game, but I walked through the tunnel tonight where James ripped off his Cavs jersey for the final time. I thought about that moment while replaying Irving's final shot in my mind.

There's a scene near the end of the film Finding Forrester where the entire school realizes the brilliance and writing talents of student Jamal Wallace. The director of the writing competition looks over a paper Jamal wrote, then looks at the teen in awe.

"Sixteen," he says. "Remarkable."

That's sort of how I'm looking at Kyrie Irving these days.

Nineteen. Remarkable.

Turning point
The Cavs held the Celtics scoreless over the game's final 4:25, scoring the last 12 points for the win.

Key stat
The Celtics missed their last five shots and turned the ball over three times in the final 4:25.

Quotable
“A little bit of redemption. I just give credit to teammates for having confidence in me and the coaching staff for giving me the ball at the end of the game. It was a tough shot. I’m just happy we got the win.” -- Kyrie Irving

Quotable II
“At that particular time, I wasn’t thinking about his age. I was just thinking about how pretty damn good he is with the ball in his hands. He’s all right. He grew up a little bit more tonight.” -- Byron Scott, on Irving

Quotable III
“I thought he dominated the fourth quarter. He single-handedly willed that win for them.” -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers

Up next
The Cavs (8-11) face these same Celtics (9-10) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Q.

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