Is it possible to be disappointed with a player putting up a career high 55 points against one of the Western Conference’s premier teams?
Strangely enough, that’s exactly what I was feeling when Kyrie was in the upper 40s, his team relinquishing the lead to the Trailblazers for the first time since the game started 2-0. Although only down 3 at that point, with better than 2 minutes to play, the game was far from over. Still, the momentum had been all Blazers over the last few minutes as Cleveland’s offense devolved into wilder and more frantic isolation based possessions demonstrating the absolute void of scoring coming from any non #2 player out there.
I’m not gonna say I wasn’t impressed. Its not like that Ky. Knocking down your tenth triple of the night to reach an All-Star “50 Burger” is enough to snag the #1 seed from Sports Center’s top ten, not to mention breath life into an entire office of painfully awkward adult men who can use “How about Kyrie last night?” much like you or I might use a pickup line at the local farmer’s market. Still, its how he got those points that kind of got under my skin a little.
Look, full disclaimer, this isn’t going to be one of those “What’s wrong with the Cavs?” articles. But at that moment in the fourth quarter, it seriously seemed that one Cavaliers player was going to be putting up a fair amount more than the rest of the team combined. Lebron was sitting this one out. JR hadn’t done any JR things. Kevin Love decided to stop making baskets after the first quarter and melt into the shadows like some gigantic white ghost. (Why do they not run ONE pick and roll play for him and Kyrie??? Just one???)
And yeah, Irving was hot, but the entire offense reminded me of so many Melo-Ball Knicks losses, with Kyrie squirming around double teams and scores of black jerseys, taking worse and worse shots. Why not call some real plays and involve the rest of the team? Why not pass the ball? (Flipping it to your center and then curling back around to get the ball back in a handoff does not really constitute a pass.) The Blazers started each defensive possession with the 6’8″ Batum on Irving and sent a double team at a rate you could set your watch to. It was literally like breaking a diet. Your not supposed to eat that cake. You know that. But it tastes so, soooo good.
Of course, losing this game would have been the equivalent of that post-chocolate sorrow. Another indictment of Irving’s unbelievable me-first tendencies and the Cavaliers’ terrible ball movement without Lebron. No one has ever doubted whether Kyrie can score. That’s never been the issue. The question is whether he can lead a team; both against high quality opposition like tonight, and beyond into the postseason. And for the nitpicker in me that can find the flaw, even in a 50 point outing, that was exactly what I was going to write this article about.
And then that last 3. Score tied at 94, 27 seconds left to play. Every single Blazer on the court knows who to keep their eyes on. And, like a fucking gunslinger in a Wild West movie Kyrie just walks up to the 3 point line, taking his time as precious seconds slip off the clock. AND THEN CANS IT!!!
The stadium went crazy. I went crazy. The announcing crew, who earlier that night had broken out the “Going XBOX on them!” broke into giddy, uncontrollable laughter before one of them saying “He’s doing everything but selling popcorn!”.
It was an undeniably ballsy move. A huge in-your-face-dagger to cap an historic performance, and put away a great game. A powerful message that Irving is more than ready to be the running mate Lebron so desperately needs. That the Cavs can contend with best of them, and keep their win streak running even with the captain on the bench. But mostly, just like the cake, it was really, really tasty.