August 29, 2014

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Cavs: Recently signed guard Lester Hudson leads charge in fourth

CLEVELAND — The Legend of Lester Hudson hasn’t quite reached the “Lin-sanity” level, but it’s starting to draw comparisons.

With help from a makeshift fourth-quarter lineup that included Donald Sloan, Omri Casspi, Luke Walton and Semih Erden, the 6-foot-3 Hudson led the Cavaliers to a 103-90 victory over the lowly Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

Hudson, who set career scoring highs with 23 and 26 points in his previous games, nearly made it three in a row before finishing with a game-high 25 points, a game-high-tying eight rebounds and a team-high six assists in a team-high 36 minutes.

“The Lin-sanity thing I thought was similar to what is going on right now with Lester,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said, referring to New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin. “I think he’s just playing great basketball. He’s been given an opportunity and taken full advantage.”

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In China at the beginning of the season and with the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League until being signed to a 10-day contract March 30, Hudson scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, when Walton and Casspi hit back-to-back 3-pointers as the Cavs (19-36) turned a close game into a rout and sent the NBA-worst Bobcats (7-49) to their 13th straight defeat.

“It’s ridiculous,” Sloan said of his teammate’s scoring ability. “He can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. Three-pointers, midrange jumpers, drives, floaters — it doesn’t matter. He’s just one of those types of scorers. When he gets it going, there’s not much you can do.”

The Cavs also got 19 points from Anthony Parker, who started and made four of six 3-pointers after missing two games with a bruised sternum, and 17 from Antawn Jamison, but neither veteran played in the fourth quarter.

That was fine with Scott, whose team was playing the first of five games in six nights, the next of which is tonight at The Q against Indiana.

“It was perfect to win the game this way and have those guys sit in the fourth quarter,” he said.

With unexpected help from Casspi (12 points in 21 minutes) and Erden (seven rebounds in 16 minutes), the 27-year-old Hudson made that possible. He finished 9-for-18 from the field, including a gimme-the-rock 6-for-10 in the deciding fourth quarter, which began with the Cavs ahead just 72-71.

“It’s been crazy,” said Hudson, who Monday signed his second 10-day contract. “Everyone is calling and texting, just congratulating me. They know how hard I’ve worked.”

On Monday, Scott said he wouldn’t think about Hudson’s long-term future with the Cavs until the end of the season, but the University of Tennessee-Martin graduate is certainly making a case that he should be invited to training camp.

The 36-year-old Parker is expected to retire and will be an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t, while Daniel Gibson struggled the vast majority of the season before undergoing season-ending foot surgery.

Cleveland could also add a shooting guard in the draft or through free agency, but Hudson has done more in the last three games than a lot of Cleveland’s end-of-the-bench players have done all season.

“You never want to take a step backward,” he said. “You want to keep going forward.”

It would seem the Bobcats can’t go any further backward, but they keep finding ways to do exactly that.

Despite the return of point guard D.J. Augustin (16 points, 11 assists), 21 points from Gerald Henderson and 20 from rookie Kemba Walker, Charlotte continued its pursuit of an ignominious NBA record.

If the Bobcats lose their final 10 games, they will not only finish the season on a 23-game losing streak, but with a 7-59 record and the worst winning percentage in NBA history at .106. The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73, hold the record for lowest winning percentage at .109, meaning Charlotte must win one more game to avoid etching its name in NBA lore.

The Cavs had lost 13 of their last 15 coming in and trailed the Bobcats for much of the third period, but Hudson’s fourth-quarter performance helped Cleveland end a six-game losing streak at The Q, where it won for the first time since March 11.

“I have confidence in myself that I can score the basketball,” Hudson said. “Three in a row 20-point games is great.”

Tip-ins

  • Sloan has missed only two games in his life due to injury. One came last year in the NBA Development League due to a sprained ankle, but Sloan said he could have played if his team hadn’t already clinched its division. The other came in his junior year of high school in Texas when a brown recluse spider bite caused his left leg to swell to twice its normal size. It took several weeks for the swelling to go down, but Sloan put gauze on the wound after sitting out one game and played through the pain as his team fell one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament.
  • Anderson Varejao missed his 30th straight game with a fractured right wrist, while Kyrie Irving sat for the fifth time in the last six games with a sprained right shoulder.
  • The Cavs will be among the teams competing in the NBA Summer League at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center from July 13-22.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.