(The Sports Xchange) – As Kyrie Irving waded through a sea of reporters and made his way to his locker on Sunday, teammate LeBron James saw him coming and shook his head.
“He’s special,” James said.
Irving certainly seems to have a special gift: torturing the Golden State Warriors. His turnaround jumper with 3.4 seconds left over Klay Thompson gave the Cleveland Cavaliers a stunning 109-108 home victory in an NBA Finals rematch after Cleveland trailed by 14 earlier in the fourth quarter.
“He’s just a killer on the court,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
Irving’s jumper over Thompson was reminiscent of his dagger 3-pointer in the final minute of Game 7, when he completed the Cavs’ rally from a 3-1 deficit and delivered Cleveland its first championship in 52 years. That was an off-balance 3-pointer over Steph Curry off his wrong foot and exhausted legs. This one was over Thompson’s superior defense.
“I’m pretty sure Klay wanted to be on me and I’m pretty sure I wanted Klay to be on me as well,” Irving said. “It was just a great play that ended up happening but it was toughly defended.”
The Warriors led most of the game and extended their lead to 94-80 while James rested on the bench early in the fourth. But James’ rim-rattling dunk with 1:43 left gave the Cavs a 105-103 lead — their first since early in the first quarter — and the Warriors managed just 13 points over the game’s final nine minutes.
“We had a chance to put them away,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
“We had several bad possessions in a row. We had too many turnovers. We had control of the game and we did not execute at all in the fourth quarter. It’s a great tape to look at. It will be quite valuable for us to look at that tape because we know we let it slip away.”
Irving scored 25 points while James had 31 points and 13 rebounds. Kevin Love added 20 points and six rebounds.
Kevin Durant was sensational in his first chapter of the best rivalry in the NBA. Durant scored 36 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, but couldn’t get off a chance at a game winner following Irving’s basket.
Golden State inbounded to Durant, who got tangled up with Richard Jefferson and lost his balance. He fell to the floor on a no-call as time ran out again on the Warriors.
“I was trying to make a move,” Durant said. “I didn’t fall on my own.”
Jefferson didn’t believe he fouled him.
Thompson scored 24 points and Draymond Green had 16 points while fighting foul trouble all day. Curry scored 15 points on 4 of 11 shooting, although his 3-pointer with 1:14 left put the Warriors ahead 108-105. Curry turned to the booing crowd with three fingers raised in celebration, but much like in June, the Cavs weren’t finished.
“Obviously, emotions come out for not only the players but for (the media) and for the fans,” James said.
“It’s the last two finals matchups so everyone just starts thinking back to what’s happened between last year’s finals and previous finals, so emotions, that’s just human nature for all of us.”
(Editing by Andrew Both)