WASHINGTON (AP) One day after their general manager was unexpectedly fired and playing without their second leading scorer, the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to snap their six-game losing streak.
Luol Deng was out with flu-like symptoms, and Kyrie Irving, who missed shootaround because he was ill, fought through his sneezing spells to help lead the Cavaliers to a 115-113 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday.
Irving had 23 points and tied a career high with 12 assists and made all 13 of his free throws. Dion Waiters scored 24 points and C.J. Miles had 18 for Cleveland.
”I’m all right. It’s the best that I’m going to get right now,” Irving said.
The second-year guard admitted that the firing of Chris Grant, who drafted him, was troubling.
”That’s the sad part, the bad part about our business. Things are going to change whether you like it or not and you still have to go out there and perform as a professional. It was probably on our minds but we can’t use it as an excuse,” Irving said.
Cleveland took a 67-63 lead at halftime when Irving hit four free throws just before the intermission and never relinquished it.
The Cavaliers took a 101-87 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter, but the Wizards, who were led by John Wall’s 32 points and 10 assists, couldn’t make up the difference.
Martell Webster hit two late 3-pointers to cut the lead to 115-113 with 2.9 seconds left. Cleveland’s Jarrett Jack missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining. A scramble resulted with Washington getting possession with 0.2 seconds left, but couldn’t get off a final shot.
The near comeback didn’t impress Wizards coach Randy Wittman.
”We wait until the last four minutes to fly around and decide to play defense. Last four minutes of the game. Everybody will say, you gave a great effort coming down the stretch. No we didn’t. For 44 minutes we didn’t give an effort,” Wittman said.
His team didn’t heed his warnings.
”We told them what that organization is going through right now. Some tough times with the firing of their GM. They’re going to be desperate. It always happens no matter who it is that gets fired,” Wittman said.
Washington fell to 24-25. It’s the 12th time they’re one game under .500 this season. The Wizards were one game over .500 after Monday’s win against Portland for the first time since Oct. 31, 2009, but they lost in double overtime to San Antonio on Wednesday.
”We’re not a very good team. Good teams don’t do that over and over and over and over again. We can get all caught up in .500, and I told you guys what that meant. Nothing. And think you’ve arrived. Good teams do not lose basketball games like this nine, ten, 11 times halfway through a season,” Wittman said.
Marcin Gortat had 19 and Webster 18 for Washington.
”We have a lot of fans coming in, paying to watch good basketball at a high level. They expect us to win games like that – and we’re losing,” Gortat said.
Waiters scored just four of his 24 points in the fourth quarter when he was just 2 for 7 from the field.
”The energy was different, these guys knew what was at stake after going through a situation where we went through. We faced adversity and it wasn’t the first time for us but at the end of the day we came out here we played hard, played for one another and we got a big win,” Waiters said.
Grant came under fire after he chose Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick last June. Bennett has struggled in his first months with Cleveland, though coach Mike Brown, a longtime friend of Grant’s, defended Bennett before Friday’s game, saying he’s shown great improvement recently.
Bennett had eight points.
NOTES: Cleveland’s Alonzo Gee had a season-high 11 points. . Wall addressed the fans before the game, thanking them for their support in All-Star Game voting. The fourth-year guard will play in the Feb. 16 game in New Orleans for the first time. .Washington F Al Harrington hasn’t played since Nov. 12 because of right knee surgery. Wittman said he thinks Harrington will play again this season, but wouldn’t put a timetable on it.