CLEVELAND: Rodney Stuckey was bringing the ball up the floor, and Alonzo Gee was defending him. The Pistons had gagged away a huge lead, trailed by four and Stuckey was making a move toward the basket when Gee stuck his hand in and knocked the ball away.
The ball trickled toward Kyrie Irving, who in one motion grabbed it and flipped it over his shoulder back to Gee without even looking. Gee powered down a slam, the crowd roared and the Cavs had their fourth remarkable comeback victory of the season.
The Cavs beat the Pistons 101-100 on Tuesday in a game in which they once trailed by 17. They looked so discombobulated in the second quarter, the Pistons appeared poised to blow them out of their own arena.
But Antawn Jamison had 32 points and kept the Cavs in the game for three quarters before Irving and Gee took over in the fourth, combining for 30 of the team’s 35 points in the final quarter. It was the fourth time the Cavs won a game after trailing by 14 or more.
“We have a bunch of guys in the locker room that believe we can win games,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “Even when we’re down in the fourth quarter, we still have a belief in ourselves that if there’s still time on the clock, we have a chance to come back.”
Irving had 17 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and Gee added 13 in the fourth after leaving the game late in the first quarter with a bloody nose. The Pistons’ Tayshaun Prince caught Gee with an errant elbow to the face, and blood began gushing out of Gee’s nose.
He wrapped a towel around his face and ran to the locker room. After the trainers got the bleeding stopped, he returned late in the second quarter.
Gee wasn’t the only one. Semih Erden needed four stitches to close a gash above his right eye, but he was able to return.
By the time Gee returned, the game was already getting away from the Cavs. They had eight turnovers in the quarter, including six before making their first basket. They began the quarter in a 2-of-12 shooting slump and allowed an 11-point halftime deficit to grow to 17 midway through the third quarter.
The Cavs combined for just 36 points in the second and third quarters. They scored 35 in the fourth.
Irving made his first 3-pointer early in the fourth to cut the deficit to 79-71 and added another a minute later to cut the Pistons’ lead to four. Irving made 6-of-9 shots in the fourth, including all three of his 3-point attempts, had two assists and didn’t turn the ball over. He had six turnovers through three quarters.
“I felt I had to take over the game, but it came with my scoring tonight,” Irving said. “I felt like we were making plays in the first three quarters, but we just weren’t hitting shots.”
That was true of everyone early except Jamison, who at one point had 21 of the Cavs’ 50 points. Scott credited Jamison with keeping the Cavs within striking distance when no one else could make a shot.
Jamison had just one basket in the fourth, but it was a big one. His 3-pointer with 5:53 left gave the Cavs their first lead since early in the second quarter.
Irving and Gee finished it from there, taking turns making big shots and feeding each other for assists.
When the Pistons tied the score at 95 on a 3-pointer from Brandon Knight, Gee responded by losing the ball, getting it back and dunking the Cavs back into the lead with 25 seconds left. Irving and Daniel Gibson made four free throws in the final 11 seconds to clinch the win.
Gee and Irving played well together, Tristan Thompson defended the post in the fourth quarter and the Cavs improved to 4-3 on this homestand with two games left.
When Gee poked the ball away from Stuckey, only to get it back on Irving’s blind pass, Gee never hollered to Irving to let him know where he was on the court. He didn’t have to.
“I didn’t have to say nothing,” Gee said of Irving. “He sees everything.”
Two nights after two free throws in the final second clinched the Cavs’ victory over the Sacramento Kings, Irving was back at it with more fourth-quarter magic. Irving is only 19, but he is quickly developing the reputation as a closer with a cool demeanor.
“Everybody says the fourth quarter is a pressure quarter, but I feel like our team is really prepared in the fourth quarter,” Irving said. “There’s no pressure on us. We were down, but I have confidence in our team getting stops down the stretch like we did tonight. We started to hit shots, the crowd started to get into it and it felt good. This was an important win for us.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://cavs.ohio.com Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.