CLEVELAND — Happy New Year!
Confetti fell from the raf-ters of Quicken Loans Arena on Friday night, as the Cavaliers won their first game since Dec. 18 with a 126-119 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The win ended the Cavs’ NBA-record 26-game losing streak and prevented them from standing alone with the longest skid in American pro sports history. The 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers also lost 26 in a row.
“I’m glad it’s over with,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said.
“It felt great,” point guard Mo Williams said. “I can watch ESPN tonight.”
“I can smile again,” added guard Daniel Gibson. “It feels pretty good. Winning is a precious feel-ing.”
There were plots, sub-plots and controversy in this one.
Individually, Clippers rookie Blake Griffin was the star attraction, and the 6-foot-10, 252-pounder didn’t disappoint, finishing with 32 points and 13 rebounds while throwing down three dunks.
A potential fourth dunk, however, was slammed back in his face by Cleveland’s J.J. Hickson, who was a monster in finishing with 27 points, 14 boards and a season-high four blocks. Not only that, Hickson defended Griffin without double-team help down the stretch and more than held his own.
“I was motivated to get a win,” said Hickson, who also had seven turnovers. “There could have been high school players out there and I still would have been motivated.”
Antawn Jamison was just as big for the Cavs, putting up 35 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Williams had 17 points and 14 assists after missing the previous 13 games with a hip flexor strain. Gibson also had 17 points for Cleveland.
Now for the controversy.
With the score tied at 110 after a 17-foot Williams step-back jumper with 6.3 seconds left in regulation, Clippers guard Baron Davis drove to the hoop and put up a left-handed runner that was blocked at the buzzer by Hickson.
The Clippers argued ve-hemently for goal-tending, but no call was made. Still upset over the no-call, Davis was thrown out late in OT when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“I thought it was goal-tending,” Los Angeles coach Vinny Del Negro said. “(The officials) didn’t think it was and they can’t review it.”
Countered Hickson: “I thought it was a good block by me.”
There was no doubt it was a good win for the Cavs, whose last victory, against the New York Knicks, also came in overtime. Cleveland’s last win in regulation was Nov. 27 against Memphis.
This one did not come easy, even when the Cavs took a seemingly safe 120-114 lead with 1:18 left in OT. A rebound bucket by the Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe, a poor shot by Williams that got blocked and a 3-pointer by Randy Foye later, it was a 120-119 game with 44 sec-onds left.
Williams then held the ball way too long on the wing before driving baseline and air-balling a left-handed reverse. For-tunately for the Cavs, Hickson wasn’t called for a foul in the rebound battle and the ball went out of bounds to the Cavs with 24.4 seconds left in the game and five seconds on the shot clock.
Anthony Parker in-bounded to Jamison above the arc, and Jamison buried a pivotal 3-pointer that set the Cavs on their way to victory.
“I shot it with confi-dence,” Jamison said. “The biggest thing was getting a win. It felt great to have some plays go our way.”
Having lost 36 of their last 37 coming in, the Cavs (9-45) are now in pretty good position to win two straight. The Washington Wizards, who are 0-25 on the road, visit The Q on Sunday.
The Clippers (20-33), who got 26 points from Davis and 23 from Foye, left shaking their heads.
“They were hungry,” Griffin said of the Cavs. “They were really hungry. They played well. You’ve got to give them credit. Some of those situations toward the end didn’t help us.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.