Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue openly admitted that they run the first play of every game for power forward Kevin Love. Though he will never publicly admit THIS: it appears that he relies on Kyrie Irving to close games out.
How is that possible on a team containing the best player in the world in LeBron James may be the obvious question here, but the simple fact is that Irving has shown that he's a better closer down the stretch.
Of course, this is James' team and he does practically everything else on the court, but as evidenced by Kyrie's shot over Stephen Curry to seal Cleveland's first championship in June, LeBron doesn't have a problem deferring to him when he can produce historic moments like that.
In the Cavs' 112-108 win over the Philadelphia 76ers last night, Irving once again showed why he's the man for the fourth quarter, with 19 of his season-high 39 points coming in the final 12 minutes.
“He could score 60 - in the 55s and 60s, all the time,” Lue said of his point guard, per ESPN.
It was the fourth time this season he’s put up 10-plus points in the final quarter of a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Per ESPN's Dave McMenamin, he is averaging 7.3 points in the fourth this season, which is tied for fifth in the NBA and ranks first for the Cavs (James is second at 6.3 points). It's why they call him 'Mr. Fourth Quarter' in Ohio.
On an afternoon where the Cavaliers were sluggish and out of sync, the Sixers sensed there was an opportunity to cause an upset against the reigning champions and came very close, but for the visitors' star power.
James added a triple-double and Kevin Love continued his fine form with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
With that much firepower, the Cavs rarely need one of their stars to have a huge outburst to see them through games, as they prefer to share the load and get multiple guys involved.
"When you have great players like this on our team, it can come from any of us [at] any given moment," Irving said post-game. "So that fourth quarter was just the night for me to be aggressive.”
Up until this game, the three-time All-Star had only hit over 30 points once but has been contributing efficiently on the offensive end.
You can see the maturity in his game as he makes better decisions on the floor instead of regularly looking for his shot and disregarding his teammates like he used to do in the past. Team success comes first for him now ahead of individual numbers.
At just 24, Kyrie still has a lot of improving and learning to do but to be trusted to close out games that go down to the final minutes with LeBron on your team must give the Duke product a lot of confidence.
When LeBron was asked what he liked about Irving’s fourth-quarter performance, he responded by asking: “How could you not like everything he did in the fourth?”
It's no secret just how highly James regards Irving, which is why, though some will choose to criticise him for it, he is more than willing to let his teammate lead the offence in the closing stages.
At the start of the campaign the King said that Irving was capable of winning an MVP award and more performances like the one last night will have others putting him in that conversation sooner rather than later.
“I think the sky’s the limit for the kid. He’s only  years old … He hasn’t even gotten to his prime yet,” James said.
"The Shot" over Curry sealed the championship, but it also saw Irving emerge as Cleveland's closer. Expect to see more evidence of that as the season goes on.