Cleveland Cavaliers' Irving brings the ball up court against New York Knicks during their NBA basketball game in New York

Kyrie Irving scores career-high 41 points, but Knicks hang on to beat Cavs


Carmelo Anthony sat out Saturday night’s game against the Cavaliers due to a sprained ankle he suffered in Thursday’s win over the Lakers. Without him, the Eastern Conference leading Knicks almost ended up with a loss to a Cavaliers team that now has a record of just five wins against 20 losses on the season.

New York held on for a 103-102 home victory, but Kyrie Irving was the sole reason the game was that close.

Irving poured in a carer-high 41 points, on 15-of-25 shooting from the field, including 5-of-8 from three-point distance. He also finished with five rebounds and five assists, in under 40 minutes of action. He did all of this with a mask on his face, looking like some sort of superhero out there while needing it to protect a broken bone in his jaw that was suffered while playing Friday night against the Bucks.

This Cavaliers team isn’t quite as bad as their record would indicate, at least in terms of the effort they bring on a nightly basis. And with Irving there and able to come through with superstar performances like these, the team will be involved in more games like these than it is not.

The Knicks had this one in hand, leading by 10 with under six minutes to play. That’s when Irving truly took control, scoring all 17 of his fourth-quarter points in the game’s final 5:30 to bring his team back and give them a chance to win it at the very end.

Irving hit two threes on consecutive possessions with under 30 seconds left to cut into a six-point gap, and turn the game into a foul-shooting contest over the final few possessions.

With nine seconds remaining, Steve Novak missed his second of two free throw attempts, and the New York lead was down to two with the Cavaliers bringing the ball up the floor.

Irving was double-teamed out top behind the three-point arc, but found a cutting Anderson Varejao, who was fouled by J.R. Smith with just a second remaining.

Varejao made the first free throw, but the second one was in and out, and the Knicks escaped, despite Irving’s spectacular performance.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Markieff Morris will be a happy Sun

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After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.

So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?

Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.

The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.

Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.