If you're like me, there are countless things you missed about Kyrie Irving over the first 24 games of the season. Whether it was the ankle-breaking crossover or the majestic layups hit from every angle, there was one thing above all else that made us eager to see him back to what makes him so special: the fourth quarter magic.
While the Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to work out the kinks to their high-powered offense, Irving made sure that an improved offensive performance from the previous three games would not go to waste, hitting not one, scoring the Cavs' final seven points, including two big shots in the final minutes in their 101-97 win over the Phoenix Suns.
As Irving was looking to regain his confidence and find his footing on the offensive end, the Cavs as a team were looking to find their rhythm and jumpstart an offense that had been struggling of late. Over the last three games, the Cavs had failed to score more than 92 points while also shooting less than 39 percent from the field, and desperately needed anything to jumpstart their offense back to where it was in their first 20 games of the season.
Through three quarters, it seemed like everything on the offensive end was starting to get figured out. The Cavs entered the fourth with 81 points and were getting shots that weren't dropping in their previous games to fall against the Suns tonight. J.R. Smith was being J.R. Smith, hitting 5-of-his-11 three-pointers, with most of those makes being at a high level of difficulty, and Kevin Love was getting his own shots with LeBron James and Irving surrounding him, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Yet as soon as the final quarter began, the offensive woes crept back up to the Cavs. Too many isolations from LeBron and the rest of the team struggling to hit shots that were falling in the first three quarters. With a once nine-point lead down to one and the offense in another funk, the Cavs turned to the player they had been counting on to step up in situations like this: Kyrie Irving.
Irving scored seven points in the fourth, yet none were bigger than the three-pointer he hit with 21.0 seconds left in the game. It wasn't the prettiest of possessions for the Cavs, as two errant passes ended up in their own hands. The last one found Love, who found eventually found Irving at the top of key wide open, just getting the ball out of his hands before the shot clock expired and connecting on a three-pointer that gave the Cavs a four-point lead and essentially clinching the a win for the Cavs, ending their a two-game losing streak.
For the first time in a long time, we finally get to see the Irving that we've come to know and love. Although he still isn't exactly where he wants to be nor at the level we have seen him before, the flashes of offensive brilliance and the clutch shooting are encouraging. And as someone who thought it might take longer for him to be "back" than most people did, tonight's game was a sign of good things to come for Irving.