The point guard had 30 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals in 41 minutes Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena, but pointed to his career-high-tying eight turnovers as the reason for Cleveland’s 112-104 loss to the Houston Rockets.
“They’re turnovers I usually don’t make,” the second-year pro said. “They cost us the game.”
Houston’s James Harden, who had 29 points, seven steals and five turnovers, was partially responsible as well.
After starting 2-for-13 from the field, the left-handed shooting guard made his last four shots — two were 3-pointers and another resulted in a three-point play — and had 16 points over the final 7:08.
Outbursts like that are why Harden, acquired from Oklahoma City in the offseason, is averaging 26.4 points this season.
“He’s the man this year,” Irving said. “He’s the man on the Houston Rockets. When you’re the man, you do what James is doing this year.”
Houston (20-14), which improved to a remarkable 14-2 against the Eastern Conference, also got 20 points, four rebounds and five assists from point guard Jeremy Lin, who had 14 points in the final 7:27 of the first half.
Reserve big men Patrick Patterson (15 points, six rebounds) and Greg Smith (11 points, career-high 11 rebounds) also did solid work for the Rockets, the league’s top-scoring team at 106.2 a game.
The Cavs (8-27), who fell to 3-12 at home, were up 10 early and had some good moments, but they gave up 34 points in both the second and fourth quarter, at one point allowing Lin to dribble 75 feet down the middle of the court for a three-point play.
Lin’s drive, which came when Irving pouted after missing a jumper at the other end, put Houston up 103-94 with 3:06 to play.
It was one of those nights for Irving. He was the main reason the Cavs had a chance to win, but he was also right in the middle of their biggest failures. It showed in his fourth-quarter stat line, as he had 11 points but went 3-for-9 from the field with three turnovers.
The last turnover came with 32.7 seconds left and the Cavs down 108-103. Lin, who was on the wrong end of a lot of questionable calls while defending Irving, put on an Academy Award-winning performance while playing with five fouls to draw a charge, basically ending the game.
“I blew it,” Irving said. “Eight turnovers out of (the team’s) 14, that’s the difference in the game.”
The problem was, Irving got virtually no help in crunch time.
Tristan Thompson was a monster with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, but he played the entire fourth quarter and had one point and two boards.
Alonzo Gee had 18 points and six boards and did an outstanding job on Harden, but he played just the final 4:11 of the fourth period and didn’t score. While Gee sat — Dion Waiters played 7:49 and Shaun Livingston played 5:40 in the fourth — Harden caught fire and never cooled off.
“He’s one of those guys that once he gets a rhythm, he’s hard to guard,” said Cavs coach Byron Scott, whose decision-making was at least partially responsible for Harden finding that rhythm.
Waiters finished with 13 points on 4-for-13 shooting, while C.J. Miles, who replaced him in the starting lineup three games ago, had nine on 4-for-14. Rookie center Tyler Zeller added 12 points, but this was clearly a night when the Cavs were going to sink or swim with Irving.
They ended up sinking.
“Obviously, we don’t get this close without him,” Scott said. “I thought he tried to press at times and take the load. That’s what great players do. They want to put it all on their backs at times.
“He’s going to make some mistakes,” the coach added. “He’s a 20-year-old, second-year point guard.”
Irving, who hit a game-winning jumper Friday in Charlotte but has 16 turnovers in his last three games, refused to make excuses.
“I take full responsibility,” he said. “The turnovers hurt our team.”
Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao missed his ninth straight game with a bruised right knee. He will also sit out Monday in Chicago, but may play Wednesday at home vs. Atlanta.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rockets 112, Cavaliers 104
HOUSTON (112): Parsons 2-9 2-2 7, Morris 4-8 2-2 11, Asik 1-3 2-4 4, Lin 7-13 3-5 20, Harden 6-17 14-15 29, Smith 5-5 1-5 11, Patterson 7-13 0-0 15, Delfino 3-6 1-1 9, Douglas 2-5 1-2 6. Totals 37-79 26-36 112.
CLEVELAND (104): Gee 6-12 4-4 18, Thompson 5-11 4-6 14, Zeller 4-9 4-4 12, Irving 10-24 7-8 30, Miles 4-14 0-0 9, Waiters 4-13 4-4 13, Walton 1-3 0-0 2, Livingston 0-3 0-0 0, K.Jones 2-2 2-2 6. Totals 36-91 25-28 104.
Houston 20 34 24 34 — 112
Cleveland 26 24 28 26 — 104
3-Point Goals—Houston 12-34 (Lin 3-5, Harden 3-9, Delfino 2-5, Douglas 1-2, Morris 1-4, Patterson 1-4, Parsons 1-5), Cleveland 7-23 (Irving 3-8, Gee 2-4, Waiters 1-5, Miles 1-6). Fouled Out—Gee. Rebounds—Houston 56 (Smith 11), Cleveland 54 (Thompson 16). Assists—Houston 23 (Lin 5), Cleveland 20 (Irving 6). Total Fouls—Houston 23, Cleveland 25. A—16,866 (20,562).