CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers may have gotten a fork stuck in them Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Already a long shot to make the playoffs, Cleveland will now need a minor miracle after falling 96-94 in overtime to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Even if the Cavs (31-47) win their last four games, Atlanta needs to go just 1-5 to eliminate them from the playoffs. The Knicks need to go
“In this game, anything can happen,” Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving said. “We’ll see in these next few days.”
Irving tried to put the Cavs on his back — he finished with a career-high 44 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals in 43 minutes — but failed to make his most important shot of the night.
With the Cavs down 93-91 after Charlotte’s Kemba Walker (20 points, 4 rebounds, 7 assists) split a pair of free throws with 11.6 seconds left in OT, Cleveland coach Mike Brown drew up one of his best inbounds plays of the season.
Irving came wide open off a Spencer Hawes pick, took Luol Deng’s inbounds pass, squared his feet and launched a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the arc, but the shot was slightly long and the Bobcats’ Gerald Henderson (15 points) got the rebound.
“It was as good a look as I had all night,” Irving said. “I was in rhythm and it went in and out. It was a crucial miss.”
Henderson made two free throws with 7.0 ticks on the clock to put the Bobcats up four, but Brown drew up another quality inbounds play and Hawes hit a three to make it a one-point game with 4.1 seconds to go.
Out of timeouts, the Cavs then let Al Jefferson (24 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists) get way too open on a sideline inbounds play and didn’t foul him until just 2.3 seconds were on the clock. Jefferson made the first free throw and missed the second, with Hawes’ desperation heave falling well short.
“Down the stretch, we just made some simple, fundamental errors that cost us the game,” Brown said. “I say this all the time: Our consistency has to get better.”
The Bobcats (39-38), who clinched a playoff berth and are trying to catch Washington for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Walker’s 3-point attempt hit back iron.
The Cavs led 89-86 when Irving hit a jumper for his 43rd and 44th points of the night with 1:55 left in OT, but the Bobcats responded with six straight points.
The last two came after Cleveland failed to rebound a Walker miss and eventually had to foul the point guard with 17.2 ticks on the clock.
“All those ‘My bads’ add up and cost you a game,” Brown said.
The Cavs appeared to get a break when Dion Waiters missed a dunk with 11.9 seconds left, but a late whistle sent him to the line and he made both.
That led to Walker splitting a pair of free throws and Irving missing the 3-pointer that would have given the Cavs the lead.
“He was wide open and had a lot of time,” Brown said. “It just didn’t go down.”
The Cavs experienced that all night, as their four starters not named Irving were 12-for-43 from the field.
Deng had five points on 2-for-10 shooting, three rebounds and one assist in 37 minutes, Tristan Thompson had four points on 2-for-8 shooting and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes, Hawes had nine points on 3-for-9 shooting in 36 minutes and Waiters had 14 points on 5-for-16 shooting and just one assist in 36 minutes.
The bench wasn’t any better, as Jarrett Jack went 1-for-8 and Tyler Zeller was 2-for-6 on a night when the Cavs shot just .365 from the field (35-for-96).
“We had some good looks,” Brown said. “Nobody could make a shot.”
Because of that — and an inability to get it done down the stretch — the Cavs are now left with virtually no shot at the playoffs.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.