CLEVELAND: Kyrie Irving dribbled to the 3-point line, saw Russell Westbrook drift back on his heels and launched a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Then he turned to the bench, clenched his fists and roared along with the sellout crowd.
Irving was interested in winning this game. So was Mo Speights. Together, they knocked off the defending Western Conference champions with one of the most memorable games at Quicken Loans Arena in quite some time.
Irving had 35 points, including 13 in the game’s final 2:52 and Speights added 21 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in the Cavs’ dramatic 115-110 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
One night after coming under fire for admitting he was “disinterested” in Friday’s loss at the Detroit Pistons, Irving responded with another brilliant performance.
He made his last five shots, mixing a variety of drives, bank shots and free throws to close out one of the league’s best teams.
“He’s a killer, that’s all I can say,” Speights said. “I knew a little bit about him, but I never knew that. He’s so nonchalant out there and then gets to anywhere you want on the court. A young player doing that in this kind of league, he’s going to be special.”
He already is.
Irving has scored at least 32 points in four of his past six games. He said prior to the game in order to guard against losing interest in a game again, it must come from within.
“And it trickles down to everybody else,” Irving said. “It’s our responsibility as basketball players to play at a high level and come out and perform. We have to dig deep down.”
Russell Westbrook had 28 points and Kevin Durant had 32 points and 11 rebounds, but left the game temporarily with an injury. The Thunder scored just one basket in the final 1:26 after the game was tied at 108.
Before Irving returned for the game’s final 5:37, Speights fueled the comeback. He scored eight consecutive points and 10-of-13 for the Cavs during a three-minute stretch in the third quarter, pulling the Cavs ahead 94-86 before Durant and Westbrook brought the Thunder back.
Durant took a knee to the ribs and back while fouling Alonzo Gee on a fast break with 6:04 left in the third quarter. He remained in the game for another two minutes before checking out and heading immediately to the locker room holding his right side with the Thunder ahead 74-69.
Durant returned to the bench late in the third quarter and immediately put a compression shirt under his jersey. He checked back in with 9:55 remaining and the game tied at 81.
After Speights put the Cavs ahead by eight, the Thunder scored the game’s next 11 points to take a 97-94 lead. C.J. Miles’ 3-pointer tied the game and the Cavs turned it over to Irving, who again was masterful late in the closing minutes.
“It’s amazing what happens when we play with energy,” coach Byron Scott said. “That’s what we’ve been looking for every single night — just play with that type of energy and you just never know what can happen.”
Irving’s driving layup with 1:12 left put the Cavs ahead for good. After a Durant miss, he nailed the huge 3-pointer with 42 seconds left over Westbrook, then turned toward the Cavs’ bench and roared in pleasure.
“Honestly I never know what shot I’m going to take. It’s really just a feel,” Irving said. “I saw him on his heels a little bit and expected me to drive and I just pulled up.”
After a basket by Durant pulled the Thunder within 3 again, Irving finished them off with a bank-shot jumper with 17 seconds left, ending the Cavs’ brief two-game losing streak.
Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder, who are 3-4 in their past seven games.
Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 12 rebounds and Miles had 16 points off the bench for the Cavs.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.