BROOKLYN, N.Y.: Kyrie Irving extended both arms above his head and waited for everyone else to join him. The 3-pointer he made only five seconds earlier was more difficult than this because he was off-balance and falling away from the basket. This one was a straight up-and-down look off an inbounds pass.
Make it and force overtime, miss it and get a consolation manhug from Jay-Z. In a script that has played out so many times before, Irving’s 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out and the Cavaliers lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday 103-100. Instead of that overtime, Irving received the back slap from rap mogul and minority Nets owner Jay-Z, who sprung out of his chair instantly after the game to chat with Irving before he could leave the floor.
It was another gut-wrenching loss in a season full of them. The Cavs fought back from an early 15-point deficit and pulled within a point early in the fourth quarter. But they couldn’t land the big punch to flatten a Nets team in disarray following their stunning coaching change just a few days ago.
C.J. Miles was sensational with 33 points off the bench. He tied a team record and set a career high with eight 3-pointers (on 10 attempts), equaling the mark previously set by LeBron James, Danny Ferry and Wes Person. James was the last to do it on Feb. 20, 2009, at Milwaukee.
Miles’ hot shooting kept the Cavs in the game early. He had 14 of the Cavs’ first 31 points to help combat a terrific performance from the Nets’ Brook Lopez, who had a season-high 35 points and 11 rebounds, while the Cavs were again without Anderson Varejao.
“The game slows down, the basket seems as big as the whole arena,” Miles said. “You just try to make sure you can get good looks at the basket. The thing you don’t want to do is rush it and take wild shots because you made some. I tried to stay within what we were doing.”
Miles’ final basket, a 3-pointer with 5:12 left, pulled the Cavs within 94-89. They were within 100-97 in the final minute when Lopez missed a short hook shot. The Cavs didn’t call a timeout, instead electing to hand the ball to Irving and get out of his way. Irving’s swooping left-handed floater around Lopez bounced off the rim with 10 seconds left, but after Deron Williams split a pair of free throws, Irving gave the Cavs one final chance with his off-balance 3-pointer to pull them within 101-100 with 5.9 seconds left.
The Nets made their free throws and Scott didn’t hesitate giving the ball back to Irving.
He missed a pull-up 3-pointer from well beyond the 3-point line late in Friday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, irritating Scott because he thought it was a bad shot and the point at which the game started to slip away. But Scott couldn’t complain about any of the looks Irving got at the end Saturday.
“That was a good look,” Scott said. “When it left his hand, I thought it was going to be close. That’s the shot we wanted.”
Despite his blazing-hot night from 3-point range, Miles said he understood why Irving gets the priority with the game-tying and winning shots and had no problem deferring to him.
“I understand the situation and what he does and who he is to our team,” Miles said. “He has made plenty of big shots. You know he has the ability to do that. Of course I’m going to make myself available if he needs help, but it doesn’t upset me. But at the same time, if I got a chance to look at it, you best believe it’s going up. I’m not hesitating. I’m going to try and help my team win the game.”
Irving left the locker room without speaking to reporters.
Tyler Zeller struggled most of the night stopping Lopez and ultimately fouled out in the fourth quarter with 12 points and seven rebounds. Tristan Thompson, who stepped in and helped defend Lopez for long stretches, had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The Cavs have now led or trailed by less than six in 21 of their 25 losses. They have been in the game in the final minutes against some of the best teams in the league, but they still haven’t found a way to get key stops or key baskets consistently at the end of games.
“I’m frustrated because I know we’re right there,” Scott said, “but I’m very encouraged because we’re right there, too.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.