Cavs Win! Cavs Win! Cavs Win! (It still counts against the Clippers)

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There is something historically appropriate that the Cavaliers ended their losing streak against the Clippers.

Cleveland’s oddly fascinating losing streak ended dramatically at 26 with a 126-119 overtime win at home on Friday night. It seemed a fitting way to go — the Cavs had been giving the effort (mostly) for weeks, but had not been rewarded. Finally, for one night, the breaks and calls went their way.

It took J.J. Hickson getting away with a goaltend on a Baron Davis runner in the final seconds of regulation. It took Hickson getting a block on an attempted dunk by Blake Griffin late in the fourth quarter. (Yes, you read that right.) It took a clutch 3-pointer from Antawn Jamison. It took the return of Mo Williams bringing 17 points and 14 assists off the bench. It took a crazy-loud crowd that wouldn’t give up.

Mostly, it took a young Clippers team that played indifferent defense most of the night. A Clippers team with the same inconsistent end-of-game execution as the Cavs. A Clippers team that may grow into something special in a few years, but right now it is learning hard lessons about life on the road in the NBA.

And they are learning about how dangerous a desperate team can be.

After a lackluster performance a couple nights back that had coach Byron Scott calling out his team, the Cavaliers came out with energy again. They had done that for most games in the last few weeks, but were not rewarded.

Hickson had the play of the night with 3:30 left in regulation, the one that made you realize it was the Cavs’ night and made Quicken Loans Arena the loudest it has been since he who shall not be named played in the building.

Griffin got the ball on the right block and tried to do what he has done to so many, spun fast to the middle to go for the dunk, but he brought the ball back to his right hand and that gave a hustling Hickson a chance to block a Griffin dunk. Yes, block Blake Griffin. THE Blake Griffin. It sparked a fast break that ended with a three from Mo Williams, and with 3:27 left the Cavs were up by six.

Of course, they almost blew it. They are the Cavs, after all.

By 2:15 left, it was tied. A driving layup by Davis, a transition dunk from Griffin, and two free throws after a foul on Ryan Gomes did the trick.

The Cavs kept hitting shots, the Clippers kept getting fouled and to the free-throw line. It was Williams — who missed 13 games in a row before this one — that made the last basket of regulation, a professional 17-foot step-back to tie it. But the shot left Clippers 6.3 seconds left to win it.

Everyone in the building knew Davis would take the shot. He does not pass in these situations, but at least he attacked and didn’t settle for a 25-foot step-back. He drove left and got off a runner that Hickson came from the weakside to swat into the third row. It clearly looked like goaltending, but it was the Cavs’ night and there was no call.

The shot in overtime was a three from Jamison off an inbound play (which came after Hickson got away with an over-the-back, but did we mention it was the Cavs’ night?). A catch-and-shoot drained three-ball from the veteran that sealed the win.

This win ruins the “Toilet Bowl” battle of streaks against the winless-on-the-road Wizards on Sunday, but nobody in Cleveland cares.

The monkey is off their back. Now they can get back to focusing on making sure they have the most ping-pong balls in the draft lottery.

Watch Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard drain game-winning 3 to beat Lakers

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LeBron James and Anthony Davis were on the court together (and combined for 46 points and 20 rebounds). Russell Westbrook continued to thrive as a sixth man with 24 points.

But the biggest shot of the night belonged to Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard — a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

It was a well-designed play and when Westbrook chased and doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner it left the screen setter, Myles Turner, wide open for a clean look at a 3 — but he hit the front of the rim. The long rebound caromed out, Tyrese Haliburton grabbed it and tried to create, but then he saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West that will test the surprising Pacers.

For the Lakers… they have some hard decisions to make coming up.

Karl-Anthony Towns helped off court after non-contact calf injury

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Hopefully this is not as bad as it looks.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony was trying to run back upcourt and went to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf. He had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves officially ruled Towns out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A right calf strain would be the best possible outcome, but an MRI will provide more details in the next 24 hours. This had the markings of something much worse, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports optimism that Towns avoided something serious.

Towns is averaging 214 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are off this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers, down from 39.3% for his career — as he tries to adjust to playing next to Rudy Gobert, he’s still one of the game’s elite big men.

The Wizards went on to beat the Timberwolves 142-127 behind 41 from Kristaps Porzingis.

Suns promote GM James Jones to President of Basketball Operations

Phoenix Suns Open Practice
Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images
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James Jones put together the roster that took the Suns to the Finals two seasons ago and had the best record in the NBA last season (64 wins). At 13-6, the Suns sit atop the Western Conference this season.

The Suns have rewarded Jones, giving him the title of President of Basketball Operations on top of GM.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim Governor Sam Garvin said. “James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none. We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into the Suns’ front office in 2017 at the end of a 14-year playing career, then became GM in 2019. The move gives Jones a little more stability during the sale of the franchise. Not that the new owner would come in and fire a successful GM.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said in a statement. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community. I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our Teams on and off the court.”

Jones has made several moves that set the culture in Phoenix, including hiring Monty Williams as coach then, after an undefeated run in the bubble (that left Phoenix just out of the playoffs), he brought in Chris Paul to take charge at the point.

Report: Leaders in Lakers’ locker room think team ‘only a couple of players away’ from contending

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There’s a sense of optimism around the Lakers: They have won 5-of-6 and are expected to have both Anthony Davis and LeBron James healthy Monday night, plus Russell Westbrook has found a role and comfort level off the bench and other players are settling into roles. They may be 7-11, but it’s early enough there is a sense this could be turned around.

That is echoed by “locker room leaders” who think the team is just a couple of players away from being a contender in the West (where no team has pulled away), reports Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers’ locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.

Let’s unpack all of this.

• “Leaders in the Lakers’ locker room” means LeBron and Davis (both repped by Rich Paul). Let’s not pretend it’s anything else.

• If the Lakers don’t make a move to significantly upgrade the roster, how unhappy will those leaders become? How disruptive would that be?

• It is no coincidence that McMenamin’s report comes the day the Lakers face the Pacers, a team they went deep into conversations with this summer on a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade, but Los Angeles GM Rob Pelinka ultimately would not put both available Lakers’ first-round picks (2027 and 2029) in the deal and it fell apart. Turner said the Lakers should “take a hard look” at trading for him. The thing is, the Pacers are now 11-8, not tanking for Victor Wembanyama but instead thinking playoffs, so are they going to trade their elite rim protector and sharpshooter away? Not likely. At least not without an overwhelming offer, and the Lakers’ two picks may not get there anymore.

• While Westbrook has found a comfort level coming off the bench (and not sharing the court as much with LeBron), he is still a $47.1 million contract that no team is trading for without sweeteners. To use NBA parlance, he is still a negative value contract, even if it feels less negative than a month ago.

• Are the Lakers really a couple of players away from contending? While they have won 5-of-6, three of those five wins came against the tanking Spurs, the others were against the so-injured-they-might-as-well-be-tanking Pistons, and the Nets before Kyrie Irving returned. The Lakers did what they needed to do and thrived in a soft part of the schedule, but that schedule is about to turn and give the Lakers a reality check on where they really stand. After the Pacers, it’s the Trail Blazers (likely still without Damian Lillard), then an East Coast road trip that includes the Bucks, Cavaliers, Raptors and 76ers. The next couple of weeks will be a better marker for where the Lakers stand, and if they can build off of the past couple of weeks.