CLEVELAND — On this night, one out of three was good enough.
After missing potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving hit a left-handed drive in traffic with 0.6 seconds left in the second OT Saturday for a thrilling 127-125 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers (4-3) threw the ball away on their subsequent inbounds pass and Cleveland (3-4) killed the clock to send a sellout crowd home happy.
“Thirty-three percent is not bad,” Irving joked. “I’ll take that any day.”
Irving, who had 25 of his season-high 39 points after intermission, missed a twisting layup in traffic at the end of regulation and a contested left-handed drive at the conclusion of the first OT.
Given a third chance, he capitalized to finish the night 15-for-33 from the field, 5-for-12 on 3-pointers and 4-for-6 at the line. The 21-year-old also had five rebounds and 12 assists in 48 minutes.
“I was shocked it got to three (chances),” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “He’s a spectacular player. Each time, I thought he took the right shot. I applaud him for trying to close the game the right way.”
There were numbers galore and a ton of fairly lengthy video reviews in this one as the Cavs halted an ugly two-game losing streak.
They did so by riding a three-guard lineup of Irving, Dion Waiters (season-high 24 points, including 22 after intermission, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals) and Jarrett Jack (season-high 20 points).
Those three were on the floor with Tristan Thompson (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Anderson Varejao (13 points, 10 rebounds) for virtually all of the fourth quarter and two OTs, save for a couple of brief situational substitutions.
Thompson matched Irving by playing 48 minutes, while Waiters (44), Varejao (43) and Jack (37), who doesn’t start, weren’t far behind.
“We had a lot of guys that were really good for us,” Brown said.
So did the Sixers, who got 31 points and 10 rebounds from Thaddeus Young, a season-high 29 points from Evan Turner, who hit a number of clutch shots while looking like he did at Ohio State, and 21 points, 7 rebounds and 13 assists from impressive rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
Carter-Williams, who tied the game by hitting a contested 3-pointer with 11.3 seconds left in the second OT, played 49 minutes, with all five Sixers starters playing at least 42.
“What a game,” Brown said. “(There was) big play after big play after big play on both ends of the floor.”
As thrilling as the game was to watch, the Cavs made things hard on themselves with a horrid third quarter, when they were outscored 37-22 to turn a five-point halftime lead into a 10-point deficit.
That’s when Brown went to the three-guard lineup along with Thompson and Varejao, and the Cavs got right back in the game early in the fourth quarter.
“It was the right time to experiment,” Brown said. “It worked out.”
Brown also started Alonzo Gee (2 points in 20 minutes) in place of Earl Clark, who did not play, and used Matthew Dellavedova (2 assists) and Henry Sims (4 points, 5 rebounds in 13 minutes) in the first quarter.
In the end, none of that would have mattered were it not for Irving.
Following a timeout, the Cavs elected to take the ball the length of the court instead of inbounding at midcourt.
As Irving crossed the time line, 7-foot-1 Spencer Hawes came out to double team on the right, so Irving darted left, went around the long-armed, 6-6 Carter Williams and finished at the rim.
“They had no shot blockers in the paint,” Irving said. “Luckily, it went in.”
Cavs center Andrew Bynum took the night off to rest his knees, but Brown said the goal is to eventually start the 26-year-old. He would not say whether Varejao or Thompson would come off the bench when that happens.
• The Cavs held the Sixers scoreless for the first three minutes of the first OT and went up six, but Philadelphia tied the game with 8.7 seconds to play when Turner drove and finished in traffic.
• Cleveland made 13-of-31 from long range, while the Sixers were 11-for-27.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.