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Sunday, January 27th, 2013 at 9:00 am  |  60 responses

Post Up: Clutch

Kyrie Irving beat the Raptors from way downtown in the final seconds on Saturday night.

by Leo Sepkowitz | @LeoSepkowitz

Kyrie Irving and Gerald Henderson both delivered game-winning threes last night. Even with the Ws, Cleveland and Charlotte have combined for only as many wins as the Rockets. Sorry—I had to. Let’s get to it.

Cavaliers (13-32) 99, Raptors (16-28) 98
The Cavs trailed by 11 early in the fourth before they made a late push. For the second straight night, Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Shaun Livingston led a comeback, and for the second straight night Kyrie Irving iced the game—in a big, big way.

Down two points with 12 seconds left, Irving took the ball up slowly before launching a very deep three. He, of course, drained the shot, putting his Cavs up a point with .7 left. I demand that you watch the highlight below, because the calmness that the second-year man displayed before hitting the game-winner was truly scary to see from a 20-year old. After his three, Toronto couldn’t convert, and Cleveland pulled off the come-from-behind W.

Irving dropped 32 on 13-of-26 shooting. He’s now scored 30+ seven times this month, and the Cavs are 6-1 in those games. They’re 0-6 when he scores under 30 in January. He’s done it in three straight games and, you guessed it, Cleveland’s got a three-game win streak. More on Kyrie in a moment.

Tristan Thompson added 14 and 8, and Tyler Zeller grabbed 12 rebounds. Speights finished with 17 off the bench, and already looks like a tremendous add for Cleveland.

Toronto had five players score in double-figures. Amir Johnson was the high-man with 18. He also tallied 12 rebounds. Ed Davis posted 16 and 9.

Here’s the part where my love for Irving comes flying out: I’ve been doing the weekend Post Up all season, and Irving is the first guy to headline the column on consecutive days. I tried to work his numbers into the game summary smoothly but couldn’t because there are too many great ones to cover. Here they are: 24+ points (47.5 percent), 5.5 assists, 3.5 boards, 1.7 steals, 2 threes (41 percent) and 4.4 free throws (85 percent) per night. He hasn’t averaged worse than 22 points or 45 percent shooting in any month this season (neither Kobe nor Melo can say the same).

I know the Cavs’ position in the standings makes it hard to take those numbers seriously when comparing him to the League’s other great players, but he’s quickly developing into a borderline top-10 talent. LeBron, KD, CP3, Melo, Kobe, Howard and pre-injury-Rose are/were better, but it becomes a game of take-your-pick from there. I hope everyone takes their picks in the comments section, and for argument’s sake I’ll take mine right here (in no order after 1-2)—James, Durant, Paul, Anthony, Howard, Bryant, Griffin, Irving, Westbrook, Rondo. Leaving off Deron Williams (hasn’t been great in two or three years) and Tony Parker was tough.

76ers (18-25) 97, Knicks (26-15) 80
Philly dominated the Knicks last night. They led by five after one, 12 after two and 26 after three before New York made things look slightly interesting. Jrue Holiday continued his all-star season by shooting 16-of-25 for a huge 35 points to lead all scorers. Both Nick Young and Evan Turner added 20. Strangely, the Sixers got only eight points from their bench in the win.

New York’s leading scorer was Carmelo Anthony with 25, but he needed 28 shots to get there. Simply, they need him to be much better than that to have a chance. Amar’e Stoudmire was a very solid 8-of-13 off the bench, and finished with 20 points. He played 27 minutes and seems to be getting better every game. New York was an abysmal 4-of-27 from downtown on the night.

Wizards (11-31) 86, Bulls (26-17) 73
Since John Wall’s return to the Wizards, Washington is 6-3 with all three of their losses coming on the road and by a total of just 12 points. Last night, they easily beat the solid Bulls.

Washington led by six at halftime, but pulled away in the third by outscoring Chicago 23-11. Wall scored 15 with 7 assists but 4 turnovers. Emeka Okafor was dominant with 15 and 16, while Nene was the team’s high-scorer with 16.

The Bulls got a massive game from Joakim Noah—9 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists—but not much from his supporting cast. In fact, no Chicago starter scored 10 or more points. Nate Robinson was the only Bulls player with double-figures. He scored 19 off the bench.

Bobcats (11-32) 102, Timberwolves (17-24) 101
Minnesota led by 11 at the break before being outplayed badly in the second half. Still, they led 101-99 after a Ricky Rubio jumper, but an unbelievably sweet—though desperate—three from Gerald Henderson gave Charlotte a late lead. JJ Barea couldn’t convert late, and the ‘Cats won their fourth game in 31 tries.

Kemba led the team with 25 points, and Ramon Sessions was huge off the bench with 23 (7/11 shooting). Henderson added 15, while Bismack Biyombo double-doubled with 10 and 13. He also blocked 2 shots.

Minnesota got 22 from Luke Ridnour and 19 from Barea. Rubio piled up 14 points, 8 assists and 5 steals, and was amazingly a +23 while on the floor in the loss.

Rockets (24-22) 119, Nets (26-18) 106
Deron Williams dropped 20 points in the first quarter last night, but finished with 27 and the Rockets won pretty easily. Houston outscored Brooklyn by 14 in the second quarter, and maintained their 13-point halftime lead until the end.

James Harden made 13-of-14 free throws and finished with a game-high 29 for Houston. Omer Asik (20 and 16) and Chandler Parsons (16 and 11 dimes) both double-doubled for the Rockets. Parsons is now averaging roughly 14 points, 6 boards and 3.5 assists this season—perfect numbers for a fourth option on a great team. Unfortunately for Houston, he’s really their second or third option offensively. The Rockets were on fire from deep, knocking down 12-of-28 attempts from downtown.

The Nets shot 44.4 percent (16-of-36) from three, but couldn’t buy a defensive stop. Houston can be very tough to slow down some nights, especially when they’re playing at home. They’re capable of taking a great team to five or six interesting games in the Playoffs this year. That’s pretty impressive considering that nearly all of their players weren’t there last season. Williams led the Nets in scoring, and also tallied 11 assists. Brook Lopez posted 21 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks while Reggie Evans did what he does best: 1 point and 8 boards.

Houston won the rebounding battle 50-31 and scored 60 points in the paint compared to the Nets’ 24.

Bucks (23-19) 109, Warriors (26-17) 102
Milwaukee killed the Warriors in the third quarter (35-19), but this was still a tight game. A three by Monta Ellis with about 30 seconds remaining iced the contest.

Ellis finished with with 20 points on 20 shots against his old team. Each of Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova had points-rebounds double-doubles for the Bucks, and Brandon Jennings went for 20 points (5 threes), 7 dimes and 6 boards.

Stephen Curry led Golden State with 26 (8/19), but didn’t get enough help from his teammates. Klay Thompson was 3-of-11 from beyond the arc, David Lee was 6-of-18 from the field and Harrison Barnes attempted just three shots.

Golden State has lost at least two straight games three separate times this month already, and I, for one, certainly hope they right the ship. A few weeks ago, they looked like a team capable of knocking off the Grizzlies or Clippers in the first round, depending on who they draw.

Be sure to check out a massive throwdown Barnes had last night below—

Spurs (36-11) 108, Suns (15-29) 99
Phoenix was within three at halftime and up one after three quarters before San Antonio dominated the fourth quarter. An 82-81 Phoenix advantage evaporated into a 100-90 deficit with four minutes to play.

Tony Parker followed up his 23 and 11 performance on Friday with 31 (13/17) and 7 last night. He’s averaging over 20 points per game on nearly 53 percent shooting with 7.5 assists per night. That’s roughly 3.5 more points and 2 fewer assists than Chris Paul while shooting 5.4 percentage points better from the floor (that’s a big gap). I ain’t sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

Manu Ginobili has had an inconsistent season, but scored 20 point off the bench in just 22 minutes.

A bunch of guys played well for the Suns, who certainly seem to be playing hard for new coach Lindsey Hunter. Michael Beasley led the team with 25 points off the bench. He was a very efficient 11-of-16 and added 6 rebounds. Jared Dudley was even better, knocking down 10-of-12 shots (7-of-7 from inside the three-point line). He finished with 23 points. Goran Dragic tallied 10 assists with just 2 turnovers, Marcin Gortat grabbed 12 rebounds and PJ Tucker double-doubled with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Nuggets (27-18) 121, Kings (16-29) 93
This is the type of score that seems a little closer than it really is at first glance. Don’t be fooled by Sacramento’s 93 points—they lost by every bit of 28 last night. They were outscored by 14, 8 and 10 in the first three quarters, respectively.

Ty Lawson dropped 26 for Denver, and Andre Iguodala added 20. 13 different guys played for Denver, and 11 of them made at least one shot. The team shot 53 percent from the field.

The Kings made 42 percent of their shots, but only 11-of-22 free throws. Aaron Brooks was the leading scorer with 16 off the bench, and rookie Thomas Robinson double-doubled with 10 points and 10 rebounds. He’s taken a while to get going, but been productive when given a chance to play lately.

Jazz (24-20) 114, Pacers (26-18) 110
This was a great game between a pair of pretty similar teams. Both are great at home (the Pacers are 16-3 in Indy and the Jazz 15-4 in Utah). Both are prone to some offensively inept games, but can play some tight defense and score inside when it counts.

On Saturday night, the led Jazz 78-68 with 11:30 left and 98-92 with 1:37 left before the Pacers got back in it. A few consecutive stops by Indiana led to buckets from David West and George Hill before Paul George knotted the game with a pair of free throws with nine seconds left. Gordon Hayward couldn’t convert on the final play of regulation, sending the game into overtime.

In OT, a tough three from George cut a six-point deficit to three with 30 seconds remaining. The Pacers got the ball back with 12 seconds left, but a great defensive play by Hayward won the game for the Jazz.

Al Jefferson led all scorers with 25 for Utah. He only grabbed 6 rebounds, though, and the Jazz as a whole totaled only 28. 22 Indiana turnovers made up for the poor work on the glass. Paul Millsap added 21.

West went for 24 and 7 for the Pacers, and added 3 blocks. George hit 3 threes and scored 23 points, but committed 6 turnovers. Roy Hibbert double-doubled with 14 and 12, but had 4 turnovers of his own. Hill scored 22 with 9 boards and 8 dimes. Lance Stephenson had a brutal game, shooting 0-of-4 with 4 turnovers.

Trail Blazers (22-21) 101, Clippers (32-13) 100
Portland led for much of this game, but the Clippers took a 100-91 lead with 2:38 remaining. The Blazers didn’t panic, though, and closed the game on a 10-0 run. JJ Hickson free throws with 45 ticks left proved to be game-winning.

Hickson finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Nicolas Batum was amazing, triple-doubling with 20 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He knocked down 4 threes, and has finally proved everybody who believed in his potential (myself not included) that he’s well worth the big contract Portland gave him over the summer. Rookie Damian Lillard dropped 20.

Blake Griffin took on a distributing role for LA with Chris Paul out of the lineup, and he racked up 10 assists to go with 24 points and 8 rebounds. Jamal Crawford—who’s been great off the bench but certainly does not deserve to be an all star—scored 19.

On a related note, fellow sixth man JR Smith—currently having his worst shooting season since ’05-06 at 39.5 percent—doesn’t have a case, either. Feel free to try argue with me in the comments section, but neither guy is even close.

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  • Max

    That slam by Barnes was sick.
    How come he only takes like 4 shots each game?

  • Leo Sepkowitz

    Hasn’t taken more than 5 shots since Jan 16. Good scorer when he gets involved, does nothing when he doesn’t feel like it. Totally confusing and frustrating.

  • spit hot fiyah

    feel good about my kyrie/arenas comparison from yesterday after that game winner. vintage Gilbert from the early washingtion Days,
    nice play there by the Bobcats, just like they drew it up right

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    I dare anybody to watch Kyrie play now, think about how he’ll be in 2 years, and then try to tell me that LeBron wouldn’t at least think about going back to Cleveland if he opts out in 2014 and they have the cap space. You’re out of your mind.

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    I’m not sure those are related it depends I think if Lebron’s won enough, he probably just wants to end his career with his hometown team.

  • RKJ92

    I think Kyrie will be better, he’s deff already more efficient

  • RKJ92

    That’s what I been saying!! LeBron is DEFF thinking about it as we speak I mean c’mon just think of what that team could be with him..

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    But he also plays with Curry, Thompson and Lee who average like 15 shots each if not more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rainman1991 Saleem Rainman

    when are people going to talk about the fact that he has some of the worst court vision of any starting PG in the league though? His scoring is just fine , he’s beastly in that sense, and he’s got a killer instinct. But he’s basically a SG in a PG’s body imo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rainman1991 Saleem Rainman

    In the jazz game, Utah won the game off of a BS call. Last i checked, when you are trying to inbound the ball, and it hits the side of the backboard…thats outta bounds. It hit the side of the backboard before any foul was committed as well. Horrible reffing.

  • Caboose

    He’s like a younger Westbrook with less driving and more range.

  • Lorne

    That’s not exactly a bad outlook for him. I’d like to see him get a few more assists but hopefully, like Westbrook, that will develop overtime. Westbrook is an underrated passer imo.

  • Caboose

    In order, the 15 best players THIS SEASON ONLY:
    LeBron, Durant, Paul, Westbrook, Wade, Bryant, Melo, Parker, Rondo, Dwight, Duncan, Griffin, Harden, Kyrie, Lee.

  • Caboose

    Nowadays he’s underrated. He was BAD his first couple years.

  • Caboose

    Kyrie/LeBron vs Westbrook/Durant rivalry could be better than Bird/Magic.

  • Redd

    No Jimmy Butler today guys..

  • Redd

    Kyrie needs to stay healthy.

  • initbruv

    Check again then. The rule says the 4 sides and obviously the front of the backboard are inbounds.

  • Caboose

    Damn. Every time I open my heart.

  • Redd

    Tomorrow, you’ve got to feel pain to know love, he won’t let u down.

  • Lorne

    Yeah it was bad. I don’t think Kyrie is as much of a bonehead as Westbrook was with his decision making so I see him being slightly better in a couple of years…In other news, Rondo apparently tore his ACL. I see the Celts not making the playoffs as a result of this.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    Kyrie will develop more PG skills, but LeBron already has them. If LeBron can play with Wade (which he’s proven he can), he can play with Kyrie.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    He’ll probably have at least 1 more championship by that time. He only needs 4 rings in my opinion to be considered better than Kobe all-time (since Kobe only has 2 as the best player on his team, 3 as the number 2 guy behind Shaq). He and Kyrie together would be a nightmare for any team other than the Bulls in the East.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    I agree.

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    That’s true I guess. But I’m glad we picked up Marrese Speights, he’s showing up for the team already.

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    When is Deng back?

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    There’s no way you can put Dwight there this season ahead of players like David Lee.

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    boom

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    He’s definitely a good pickup for the Cavs.

  • Leo Sepkowitz

    Wade 5th? C’mon now, he’s had the worst season of anybody on that list. I’d take Curry over him, too.

  • Redd

    Not sure but I have a feeling he’ll return Bobcats, he was supposedly going to play last night.

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    Wish he played last night the Bulls needed him

  • http://twitter.com/thursti_tyht Thurstian Tsui

    That list has some obvious errors lol

  • z

    You are overrating Dwight and Wade.

  • Redd

    We needed Jordan last night, jeez.

  • jason

    They’d be a nightmare for the Bulls same as any other team in team in the East. Rose and the Bulls are great in the reg season, but they aren’t beating any team lead by Bron in his prime.

  • Caboose

    21-5-5 on 52% shooting with a 23.8 PER, a higher Offensive Rating than Kobe, a better Defensive Rating than Harden, and more win shares per 48 than most of the guys on here. He’s fine right where he is, I believe.

  • Caboose

    Regardless how bad Dwight’s season has been, he’s still playing pretty damn good defense. Substantially better than Lee.

  • Caboose

    4? If he keeps up his current stat pace for…let’s say 4 more years (and therefore grabs probably one more MVP), he needs 2 rings to pass Kobe in my mind.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    They wouldn’t be a nightmare for the Bulls. A nightmare to me is a team that you have no chance of beating. The Bulls, with the way they play defense and with Rose’s ability to score…the only kind of team that can beat them in a series is a team that has more than 1 great scorer. So the Cavs/Bulls, if LeBron went there, would end up being similar to the Heat/Bulls matchups the last 2 seasons. Tough games that come down to the final few minutes. The Bulls last season would have put up a much better fight against the Heat in the Conference Finals if Rose had been playing (they would have easily gotten by Philly and beaten the Celtics or whoever they played in the 2nd round).

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    I’ll agree with that. I see him getting at least 2 or 3 more MVPs regardless of where he’ll be playing.

  • Caboose

    Agreed. A 5 time MVP with 2 rings passes Kobe. And puts him near the top 5. I think for him to get to #2, he needs 6 MVP’s, and 4 rings. To pass Jordan? 6 MVP’s, 7 rings. At least.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    The fact that he’s lost twice in the Finals will hurt him when he’s compared to Jordan. But being 2nd behind Jordan isn’t so bad. If he gets to 4 rings, that Jordan-LeBron discussion will be a great one to have. Better than the Kobe-Jordan discussion that people have been having.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Why the fuq is Kyle Lowry backing up Jose Calderon? THAT is why the Raptors are headed straight for the lottery… and also why their lottery pick is going straight to OKC, because they traded it for Kyle Lowry. LOL, the Raptors’ front office continues to exceed the meaning of Charles Barkley’s “turrible.”

  • jason

    Losing once in the finals MIGHT hurt him. The first time helps because Jordan never made it that far that early in his career. Jordan was 28 when he finally made it to the Finals. You can’t knock Lebron for something Jordan couldn’t even accomplish.

  • jason

    They played close games and the Bulls won once in the post season. Once in five games, against a Heat team that lost in the Finals. Lebron was more than effective against Rose, who is his team;s main option. I highly doubt the Bulls would have put up a better fight than the Celtics last year…Now Kyrie plus a prime Lebron against the Bulls, I’m taking that tandem every time over DRose and the Bulls. I have no qualms with saying that.

  • Leo Sepkowitz

    Just found an amazing stat while researching about your comment: Raptors this season when Lowry starts: 2-13. Raptors when Calderon starts: 14-15. Pretty shocking. Will have to incude that in the next Post Up!

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    We never saw Rose with Hamilton together in the postseason. Last years Bulls team would have been able to score better with Hamilton than they did the season before in the Conference Finals. LeBron was effective defending Rose because everyone knew that Rose had no one who could consistently help him create or finish plays.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    LeBron has lost twice, once in ’07 and in ’11. Jordan went 6 for 6, never let it get to Game 7. That’s huge. Never once did anyone question who was the most dominant player on the floor. Not knocking LeBron. Simply saying that he has lost twice in the Finals. That’s a fact. Kobe also has that going against him. Both have lost twice in the Finals. Both had moments in the playoffs where they disappeared. Jordan never did.

  • z

    Hamilton won’t be as much trouble as you think. Wade may not be the Wade of old but when he wants to play D he’s a pest. The biggest thing is that the Heat realistically have three formidable options on offense, one of which the Bulls cannot stop. I just can’t see anyone in the East, including the Bulls, being something a championship seasoned Heat team can’t get through in 5-6 games.

  • theDankerNuggets

    Chris Paul’s absence is really starting to show. Watching this team without him really helps one understand how much he is able to lift this group of talented players up to an elite level by filling in every area where players struggle and getting them the ball in places and situations they really excel. Chris Paul is the MVP of the season up to this point

  • LakeShow

    Ahahahaahaha!!!!

  • LakeShow

    Not a chance.

  • LakeShow

    No… It wouldn’t.
    Sorry, thought you said, “would be.”

  • Caboose

    I’m sorry, 1. Kobe, 2. Durant, 3. LeBron….. 372. Pau Gasol.

  • LakeShow

    still dumb. Just do it right…

    Durant
    LeBron
    Chris Paul
    Kobe Bryant
    Melo
    Parker
    Kyrie
    Duncan
    Dwight
    Griffin
    Curry

  • Caboose

    Typical lack of defense ANYWHERE on your list.

  • LakeShow

    Yeah your right, my top 3 players aren’t great 2 way players.
    With two other great defenders rounding out the rest.

  • Caboose

    Well, putting Durant over LeBron is ridiculous, as nbk already showed you. Neglecting Wade is unbelievable. Kyrie that high is laughable. Curry as well.

  • LakeShow

    Yeah it is unbelievable because I forgot him ha.
    Well, as we both know, neither of us have any respect for the others opinion, so I suppose we were meant to disagree.

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