Cavs' Irving already playing beyond his years

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Cavs' Irving already playing beyond his years

BOSTON It shouldn't come as a surprise that one of Kyrie Irving's biggest role models while in high school plays for the Boston Celtics.

The fact that it's Avery Bradley didn't see that coming, did you?

"Avery was one of my favorite players to watch," Irving said. "He competes on every single play."

In the closing moments on Sunday, Irving had an opportunity to do what few ever get to do - win a game and out-duel one of your idols along the way.

Irving, who led all scorers with 26 points, did just that in beating Bradley off the dribble for the game-winning basket in Cleveland's 88-87 come-from-behind win over the Boston Celtics.

"It feels good," Irving said when asked about making the game-winning basket. "Especially, like I said, having the confidence of my teammates. They gave me the ball at the end of the game and trusted me to make that shot."

Bradley had never seen Irving up close until Sunday night.

Like most in attendance, he came away impressed.

"He's a good player; a good point guard," Bradley said. "He's real smart; he's a good player."

Such lofty praise was often doled out on Bradley, one of the top prep players who at one time was considered the best high school player in the country.

Many younger players looked up to him - Irving included.

But Irving is carving out a name for himself in the NBA, already playing at a level that many didn't expect this soon.

He came into Sunday's game ranked among the NBA's rookie leaders in a number of categories, most notably scoring (tops at 17.6 per game), assists (No. 2, 4.8 per game), field goal percentage (No. 2, 50.4 percent) and 3-point percentage (No. 3, 40.4 percent).

"Some so-called experts said I couldn't really shoot coming into the NBA, but it's just motivation for me," Irving said. "There's always been doubts about my game throughout my whole career."

Boston's Doc Rivers is a big fan of Irving's game.

"He's going to be better than a good player; he's going to be a star," Rivers said prior to Sunday's game. "He has a shot at that."

Following the loss, Rivers pointed out how down the stretch, it was Irving who was the biggest difference-maker for the Cavs.

"He dominated the fourth quarter," Rivers said. "He single-handedly, in my opinion, willed that win for them."

Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott knew the Cavs were drafting a talented player. But he acknowledges that Irving has surpassed his expectations in a number of areas at this point in his pro career.

"Most rookies when they come in, especially the time he's played basketball the past year and a half, I expected him to struggle a bit, especially from the field," Scott said. "He surprised me after about four or five games when he really started to get it going. He looked so much more comfortable out there. So I was a little taken from it."