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.