Cavs give valiant effort, but edged in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It wasn’t a win over Miami, or anything close. In fact, it wasn’t even a win.

But for the Cavaliers, dropping a 98-97 decision to host Charlotte on Wednesday was hardly an embarrassment. Far from it.

One night after an emotional victory over LeBron James and the Heat, the Cavs were expected to get flattened by Bobcats team that is oh-so-close to a playoff spot. The Cavs were out of energy and had nothing to play for but pride, the experts said. The Bobcats, on the other hand, were fighting for their postseason lives.

Yet the game came down to an Anthony Parker 13-footer at the buzzer. It was partially blocked by Bobcats big man Dominic McGuire, but reached the side of the rim before dropping off.

If there were such a thing as moral victories, this most definitely would have been one of them.

“The biggest positive is usually after we’ve won, we’ve kind of fallen on our face next game,” said Cavs coach Byron Scott. “Tonight, we didn’t do that.”

Instead, the Cavs refused to fold after falling behind by 10 points in the first quarter. They were mostly efficient, fairly entertaining and rallied to keep themselves in it until the very end.

And for a team that only increases its chances to gain the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by losing, the Cavs sure seem like they are trying hard to win. Know why? Because they are.

Anyone who saw Ramon Sessions come off the Cavs bench to score 24 points, including 10-for-10 free-throw shooting, can attest to the above. Same goes for J.J. Hickson and his 20 points and seven rebounds, and Parker’s 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Of course, a big key to the improvement is veteran point guard Baron Davis. He moved into the starting lineup for the Miami game and stayed there for the Charlotte game — and it’s no coincidence that the Cavs have been considerably more cohesive.

Davis followed a 10-point, six-assist outing against Miami with an 11-point, six-assist outing against Charlotte. But more important than numbers are the fact that when Davis is on the floor, the ball keeps moving and everyone seems to have a sense of where they belong.

Fittingly, Davis began the final play in control of the scene, dribbling and trying to create for others. Not surprisingly, the Bobcats realized he is a constant threat to score as well.

“As soon I got the ball (on the final play), they were saying, ‘Don’t leave him, don’t leave him,'” Davis said. “Coach was kind of using me as a decoy, and that kind of opened it up for AP. He got a great look, but (McGuire) made a great defensive play.”

On the downside, the Cavs compiled just 17 assists, compared to 33 for the Bobcats. The Cavs also suffered a 54-42 deficit in points in the paint.

Meanwhile, versatile Bobcats forward Boris Diaw gave perhaps his finest performance of the season. He finished with 26 points, 11 assists and seven boards, along with hitting a couple of biggies down the stretch.

Kwame Brown added 16 points for the Bobcats (32-42), who remained one game behind Indiana for the East’s final playoff spot. The Pacers defeated Detroit on Wednesday.

The Cavs (15-59) still have to win one more game to surpass the fewest victories in a season in franchise history, set during the expansion season of 1970-71. They will get another opportunity to do so Friday in Washington.

“I thought we played well — we could’ve had more energy but everyone who played, contributed,” Davis said. “But coming off a high one last night, and playing against a team that is hungry for a playoff spot, we gave ourselves a chance to win.”