CLEVELAND -- Pressure has a way of proving someone is tough enough to handle difficult situations or will wilt under the scrutiny that comes with added attention and higher stakes.
Fortunately, for the Cleveland Cavaliers, emerging veteran point guard Kyrie Irving continues to show just how comfortable he is in helping to lead a franchise through the NBA Playoffs, where the lights are the brightest and the pressure is highest because of the pursuit of the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“I feel this attitude that I have is now definitely putting me in a position to be successful out there on the floor,” Irving said following the Game 5 win over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals Thursday night.
“But none of that happens without the teammates that I have and the unbelievable selflessness that they have. That selfless nature allows me to be who I am truly, so I'm just grateful for that.”
From hitting the championship-winning shot against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals to stepping up at a time when small forward LeBron James was struggling through foul trouble against the Celtics, Irving has never shied away from that kind of stage.
By making nine of his 15 looks at the basket, including four triples, point guard Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and assisted on seven other Cavaliers hoops in the closeout win over the Celtics at TD Garden in Boston, a victory that locked up Cleveland’s third straight trip to the NBA Finals.
“I just think I'm seeing the floor a lot better than I was in my younger years,” Irving said. “I'm understanding where teams are coming from to double-team or come over and help. Just watching a lot of film and dedicating myself to the game.
“Not cheating it, not trying to skip any steps. Understanding that every game that I get a chance to go out there and play is a chance for me to continually get better, dominate in any facet of the game as well as lead my team and do whatever it takes.”
Irving came out firing in the second half of Game 5, and scored the Cavaliers’ first 11 points.
Irving got the scoring initiated when he buried a 25-foot step-back three-pointer from the wing, and less than a minute later, he caught a pass from James and knocked down a 15-footer from the right side of the free-throw line.
On the next trip down the floor, Irving pulled up for and buried his second triple of the quarter, and that gave the Cavaliers an 83-63 lead over the Celtics with 10:15 to play in the period. Irving kept the good times rolling when he ended a scoring drought with a 23-foot step-back three-pointer from the left corner.
“That sequence is something that I've worked on plenty of times,” Irving said. “I'm glad that the shot went in. The move doesn't mean anything unless the shot goes in. That's one of the things that my dad always told me.
“You can have a $5 million move, but if you have a one-cent finish, then who cares. The importance is utilizing the moves at the right time and just seeing the weak-side action and just having your head on a swivel and just being complete, especially in those situations.”