Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 101-97 victory over the host Suns on Monday.
1. Kyrie Irving may have committed his favorite mistake. In case you missed it, Irving nearly threw the ball away late in the game and the Cavs clinging to a 96-95 lead. It looked as if Irving thought LeBron James would cut to the basket. James didn’t cut. Kyrie passed to the middle of the key anyway.
2. Just when you thought, “OH NO!” J.R. Smith came out of nowhere, running from the corner to save the day. He grabbed the errant pass. He threw it to Kevin Love outside the 3-point line. Love bobbled the ball. It looked like he might lose it. He appeared to think about shooting – but he was closely guarded. The shot clock was winding down. So Love passed to Irving out top.
3. With nothing left to do, Irving shot it. He was way beyond the 3-point line. Money. Cavs win. Kyrie is back.
4. A game off may have served Irving well. In the event you forgot, he rested for the debacle in Portland, where the Cavs got blitzed by the Trail Blazers. He looked refreshed vs. the Suns – scoring a season-high 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He also hit a floater in the lane before his big three. That gave the Cavs a 96-92 edge. Irving played 24 minutes.
5. Kyrie smiled as he told FOX Sports Ohio about his late errant pass, and the 3-pointer that eventually resulted. “Probably one of the ugliest possessions of my career right there,” he said.
6. Meanwhile, LeBron had an “off” night with 14 points on 4-of-10 from the floor. It’s probably why he sounded relieved when speaking of Irving’s return. “It’s a great feeling having the kid back,” James said. “He does so much for our team.”
7. Something Irving said after the loss to the Warriors on Christmas Day has stuck with me. “It’s going to take us some time before we start clicking on all cylinders,” he said. “When we do, I mean … it’s going to be scary.”
8. Smith added 17 points, Love scored 16 and Tristan Thompson collected 10 rebounds while starting for Timofey Mozgov. Cavs coach David Blatt indicated that he is likely to stick with Thompson as the starter for the foreseeable future.
9. Blatt on the final moments: “J.R. Smith made an incredible winning play to save that ball. That ball was going out of bounds and it looked like it would be their possession. He made a fabulous save. Kyrie made a huge shot.”
10. The Cavs (20-9) can barely celebrate, as they travel to Denver to face the Nuggets on Tuesday night. Irving is expected to rest. He says it’s the final time he will do so on a back-to-back.
11. Either way, the Cavs needed this win after two straight losses. It wasn’t a masterpiece. But here’s a newsflash: They’re not all going to be. What matters is they win some road games while getting their rotations figured out and their rhythms back. They managed to pull that off Monday.