It is no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled mightily this season when LeBron James doesn't play. That was not the case tonight. Kyrie Irving played the game of his life to single-handedly beat the Portland Trail Blazers, and give the Cavs their eighth straight win.
Irving started the game off slowly, missing his first seven shots from the field. Still, even while he was missing shots, he did a great job of getting his teammates involved with four early assists.
Eventually, his shots started falling, and with just over a minute left in the game, he hit a game-tying three-pointer that gave him 50 points for the night. It was the first 50-point game by a member of the Cavs since March of 2009.
Minutes later, it looked like Irving's heroic effort might be for nothing. With under 30 seconds left and the Cavs up by two, LaMarcus Aldridge, who was also tremendous all night long, spun around Timofey Mozgov and drew a foul. He then tied the game from the line.
But Irving would not be denied a victory. With 6.4 seconds left, he cooly pulled up off the dribble and drained a 25-foot three over Nicolas Batum to give the Cavs the lead for good. After Damian Lillard missed a potential game-tying three, Irving hit a pair of free throws to finish the game with a career-high 55 points.
There are those who would have you believe that Irving is not good enough to be the best player on a good team. Maybe that was true in the past. But the player I watched tonight was on another level. He's grown quite a bit since coming into the league, and I'm not sure he gets enough credit for that.
It should be noted that the reserves for the All-Star Game will be announced tomorrow. Voting is already complete.
Also of note is the fact that Kevin Love had a really tough night. He looked out of place for much of the game, and he finished 3-of-15 from the floor. In the fourth quarter, he banged knees with another guy under the basket. It looked bad, but he remained in the game. At this point though, it seems like he could probably use a break.
The Cavs have won eight games in a row to get to 27-20 on the season, just three games behind the Bulls in the Central Division.