Kyrie Irving set a new career-high by scoring 44 points in Cleveland's 96-94 home loss to Charlotte on Saturday night.
The Cavaliers' two-time All-Star point guard shot 16-for-31 for the field, 5-for-9 from deep and added eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals in 43 minutes. Irving eclipsed his previous career-high of 41 points, which he has done twice: during a Nov. 16, 2013 victory over the Wizards and during a Dec. 15, 2012, loss to the Knicks.
Everything that makes Irving one of the league's most promising young point guards was on display against Charlotte: he finished acrobatically in transition, beat a trap with a step-back jumper, showed off his deep three-point range and unleashed his lightning-quick handle.
The breakout performance comes just days after Irving returned to the court after missing roughly two weeks with a left biceps injury. Irving's big night also came hours after he expressed frustration at recent reports that suggested he wants to force his way out of Cleveland.
"I've been getting it all season," Irving said during pre-game comments, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I just feel like I definitely don't deserve it. It was just one of those things where you have to deal with it, but at a certain point, it got to be too much. It's been like that the whole entire season."
Unfortunately, Irving missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in overtime. The loss dropped Cleveland to 31-47 on the season, moving them 3.5 games behind Atlanta, the East's No. 8 seed, with just four games left to play.
Charlotte (39-38) clinched its second postseason appearance in franchise history with the win.Video via YouTube user NBA