When, oh when, are the Charlotte Bobcats going to get one of these guys?
Kyrie Irving played all of 11 games his single season at Duke, yet the Cleveland Cavaliers still drafted him first overall in 2011. Looked like a pretty valid decision Friday when Irving scored 16 of his teams 20 fourth-quarter points, including a 12-foot pull-up with a second left to beat the Bobcats 106-104.
Point guard Irving was spectacular 33 points, six assists and five rebounds and he needed to be. The Bobcats came all the way back from down 17 to take the lead with just under five minutes left on Ramon Sessions two free throws.
Then Irving beat the Bobcats pretty much single-handedly, scoring 14 of Clevelands final 16 points. Bobcats rookie Jeff Taylor, who coach Mike Dunlap is grooming as this teams defensive stopper, guarded Irving those last few possessions. On the final one Taylor kept Irving from driving by, but couldnt stop the pull-up jump shot in the lane.
Those moments I live for, said Irving, who missed most of his freshman season at Duke with a toe injury. To have the ability to make it, and have the trust of my teammates and the trust of the coaching staff.
No one in the Bobcats locker room understood all that better than captain Gerald Henderson, a fellow Blue Devil. Though Henderson was gone from Durham before Irving arrived, they played a lot of pickup ball together on Dukes campus. Henderson described in detail what makes Irving so dangerous.
You never know what shot hes going to take because he can make so many, Henderson said. You know how good he is off the dribble, so you give him some cushion. But he can make the jump shot.
Hes really special because he can score in so many ways.
All this spoiled an impressive second-half recovery, built mostly on reserve guards Sessions (20 points and 12-of-12 from the foul line) and Ben Gordon (27 points on 11-of-20 shooting).
Sessions and Gordon were so dynamic down the stretch that Bobcats point guard and leading scorer Kemba Walker never played in the fourth quarter. The Bobcats (8-24) outscored the Cavs by 10 in the fourth quarter, but Hendersons desperate 30-footer at the buzzer bounced off the front rim.
Thats not really my range, Henderson said. But it was on line and you always get excited when you see that. But then it hit the rim.
The problems for the Bobcats in the first half were familiar of late a slow start and too many turnovers. With Charlotte committing 10 before halftime, the Cavs kept launching fast breaks to shoot 59 percent.
To reel them back in was impressive, Dunlap said. (But) the lesson learned here is we cant come out flat as a tack.