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By Tom Withers | Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving was rewarded for a week he'll have trouble topping.
Cleveland's second-year guard was named the Eastern Conference's player of the week on Monday after leading the NBA in scoring and carrying the Cavs to three straight wins. In the three games, Irving averaged 35.7 points, scored 40 points in a win over Boston, had 35 against Milwaukee and hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the final second on Saturday night as the Cavs beat Toronto.
Those performances came in the same week that Irving was selected to his first All-Star team and named Cleveland's top professional athlete of 2012, when he was voted NBA Rookie of the Year.
"He's had probably one of the best weeks of his life," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said after practice.
This is first time Irving has been named player of the week. It's one of the few honors that has eluded the 20-year-old , who was picked as an All-Star reserve but could be elevated to a starting role in next month's game after Boston's Rajon Rondo sustained a season-ending knee injury.
The coach of the Eastern Conference team will make that decision, and Scott believes Irving is worthy.
"I think it would be great," Scott said, "but it doesn't change my message to him for next year: to get voted in as a starter instead of being selected as a reserve."
Irving's heroics helped the Cavs (13-32) string three wins together for the first time this season. With a win on Tuesday at home against Golden State, they will have their first four-game winning streak since 2010, when LeBron James did everything for Cleveland in his final season for the Cavs.
In scoring at least 30 points in all three games, Irving joined James, Bernard King, John Drew and Kevin Durant as the only players in league history to record three straight 30-point games before his 21st birthday. Irving will turn 21 on March 23.
Irving was at his best in the fourth quarter last week, averaging a league-high 11.7 points and making all 10 of his free-throw attempts. In the final three minutes, he averaged eight points and went 7-of-7 from the line.
On Saturday night, Irving drained his long 3-pointer over Alan Anderson with 0.7 seconds left to finish off the Raptors. It was the fifth game-winning shot of Irving's brief career and his second with one second or less remaining in 85 games.
According to STATS LLC, Irving and Tyreke Evans are the only two players since the 2002-03 season with two such game-winners.
During Cleveland's recent road trip, Scott told Irving he was being too passive at times and needed to be more assertive on the floor. In the past week or so, Irving has turned up his game. He scored 19 points in the first quarter against the Celtics.
"He understands we need him to be aggressive from the time he steps on the floor until the time he comes out of the game," Scott said.
Newly acquired guard Wayne Ellington has only played two games with Irving, but has already seen enough to realize his teammate is a special player.
"He's got it, whatever it is, he's got it," said Ellington, who came over in a trade from Memphis with center Marreese Speights. "He's a great talent and he's only going to get much better."