CLEVELAND: Kyrie Irving is quickly developing the reputation as a clutch player. Now the stats are beginning to back it up.
According to the website 82games.com, Irving ranks 15th in the league in scoring during clutch time, which the website defines as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when neither team is ahead by more than five points.
Irving has been involved in 12 games under that circumstance, and his clutch-time production, when stretched across 48 minutes, is 36.4 points. His free-throw percentage in that instance is 87 percent, up slightly from his season average of 85 percent.
Irving ranks ahead of the New Jersey Nets’ Deron Williams (34.0 points), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (33.8 points), the Miami Heat’s LeBron James (32.6 points) and the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce (32.5 points).
“He’s not a household name as a closer, but we have a young man in [Irving] who can close games out,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said. “He’s proven that.”
Irving made the game winner to win at Boston in the final seconds a few weeks ago, sank two free throws in the final second to beat the Sacramento Kings on Sunday and scored 17 in the fourth quarter Tuesday to beat the Detroit Pistons.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Lou Williams is a bit of a surprise atop the website’s scoring rankings at 55.9 points. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant is second at 53.4 points and the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony (52.2 points) is third.
Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who is also an old friend of Scott’s, already has Irving pegged as his Rookie of the Year.
“Kyrie is doing it all,” Johnson said on a teleconference Wednesday. “He’s so explosive. The difference is everyone game plans for Kyrie. They don’t game plan for some of the others.”
Being a former point guard, Johnson is thrilled with the emergence of young guards like Irving, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Rose and John Wall.
“The rise of the young point guards has turned the game of basketball back to being an exciting game,” he said.
Ramon Sessions is in his fifth NBA season, and the first four have ended at the same time. Sessions spent two years with the Milwaukee Bucks, one with the Minnesota Timberwolves and is now in his second season with the Cavs. He’s never made the playoffs, something he’s hoping to change this year.
“It’d definitely be a great experience anytime you get to the playoffs,” Sessions said. “There are only eight spots in the East and there’s a lot of great teams out there. For us to be one of them would be great, but we still have a long ways to go.”
Scott has been warning his team for weeks they aren’t good enough to just flip a switch to turn on and off when they’re playing with energy, yet it’s exactly what they’ve been doing lately and they’re getting away with it. The Cavs began Wednesday tied with the Knicks and a game behind the Celtics in the loss column for the final two playoff spots in the East.
Anthony Parker was held out of Wednesday’s game against New Orleans to give him an extra few days of rest and treatment. He is expected to return for Tuesday’s game against the Celtics.
Anderson Varejao continues to recover from his fractured right wrist. Scott said Varejao has been keeping up with the cardio, but can’t really do much else.
“He does cardio pretty much every day we’re at practice,” Scott said. “He won’t be in the great shape he was in when he left because there’s not much you can emulate with one hand in a soft cast, but he’s doing everything he can.”
Varejao is projected to miss between four and six weeks with the injury. Scott projects that if Varejao were to miss five weeks, he’d return for about the final 25 games of the season.