7:30 PM ET, February 4, 2012
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
CLEVELAND -- One spectacular late-game layup in a week wasn't enough for rookie Kyrie Irving.
So, the cool-as-ice kid dropped in another.
Irving made a driving layup in traffic with 15.8 seconds left -- one similar to the shot he made last Sunday in Boston -- to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a 91-88 win Saturday night over the Dallas Mavericks, who were unable to stop the 19-year-old sensation when it mattered most.
"Big players make big plays," said Mavericks guard Delonte West. "Irving made some big plays down the stretch."
Irving, who has shown a knack for last-second drama in his first season, finished with 20 points, 7 assists and just one turnover in 36 minutes. Anderson Varejao added 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Cavs, who outscored the Mavericks 10-3 over the final 4:13.
After thrilling a crowd of 17,443 and helping the Cavs get their first win over a team with an above .500 record this season, Irving was brought back on the floor to be interviewed over the loudspeakers in Quicken Loans Arena.
"I have one thing to say, Kyrie," the arena's in-game host said. "Welcome to Cleveland."
Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points for Dallas and passed Elgin Baylor for 22nd place on the NBA's scoring list. But the Mavericks didn't score a field goal in the final 4:13, missing five shots and making one turnover. They won't get a chance to redeem themselves until Wednesday at Denver.
"It's ugly, especially since we have to sit on this one for a couple of days," Nowitzki said. "We'll enjoy our day off, the best we can, and come back to work."
Irving, who is averaging 22.8 points in his last four games, took over in the final minutes. There was no hesitation in any move. Irving knew what he wanted to do, and he did it.
"I just feel my teammates' confidence going down the stretch," he explained. "They continue to give me the ball and they have the confidence in me to make the right play for myself and for them. Once you have that confidence, it's easy going into the fourth quarter.
"Being a rookie and having the ball in your hands, most people would be nervous, but I'm really not. I feed off my teammates' confidence, it feels good."
So, when does he get nervous?
"I get nervous before almost every game," he said, chuckling. "Once I get in the game, nerves go out the window. If you play nervous you're most likely unprepared."
After Irving's twisting layup, Jason Terry missed an off-balance 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left for Dallas. After a replay review gave the Mavericks a final chance, Brandan Wright missed a desperation shot at the horn.
Before hitting his late layup, Irving made a similar one -- after Varejao's seventh offensive rebound -- with 2:36 left to give the Cavs an 87-86 lead.
The Mavericks, who were so efficient on the way to their title last season, seemed lost on offense in the closing minutes. Terry missed with 2:14 to go and he made a bad pass in the lane to a cutting Nowitzki, who then had his own miss with one minute left.
Varejao dropped a runner in the lane to put the Cavaliers ahead 89-86 with 41.4 seconds left. Terry's two free throws got the Mavericks within one, and that's when Irving, Cleveland's young star, put the game in his hands.
He drove the left side, created some space near the basket and flipped in his shot right-handed off the glass.
"He's a very good young player, but we didn't guard him very well," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He'll be a foundation piece for more than a decade for sure."
Cavs coach Byron Scott was more than willing to let Irving take control.
""We put the ball in his hands and let him make decisions," Scott said. "He has a unique ability to get to the basket. When he gets there, he has a way of finishing. Once he gets around guys, he is just a great finisher and he can finish with either hand."
Down by eight at halftime and playing ragged offensive, the Cavaliers reeled off 13 straight points in the third quarter, in which they outscored the Mavericks 27-13 and somehow took a 70-64 lead into the fourth.
"I heard some things about it," Carlisle said. "Last year was great for us. We know people were pulling for us and that was one of the special things about it."
The Mavericks, who played their fifth game without point guard Jason Kidd (calf) were cheered during pregame introductions by Cavaliers fans, who were especially noisy for Nowitzki, the finals MVP last season.
But the loudest ovations came later for Irving. He's not only proving to be worthy of the No. 1 overall pick but showing superstar qualities.
And he's only getting started.
Nowitzki needs 23 points to tie Adrian Dantley (23,177) for 21st place. ... Varejao has 51 rebounds in his last four games. He is the first Cavs player to get 15 in three straight since Brad Daugherty in 1994. ... Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, fined $75,000 &earlier this week for criticizing officials, was not with the team and spending more money. He was in Indianapolis hosting a Super Bowl party. ... Scott didn't hesitate when asked to predict the Super Bowl. "Giants 27 to 21," said the former Lakers guard. "You guys should know that I don't like anything from Boston -- Celtics, Red Sox or Patriots." ... The Cavs were still without G Daniel Gibson (neck), G Anthony Parker (back) and rookie F Tristan Thompson (ankle). Gibson was hospitalized earlier this week in Boston and Scott said the team's doctors want to re-evaluate him before deciding when he can return.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||32-67 (.478)||37-93 (.398)|
|3PM-3PA||6-13 (.462)||6-23 (.261)|
|FTM-FTA||18-27 (.667)||11-15 (.733)|
|Fast Break Points||2||8|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (0/0)||18 (2/0)|