CLEVELAND -- Whether it is shooting long-distance three-pointers, pulling up for mid-range jumpers in and around the paint or driving all the way to the basket, Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has plenty of ways to impact a game with the ball in his hands.
But through playing with veteran teammates and having deep playoff runs each of the last three years, Irving has learned one can take over the tempo of a game without actually leading the team in scoring.
“By understanding how complex basketball is, you have to enjoy the simplicity of it, too,” Irving said. “There’s a way to dominate the game without having the ball constantly in your hands, and that was a role that I had to come to enjoy as well.
“When have you a special, great player, a Hall of Famer on your team with you every, single day and you’re a point guard and you want the ball in your hands and you want to make plays, then you have to figure out other ways to be effective in the game.”
Cleveland Cavaliers face off against Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of 2017 NBA Finals
Although Irving has paid more attention on how he could be a playmaker without having to dominate possession of the ball, he still knows how to pick his spots to attack the basket.
“I think that in Game 1 and 2, as well as part of 3, just definitely got caught up in trying to find that rhythm with the basketball in my hands,” Irving said. “As long as collectively everyone feels good, then my opportunities will come on breakdowns from their defense and offensively, (there are) things that we can be sharper at.
“I have to be implementing in those opportunities, and the way to do that is just being an open screener, being just a willing sacrificer, and the opportunities will come, and when those opportunities come, then you kill it.”
And “kill it” Irving did in a 137-116 win over the Warriors in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals last Friday night.
With the Cavaliers facing elimination after losing three straight games to start the best-of-seven series, Irving scored a game-high 40 points on 15-of-27 shooting, including a seven-of-12 performance from three-point range, which came on the heels of an 0-for-7 showing from long distance in the Game 3 loss.
Irving added seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 40 minutes of action.
“When you’re able to focus in for possession by possession and still have your wind and be able to vocally tell everyone what spot they need to be in because you’ve prepared, it’s a difficult task,” Irving said.
“Once you get into that, then the game starts to become just more fluent. So you’re able to communicate to your teammates, communicate yourself, communicate to your coaching staff, able to see the floor a lot better.”