Irving hits game-winning shot for Cavaliers

John Delong, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Cleveland Cavaliers usually turn to Kyrie Irving down the stretch, but maybe never quite like they did on Friday night.
Irving scored 16 of the Cavs' final 18 points and hit the game-winning, 12-foot jumper with 1.0 second remaining to give the Cavs a 106-104 win over the Charlotte Bobcats.
The second-year guard finished with 33 points, coming to the rescue on a night when the Cavs let an 18-point second-half lead disappear completely.
"Those are the moments I kind of live for," Irving said afterward. "To have the ability to make it and have the trust of my teammates and the trust of the coaching staff, it's a blessing, honestly. I'm glad I hit the shot and I'm glad we got a win in Charlotte."
"He's special," said Charlotte's Gerald Henderson, a fellow Duke alum. "He really is special, because he can score in so many ways."
Irving's heroics came after the Cavs inbounded with 16.0 seconds left and the score tied 104-104, after Henderson had hit a short jumper for the Bobcats.
Irving took the inbounds pass, found himself matched up against 6-7 Jeffery Taylor, and let the clock wind down. Eventually he started to drive on Taylor, then pulled up in the lane and hit the fallaway 12-footer with one second left.
Charlotte then had a chance to win but Henderson's 3-point attempt missed at the buzzer.
"I just read the defense," Irving said of the his game-winner. "Obviously he's taller than me, but he's not going to stop me from going where I want to go. I just created space and shot my mid-range pull-up."
Cavs coach Byron Scott said that his orders in the huddle were for Irving to take the shot no matter what.
"The last shot of the game we told him we just wanted him to take the last shot - flatten everybody out, didn't matter who was guarding you, take the shot," Scott said. "And he was able to do that. I think he has the ultimate confidence in himself and his ability to get anywhere on the floor he wants to. Obviously he has the killer instinct to take the last shot. He doesn't mind being the goat if he misses. He doesn't mind whatsoever. It takes a lot of guts to take those shots."
Irving's scoring spree actually started with 7:15 left, when he hit two free throws to give Cleveland a 90-82 lead. He scored 14 straight Cleveland points in that stretch, including two key 3-pointers. Cleveland's only other points in the final seven minutes were two free throws by Tristin Thompson with 36.3 seconds left, which gave the Cavs a 104-102 lead.
Thompson finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, and C.J. Miles finished with 18 points. Miles had 15 in the first half, when the Cavs pulled out to a 17-point lead at one point and led 62-48 at halftime. Cleveland's biggest lead came at 81-63 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Scott was unhappy that the Cavs didn't put the Bobcats away when they had the chance.
"Our guys never seem to make it easy on us," Scott said. "I told them we have to find a way to have a killer instinct and don't relax and allow them to get back into the game. You can't relax just because you're 18 points up, and that's what I thought we did tonight. They got more aggressive and we got on our heels. We have to get to the point where we're more aggressive. Sometimes you've got to act like you're down 18, not up 18."
The Cavs snapped a three-game losing streak with the win and improved to 8-26.
Charlotte (8-24) was trying to win back-to-back games after snapping an 18-game losing streak with a 91-81 win at Chicago on Monday.
Ben Gordon led the Bobcats with 27 points and Ramon Sessions scored 20. Henderson finished with 17, and Taylor and Kemba Walker finished with 11 each.
"We waited too long to do what we did," Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. "The lesson learned here is that we can't come out flat as a tack and give up those kind of points early."
Notes: The Cavs were missing center Anderson Varejao because of a right knee contusion, and were without guard Daniel Gibson due to a concussion. ... Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Tyrus Thomas were back in uniform for the Bobcats. Kidd-Gilchrist missed the 91-81 win at Chicago on Monday with a corneal abrasion of his right eye. Thomas returned Friday after missing the previous 23 games with a strained left calf. The Bobcats were without Byron Mullens for the fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle. ... The Cavs were starting their 12th back-to-back already this season on Friday night, with a home game against Houston to follow on Saturday. By contrast, the Bobcats have played only nine sets of back-to-back games so far this season. ... The Bobcats will hit the road next for a road game against Detroit on Sunday and will play four of their next five games on the road.

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