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Irving's big shot a big moment for Cavaliers

By Tom Withers

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 30 2012 5:00 p.m. MST

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The moment arose from one of Kyrie Irving's dreams.

With the Cavaliers trailing by one and the clock fading to its final seconds, Irving took off toward the basket with the ball and game in his hands. As he drove and spun in the lane, his father, Drederick, sat just a few feet away inside Boston's TD Garden, where rows of Celtics' NBA championship banners dangled overhead.

After slipping past two defenders, Irving flipped in a left-handed layup with 2.6 seconds to play, giving Cleveland an improbable 88-87 win.

"It was just a shot," Irving said Monday.

In truth, it was so much more.

On the same court where LeBron James played his final game for the Cavaliers, Irving had the defining moment of his promising career.

The kid who doesn't act or play likes he's 19, came of age.

"We're blessed to have him," said Cleveland coach Byron Scott, who never hesitated in drawing up Sunday's final play for Irving. "There's no doubt about it."

And there's no denying Irving's immense talent and potential, which seem boundless.

One day after making the game-winning shot on a nearly identical play to one he missed a month ago at Indiana, Irving was taking all the extra attention in stride. Before speaking to reporters, he joked around on the practice court with Cavs general manager Chris Grant and Scott, with whom he has developed a close bond.

Irving's basket, which capped a game-ending 12-0 run by the Cavs, was replayed dozens of times on local and national TV. It was the talk of Cleveland, where the 19-win Cavs of last season are being viewed in a positive light thanks to Irving.

After he stepped inside the media huddle, Irving was asked if his clutch shot had changed him.

"No," he said. "Same old Kyrie. I just came in ready for practice. I got some work in and I'll go home and get some rest and get ready for another grueling game against Boston."

Some rookie.

According to STATS LLC, Irving is the third youngest player to hit a game-winning shot in the final three seconds since 2002-03. And by comparison, James didn't make his game-winner until 2006 — his third season.

While Irving made "a few" last-second game-winners in high school, a foot injury prevented him from showcasing his flair for drama last year at Duke. But although he's felt the thrill of destroying an opponent's hopes, nothing compared to dropping his shot on Boston's famed parquet, one of basketball's Meccas.

"It's a dream come true for me, first time in Boston, playing against the Celtics. I've been watching them for so long and to hit a big shot like that feels good.

After his shot slithered through the net, Irving's next move was to point at his dad, a former Boston University star who pointed back at his son.

"He was proud, a proud father," Irving said. "He grew up watching the Celtics as well and seeing him sitting courtside, I know it was a good feeling, especially seeing me out there."

Irving's shot provided some redemption for a miss at Indiana on Dec. 30, when he weaved to the rim but couldn't get a layup to drop at the buzzer and the Cavs eventually lost in overtime to the Pacers.

Scott wasn't thinking about that shot when he called a timeout in the closing seconds to set up the final play against the Celtics.

He knew Irving should have the ball. He also knew Irving wanted it

It's a look Scott has seen before in teammates like Magic Johnson and players he's coached like Chris Paul and Jason Kidd.

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