CLEVELAND -- Since uniting “The Big Three” of small forward LeBron James, point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love and surrounding them with talented role players, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not had to play many elimination games.
However, when facing the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals over the last three years, elimination games have been far more common. But when healthy, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving has been a spark plug for the team, averaging 32.5 points in elimination games, all four of which Cleveland has won.
“Regardless of any situation, I always feel like if I do a great job of giving confidence in my teammates and remaining calm in the situation, then we have a great chance of coming out on the successful side,” Irving said.
Admittedly, Irving has “failed a few times” with the game on the line, but it does not change his mindset.
“It definitely doesn’t affect me going in, nor does it affect the mindset of going in and just leaving it all out there on the floor,” Irving said. “Like I said in the previous postgames, there’s no other option. So you bring out everything that you have in your arsenal and everything that you work hard for, and then, leave it all out there on the floor.”
Irving definitely left everyone out on the floor in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, which the Cavaliers won, 137-116, and forced a Game 5 at Oracle Arena tonight.
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 last Wednesday night.
Irving added seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 40 minutes of action.
“Naturally, nerves going, a lot of things coming into play Game 1 and 2, a lot of opportunities that I felt like I didn’t take advantage of because if it wasn’t there after that split second, then I felt like it wasn’t there anymore,” Irving said.
“When you want to raise that level of competition and you want to be any way, shape, or form of successful in going against a great defender or a great team, then you have to look at some things that you can do differently.”
Fortunately for the Cavaliers, Irving has a little bit of history in elimination games played at Oracle Arena.
In Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Irving scored 41 points, handed out six assists, corralled three rebounds, blocked a shot and stole a pair of passes, which helped Cleveland to a 112-97 win and extended the series.
Then, in Game 7, Irving hit what turned out to be the game-winning three-pointer, a fall-away pull-up attempt from the right wing that was heavily defended by two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry. His 25-foot triple led to a 93-89 win, which gave the Cavaliers their first-ever league championship.
“That confidence, I always want to exude that in my teammates and have them understand that the magnitude of this moment’s the only thing that matters,” Irving said. “And if we succeed in doing that, then we put ourselves in a great place.”