For at least one night, the Cavaliers survived without their star player, doing enough right to beat the Washington Wizards 95-90 in the Lottery Bowl on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland (22-42) could have overtaken the Wizards (20-42) for the third-worst record in the league with a loss, but instead swept the season series 3-0 and improved to 9-21 overall and 5-10 this season without Irving, who could be done for the year with a sprained left shoulder.
The Cavs also surpassed their win total from last season, when they finished 21-45.
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“Guys still feel like we can win,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. “We just have to do the little extras on both ends.”
The game started horribly for the Cavs, who fell behind 11-0 before some fans and Cleveland reserves had gotten comfortable in their seats.
Martell Webster hit three 3-pointers in the first 1:57, forcing Scott to call time with 9:54 left in the opening quarter. Scott actually did a lot more than call timeout, as he removed every starter from the game but Shaun Livingston, who was playing in place of Irving.
“They didn’t want to play, so I took them out,” the coach said. “Simple as that. I was going to do the same thing in the third quarter.
“My patience ran thin. I was tired of what I was seeing, so I made changes.”
The approach paid dividends, but not before the Cavs took another nap and fell behind 33-20 after one quarter.
With Wizards point guard John Wall (season-high 27 points, seven rebounds, season-high 14 assists) on the bench at the start of the second quarter, Cleveland went on a 15-4 run and never really let up.
The Cavs, who had been outscored 111-69 in the third quarter of their previous four games, outscored the Wizards 56-32 over the middle two quarters, when they held Washington to one less point than it had in the first period.
Dion Waiters, who led the Cavs with 20 points, attributed that to Scott’s first-quarter bench clearing.
“I was very upset,” the rookie said. “We came out real flat and no energy. I respect what he did. I was mad, but when I came back in, I knew what I had to do.”
Though it wasn’t always pretty — neither team shot better than 41 percent — the Cavs played with more energy and better focus the rest of the night.
“We didn’t want to get pulled again,” Waiters said. “We had to come out with a sense of urgency and play hard.”
Though he was just 5-for-15 from the field, Alonzo Gee made four of nine 3-pointers to finish with 17 points for the Cavs, while Tristan Thompson, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday today, added 13 points and 14 rebounds. Livingston contributed 12 points and six assists to improve to 3-1 as a Cavs starter.
Cleveland’s bench, which outscored Washington’s 29-11, got 12 points from Wayne Ellington, 10 from C.J. Miles and five from Daniel Gibson, who scored his first points since Feb. 6.
Emeka Okafor had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards, while Webster made five of 11 3-pointers — the rest of the team was 0-for-6 — to finish with 17 points. Nene had 15 points and 10 boards, but Washington’s bench, which lost Trevor Ariza to a sore knee, went just 4-for-21 from the field. No reserve had more than one field goal.
“We stopped running, for whatever reason,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “In the first quarter, we moved the ball and got wide-open shots, but we won’t stay with that.
“We are not a team that wants to slow it down, but that’s what we did after the first quarter.”
The Cavs were up 91-80 with 3:14 left and seemingly home free, but a series of boneheaded defensive plays — and no timeouts or offensive adjustments by Scott — almost let Washington get back in the game.
There were also two fairly lengthy video reviews to determine possession in the closing minutes, but the only thing the Cavs really cared about in the end was that they got a victory.
“It wasn’t a clean game from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” Scott said. “The bottom line is we got the win.”
- WHO: Cleveland vs. Dallas
- WHEN: Friday, 8:30 p.m.
- WHERE: American Airlines Center, Dallas
- TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.