In case you haven’t heard the word on the street, Kyrie Irving is ready to be a superstar in the NBA. He’s been making his case all season, but he added even more to his résumé in the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-110 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.
Irving finished with a game-high 35 points, also adding three assists and three rebounds to the box score. However, that doesn’t tell the story of how dominant Irving was, especially in the fourth quarter.
The Cavs earned eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but allowed the Thunder to come back and take a 101-100 lead. After that, the guy that Cleveland fans call “Mr. Fourth Quarter” showed why he’s earned that moniker.
In the final 2:51 of the game Irving scored 13 points. In comparison, Oklahoma City only scored nine points over that same stretch. Just for good measure, the only other two points that Cleveland scored over that stretch was off an Irving assist.
Even more impressive than just his totals, Irving was also perfect from the field and from the foul line in those final moments, shooting 5-5 from the floor, 1-1 from long-range and 2-2 from the charity stripe.
That’s what Irving has been doing in crunch-time all season, though.
According to clutch statistics which are defined as stats in the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes left and neither team having more than a five-point lead, Irving has been unreal in the clutch this season.
When his clutch statistics are translated into per-48 minute stats, Irving is averaging 52.9 points and 5.8 assists per-48 minutes in the clutch, as well as posting a phenomenal 52.3 effective field goal percentage, which factors in that three-pointers are worth more than twos. That’s absurdly good.
But it’s more than just statistics. Irving plays fearlessly when he has the ball in his hands in the clutch. This was never more evident than a week ago against the Toronto Raptors when he slowly dribbled up the court, pulled-up and drained a 27-footer as time expired to win the game. He looked like it was just another shot.
He also never looks like he’s only in the second year of his career in these situations, which is actually what makes what he’s doing so amazing. He hasn’t even entered his prime yet and is already making a case to be a superstar and proving he’s one of the best clutch-players in the league.
If Irving continues this type of play, specifically his elevated crunch-time performing, we might need to start talking about him in the same conversation as LeBron James and Kevin Durant before long.