In his Final Game at Age 19, Kyrie Irving Drops 29, 9 and 9

Kyrie Irving Getty Atlanta Hawks

In what was his final contest as a teenager, Cavaliers rookie point guard Kyrie Irving may have compiled his most complete game as a professional. Already recording a handful of game-winning shots, including an ice-cold display at the free throw line against the World Champions, Irving fell just shy of a triple-double in Cleveland’s overtime loss to the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks, settling for a team-high 29 points, nine assists and three steals to go with nine rebounds.

But it was not necessarily what Irving did as much as how.

Displaying immense poise early on, Irving played the role of the distributor; power forward Antawn Jamison reaped early benefits, sinking four of his first five shots, scoring 10 points in the first quarter alone. Irving, later sensing the game slipping away but still being within reach, flipped the switch. The rookie subsequently collected 16 of his 29 points in the 12 minutes of play; the first-overall picked checked in with 7:30 remaining in the contest, his team down one point.

Irving has an attack mode. Often quiet and soft-spoken during interviews and a joke-fueled prankster behind locker room walls, the kid turns into a 190-pound dynamo without as much as a friendly warning to the opposition. Jeff Teague, a player who would likely beat Irving to the finish line in a 40-yard dash, was repeatedly torched off of the dribble.

It would surprise few if Atlanta’s Kirk Hinrich was still a bit dizzy after Irving made him look foolish on not one, but two buzzer-beating plays — both moves to Irving’s left after a crossover dribble-turned-spin move had the Kansas product heading to the wrong spot on the floor.

Surely Irving missed what would have been the game-winner, a mid-range jump shot that caromed off of the glass as the clock neared zeroes. And yes, Irving turned the ball over seven times (in 41-plus minutes), an amount that likely drew the ire of head coach Byron Scott despite the rest of the box score. But having the willingness to take the game-winning shot, once again, and possessing the attitude that exudes confidence that, if the game is once again on the line, the decision will rest in his hands.

“It was a tough loss,” said Irving. “Now we have to move on to the next game. I thought my shot at the end was in, but it’s the law of averages. They are not all going to go in.”

It’s this same line of thinking that allowed Irving to buckle down and drain the game-winning lay-up against the Boston Celtics just weeks after missing the exact same shot against the Indiana Pacers. The same point of reference that sets the stage for second-half domination even when the first half doesn’t go as well as planned.

The statistical comparisons of what Irving is accomplishing at such a young age are seemingly boundless. Fox Sports Ohio displayed a graphic wherein Irving is one of five rookies to average over 17 points on at least 47 percent shooting while also dishing out at least five assists. The other four men: Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Grant Hill and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. His 29 points, nine rebounds and nine assists on Wednesday night place him along side John Johnson (1970) and LeBron James (2003) as the only Cavalier rookies to have as many points, rebounds and assists in one contest.

On Friday, Kyrie Irving will turn 20-years old and the Similac-scented teenager narrative will slowly dissipate in to the rear view mirror of this stardom-bound point guard’s career arc. As most of us know all too well, being older is only beneficial when you’re afforded bigger and better things. But in the case of Irving, as he continues to improve seemingly every time he takes to the hardwood, taking on players older and wiser than he, the Cavaliers’ future looks bigger and better than ever.

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    It was a great game and yet also a really disappointing game.  Kyrie was borderline unstoppable in the final 12 minutes or so, just like he has been in every close game this season.  Before that he dished out 7 turnovers though.  Thompson added 5 turnovers… each time because he tried to force his way into an area where he wasn’t going to be able to go.  The turnovers killed the Cavs, especially since they weren’t forcing many.  Also, was disappointed to see Manny Harris subbed out for Anthony Parker late in the game.  Harris was playing well and providing good defense.  Parker got burned on that shot by Joe Johnson to tie the game and force overtime.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Irving will be the ROY by a landslide would have been great to see him get his first trip-dub.  Even with Gee and Thompson he’s having to do way to much IMO.  I’m hoping that scorer who can create and make his own shot is discovered this coming draft OR maybe even free agency.  It’d be nice to see one team in Cleveland use that facet.

  • Murphybrendan68

    It’s funny because I’m happy with this years team already,and hoping they just stay competitive.We are gonna have close losses being such a young team,and Kyrie just keeps impressing.

  • SDA

    Anyone catch the lead on espn? Kyrie misses winning shot. Angers me they don’t give him any credit for the wins but they point out the loss. 

  • Harv 21

    Last night’s game reminded me of Lenny Wilkins’s first year with Price, Daugherty, Harper and a bunch of misfits: moments of wow followed immediately by Lenny ruefully shaking his head with arms crossed when the guys did something boneheaded.  

    Whether and how steeply Tristan and Gee can climb up that NBA learning curve will go a long way to determining how good this rebuild will be. Along with the quality of this summer’s new aquisitions, obviously. Gee especially made some young player mistakes in crunch time – a bad drive, an unnecessary steal attempt-  he’ll hopefully learn from. In the mean time, Byron is wearing that Lenny look an awful lot.

    The more I think about it, the more I think Gee’s ceiling might be the key to this group’s success. With a reliable jumper and that defense, he could be our glue guy, a cog like Bowens, holding the rest of the talent together.