CLEVELAND — After two overtimes and the loss of rookie Dion Waiters to injury, the Cavaliers’ last two-game winning streak is still way back on March 9 and 11 of last season.
Nicolas Batum hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 0.2 seconds left in double OT to give the Portland Trail Blazers a thrilling 118-117 win Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Batum, who had inbounded on every play from midcourt down the stretch, handed over that responsibility to rookie Damian Lillard after Alonzo Gee split a pair of free throws to put Cleveland (4-13) up two with 2.5 ticks on the clock.
Batum ran along the baseline, caught a pass in the corner in front of the Cavs bench and, although not totally squared up, calmly drilled the game-winner as 16,624 looked on in dismay.
“Helluva shot,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. “He caught it, turned, he was off-balance, threw it up and it went in.
“The game really didn’t come down to that last shot, to be honest with you. With all the mistakes that we made in that game, it shouldn’t have went into the first overtime. We were lucky. We played with fire basically the whole night and we got burned.”
After LaMarcus Aldridge missed a jumper and former Cav J.J. Hickson couldn’t get the ball up to the rim after grabbing the offensive rebound, Gee was fouled and barely hit the front of the rim on his first free throw before making the second.
That meant that when Batum scored the last three of his 22 points, the Trail Blazers (7-11) were a winner instead of headed for a third overtime.
“It’s a tough one,” Scott said. “I thought our guys played hard. We didn’t play very smart.”
Portland tied the game at 91 with 36.8 seconds left in regulation when Aldridge was fouled by Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson was called for goal-tending, but the Blazers power forward couldn’t convert the three-point play.
With Kyrie Irving out with a fractured finger, Cavs guards once again ran away from the basketball at a pivotal juncture, with Gee passing to Thompson 17 feet from the basket and Thompson throwing the hot potato to Varejao at the top of the key.
In a sequence where the Cavs still had a timeout but didn’t use it, Varejao’s desperation jumper was deflected, resulting in a 24-second violation with 12.8 seconds to go.
The game went to overtime when Lillard (24 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, six turnovers), the early favorite to win Rookie of the Year, glass-balled a runner at the buzzer.
At the end of the first overtime, Lillard missed a long three and Batum rebounded and made a 15-footer without returning to the ground. The shot was originally called good, but quickly overturned after video review, sending the game into a second overtime.
Given another chance, Batum delivered the dagger.
“I almost won it with that first one,” he said. “I had to make sure the second would count.”
Gee led the Cavs with 22 points, while Varejao was a monster once again with 19 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in 47 minutes.
Varejao, who will likely be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 18.5 points and 18.8 rebounds over four games, has a franchise record eight straight games with at least 15 rebounds.
He also became the first Cleveland player to post eight straight double-doubles in points and rebounds since Tyrone Hill in 1997, and is three shy of the club record of 11 in a row set by Elmore Smith in 1978.
Varejao almost didn’t get a chance to extend his streaks, as his right ring finger was pointing in the wrong direction with 5:32 left in the first quarter. As Varejao was heading to the locker room, trainer Max Benton popped the finger back into place before they ever made it through the tunnel and the 6-foot-11, 260-pounder went right back into the game without missing a second.
The Cavs might not be as lucky with Waiters, though initial X-rays on his left ankle were negative. He will be re-evaluated today. Waiters, who had 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists but was just 4-for-17 from the field, suffered the injury on a drive to the hoop with 1:49 left in the second overtime.
In all, eight Cavs players — Tyler Zeller (14), Jeremy Pargo (13), Omri Casspi (11), Thompson (10) and Donald Sloan (10) joined Gee, Varejao and Waiters — scored in double figures, but Scott blamed the “30 mistakes” his team made defensively.
Zeller, who added a career-high 10 rebounds in 31 impressive minutes, agreed.
“We made a lot of great plays, but we also made a lot of mistakes,” he said. “We had a couple of inexcusable mistakes defensively at the end of the game that we just can’t give up. We have to fix those mistakes.”
Hickson is starting at center for Portland and began the night averaging 11.4 points and 10.6 rebounds.
He had 19 rebounds Wednesday at Washington and finished with 11 points and five boards vs. the Cavs.
“I think he’s matured,” Scott said. “That’s the biggest thing. He’s doing the things he’s capable of doing.”
Prior to the game, Hickson said, with a straight face, that he gets chills when he walks into The Q because the building is where it all started for him.
• Sasha Pavlovic, a rotation player when the Cavs reached the 2007 NBA Finals, is also with the Blazers and averaging 1.6 points off the bench. Pavlovic turned 29 in November but is already in his 10th NBA season. He did not play Saturday.
• Thompson had a career-high 15 rebounds Friday in Atlanta, but played 38 minutes against Portland and had two.
• Sloan’s 10 points were a season high, while Lillard’s 11 assists and Wes Matthews’ 10 for Portland were career highs.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
Trail Blazers 118, Cavaliers 117 (2OT)
PORTLAND (118): Batum 7-15 5-6 22, Aldridge 10-21 1-3 21, Hickson 4-5 3-4 11, Lillard 9-17 2-2 24, Matthews 3-12 4-4 11, Barton 3-5 0-0 7, Jeffries 1-1 0-0 2, Leonard 1-1 0-0 2, Smith 3-6 0-0 6, Babbitt 2-7 0-0 4, Freeland 3-4 2-2 8. Totals 46-94 17-21 118.
CLEVELAND (117): Gee 9-17 1-3 22, Thompson 5-8 0-0 10, Varejao 7-11 5-6 19, Pargo 3-12 4-4 13, Waiters 4-17 2-2 12, Zeller 6-11 2-2 14, Gibson 2-9 0-0 6, Casspi 4-9 0-1 11, Sloan 3-5 4-4 10. Totals 43-99 18-22 117.
Portland 21 26 23 21 12 15 — 118
Cleveland 28 20 26 17 12 14 — 117
3-Point Goals—Portland 9-25 (Lillard 4-7, Batum 3-4, Barton 1-3, Matthews 1-5, Smith 0-2, Babbitt 0-4), Cleveland 13-35 (Casspi 3-6, Pargo 3-6, Gee 3-8, Gibson 2-6, Waiters 2-8, Sloan 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Portland 49 (Aldridge 9), Cleveland 63 (Varejao 17). Assists—Portland 25 (Lillard 11), Cleveland 32 (Pargo 8). Total Fouls—Portland 21, Cleveland 21. A—16,624 (20,562).
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Detroit
• WHEN: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
• WHERE: Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.)
• TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM