Cavs end 26-game skid, beat Clips in OT
Daniel Gibson slipped an expensive gold chain over his head and touched its dangling diamond-studded medallion.
Looking up at the crush of cameras, he took a deep breath and exhaled.
''I can smile again,'' he beamed. ''It feels pretty good. Winning is a precious feeling.''
The losing streak — so long, so embarrassing, so hard to stop — is over.
Nearly two months after it started innocently, the Cavaliers stopped their NBA-record skid at 26 games Friday night with a 126-119 win in overtime against the Los Angeles Clippers, who did all they could to extend Cleveland's winter misery.
The Cavs, who had become a national joke as the losses piled up, won for the first time since Dec. 18 and just the second time in 38 games. They had to go an extra five minutes to ensure they didn't set the mark for the longest skid in pro sports history.
They'll gladly settle with tying the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the worst streak among the four major sports.
It's one they didn't want to own, and they played like it.
''It's a great feeling and great for the morale of this team, this city and these fans,'' said Antawn Jamison, who matched a season high with 35 points. ''It's finally good to get it. We've been working so hard for this. We finally got it.''
Jamison made the game's biggest basket, a three-pointer with 22 seconds left in OT for the Cavs, who may have gotten a favorable call at the end of regulation when J.J. Hickson blocked Baron Davis' potential game-winning layup in the final second.
The Clippers thought he goaltended.
''I can't say what I think about all those things,'' Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin said. ''That was unbelievable. Throughout the whole game, it was just unbelievable. That was the worst home-court advantage I've ever seen. There's such a thing as home-court advantage, but that was unbelievable.''
Gibson scored nine in overtime and Hickson, playing like a man possessed all night in a matchup with Griffin, added 27 points and 14 rebounds.
The Clippers made the Cavs (9-45) sweat out every second. Down by six, Los Angeles cut it to 120-119 on Randy Foye's three with 44 seconds left. But Jamison responded by popping outside on an inbounds play and draining his three from the left wing to revive the hopes of Cleveland fans, whose emotions soared and dropped by the minute.
After Foye's three rattled in and out with 14 seconds remaining, Gibson was fouled and Davis was ejected for arguing, later saying he didn't want to see the Cavs celebrate.
Gibson made the technical and dropped two more free throws to put the Cavs up by seven. When Los Angeles misfired on its last trip, Cavs forward Jamario Moon grabbed the loose ball and held it high as the clock ticked off the precious last seconds.
The final horn sounded, but was drowned out by Cleveland's fans as wine-and-gold streamers and confetti that had been sitting high above Quicken Loans Arena since a week before Christmas tumbled from the ceiling. Moments later, the anthemic ''Cleveland Rocks'' shook the building.
The Cavs savored the win by lingering on the floor before heading to the locker room, where they celebrated as if they had won a playoff game.
''They're in there jumping around and having a good time,'' Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. ''I told them to enjoy it, but let's not take a big breath and think 'OK we got a win, great.' We have to think that we are supposed to win games.''
Griffin had 32 points and 13 rebounds, Davis scored 26 and Foye had 23 for the Clippers.
The Cavs were energized by the return of Mo Williams, who had 17 points and 14 assists in his first game in nearly a month because of a hip injury.
''He gave us a huge lift,'' Gibson said. ''All game long he kept saying, 'We ain't losing this game.' We all had that feeling.''
Hickson, who had seven blocks, swatted away Davis' layup at the horn to end a frenetic, first 48 minutes and the teams went to overtime tied at 110-110. The Clippers screamed for goaltending, but it appeared Hickson got the ball just as it reached its peak and was about to hit the backboard.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro saw it differently.
''I thought it was goaltending,'' he said. ''They (the officials) didn't think it was. They can't review it because it wasn't a call that was made. I'll have to look at the film. I couldn't see from that angle. It looked like it got on the glass, but I'm guessing.''
A whistle there against Cleveland would have been loss No. 27 — and the cruelest one yet.
But this was the Cavs' night, a rare highlight in a nightmarish season that's a long way from being over.
''Gotta give it up,'' Davis said. ''They played well. They won. For a team that lost 26 games in a row, they came out, they wanted to win and they played like it. I'm not saying we didn't. They made big plays at the end. We didn't.''
Griffin damaged four padded courtside seats while diving for a loose ball in the opening seconds of the third quarter. Fortunately, the seats were unoccupied when the muscular 6-foot-10, 250-pounder went flying headfirst after the ball. Otherwise, somebody would have been hurt.
When the unsuspecting fans came back with their beverages, they had to temporarily move until the seats were pulled and replaced.
Following a poor showing in a loss to Detroit on Wednesday, a ''mad as hell'' Scott blasted his players for their overall lack of energy amid a streak taking on a life of its own. He was amazed that they wouldn't be ready to play and challenged their pride.
They finally showed some.
''It's great,'' he said. ''We finally got the monkey off our back. But I expect our guys to play this hard every single night. If we do that, we'll be OK.''
NOTES: The Clippers will travel 6,510 miles on their eight-game, 14-day trip. ... Like any NBA fan, Scott loves Griffin's game. ''The guy is unbelievable,'' Scott said. ''I've watched the Clippers play, and I would never watch the Clippers play. But I watch them, and 99 percent of that is because of Blake Griffin. He's what you call a true power forward. No doubt about that.'' ... Williams was sad to see Utah coach Jerry Sloan resign following a reported clash with star guard Deron Williams. ''Jerry should get all the credit he deserves for all the things he's done, all the players who came through, including myself,'' said the Cavs guard, who was drafted by Utah. ''I have nothing but great memories of that organization, especially Jerry Sloan. I wish him the best.''