CLEVELAND (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored a career-high 55 points, breaking the arena record while LeBron James watched from the bench and leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their eighth straight win, 99-94 over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
Irving took over with James sidelined with a sprained right wrist. He buried a 3-pointer with 6.4 seconds left to break a 94-94 tie, grabbed a rebound off a missed 3-pointer by Portland’s Damian Lillard, and as many in the crowd chanted “M-V-P” and James danced near the bench, Irving dropped two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to seal the win.
Irving broke the previous scoring record at Quicken Loans Arena held by Allen Iverson. His point total was also the highest in the league this season, bettering the 52 scored by Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Minnesota’s Mo Williams.
Irving, who scored 38 on Tuesday in Detroit, made a team record 11 3-pointers and finished 10 of 10 from the free-throw line in a tour-de-force performance. He scored 24 of Cleveland’s final 28 points and 16 of the Cavs’ 20 in the fourth quarter. But it was his long jumper in the final seconds that shook the Q.
With the score tied at 94-all, Irving froze 6-foot-8 forward Nicolas Batum with a move toward the basket before stopping and sinking his 3-last 3-pointer. After the Trail Blazers called timeout, and as the 20,562 fans screamed, James ran onto the floor and greeted his teammate with a chest bump.
James sprained his right wrist on Tuesday, when he fell hard after trying to block a shot against Detroit. James reached out with both arms to brace his fall and said afterward he was scared after breaking his left wrist on a similar play while he was in high school. The team said an MRI revealed the sprain and that James is doubtful for Friday’s game against Sacramento.
Until he’s ready, Irving is ready to carry the load.
LaMarcus Aldridge, playing his second game since deciding to delay thumb surgery until after the season, scored 38 to lead the Trail Blazers, who have dropped six of seven. Lillard added 14 on just 4 of 19 shooting.
Irving was nearly unstoppable in the first half.
He scored 11 points in the final 1:39 of the first quarter, a mere appetizer for his scoring spree. He drove past Lillard for several layups and when Portland’s speedy guard gave him some space, Irving made him pay by dropping six 3-pointers, including one that had James ranting on the sideline.
Irving beat Lillard with a cross-over dribble and then stepped back behind the line to drain a 3, giving Cleveland a 54-38 lead. James was out of his seat speaking to coach David Blatt when Irving launched his shot and James returned to the bench screaming about his teammate’s on-court eruption.