CLEVELAND (AP) — With a certain someone somewhere else, the Cleveland Cavaliers need a go-to star, the one they can count on to take the big shots and make the big plays.
Mo Williams wants LeBron’s old job.
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He scored 25 points — 18 in the second half — with a season-high 12 assists, J.J. Hickson added 16 points, and the Cavaliers snapped out of a fourth-quarter offensive funk just in time to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 92-86 on Saturday night.
Williams hit a 3-pointer and a floater in the final 1:21, and stuffed the boxscore with stats like LeBron James once did in Cleveland as the Cavaliers overcame missing their first 13 shots in the fourth to win their seventh straight at home over Memphis.
It was the second straight strong performance at home for Williams, whose game-winning, step-back jumper at the horn on Wednesday beat Milwaukee.
“He’s playing extremely well,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. “Tonight, he was fantastic, a double-double, finding the open guys. I think he had four turnovers, which we’d like to cut in half. But other than that, he’s trying to play the right way and make the right decisions.
“He’s playing great.”
Hickson bounced back from a stretch of bad games, Joey Graham added 12 points and Anderson Varejao had 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who improved to 7-9 in their first season without James. The two-time league MVP used to do it all for Cleveland, and the team sorely needs someone to step up and take over.
Williams is ready to try.
“Each team has got to have that guy to get something going as far as a flow in the offense,” Williams said. “It’s not going to be me every night. I’ll be aggressive every night, but it’s my job to get my teammates the ball and ride them.”
Rudy Gay scored 17 points and Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo had 13 apiece for the Grizzlies. Memphis scored only 35 in the second half, possibly because of fatigue after playing on Friday and not getting to Cleveland until 4 a.m.
“I’m not going to get into excuses,” Gay said. “We’re basketball players. If we weren’t professionals, there would probably be times we’d be in a pickup game at 11 o’clock at night.”
Memphis had its winning streak stopped at three.
“They were all over the place. We turned the ball over. We were running into each other, running into them,” Gay said of the Cavaliers. “When they put pressure on us, we can’t fold like we did tonight.”
Williams helped fold them.
With the score tied 84-84, he drained a 3 from the top of the key, and after a Memphis miss, Williams drove through traffic in the lane and fed Hickson for a layup to make it 89-84 with 29 seconds left. Mike Conley’s two free throws pulled the Grizzlies within three, but Williams ran down the clock before driving just inside the foul lane and sinking a soft, arching shot to put Memphis away.
The Cavaliers picked the worst possible time for their offense to go into hiding. They missed 13 straight shots in the fourth before Hickson’s layup put Cleveland ahead 82-80 with 3:04 remaining. Before Hickson’s bucket, the Cavs scored just five points in the period — all free throws.
With Cleveland trailing 60-56 in the third, Williams went to work during a 16-0 run.
He set up Joey Graham’s 3-pointer and then knocked down a jumper to put the Cavaliers ahead for the first time since the first quarter. Later, he connected on back-to-back 3-pointers, makes that prompted Jamario Moon and Cleveland’s reserves to flash the three-finger “Goosie” sign that was made popular a year ago, but has hardly been used this season.
“He made good shots,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “He drove to the basket. He made jumpers. He’s a good player.”
Scott was on his best sideline behavior, one day after criticizing the officials following a loss in Orlando. Scott was contacted by an NBA official on Saturday, who asked some questions and appeared to be satisfied with the coach’s answers.
“They said they’d talk to me later,” Scott said. “I said, ‘OK. Have a good day.'”
Scott expects to be fined for the first time as a coach, and has zero regrets about speaking his mind.
“I’m not going to bite my tongue,” he said.
NOTES: Wearing mustard-colored sneakers, Hickson scored in double digits for the first time since Nov. 13. … It wasn’t long after Scott lambasted officials Ed Malloy, Bennie Adams and Kevin Fehr in Orlando that he heard from his wife, Anita. “She was like, ‘Oh my, God. What did you do?'” Scott said. … The Cavaliers have a challenging week ahead — both emotionally and physically — as they’ll host Boston on Tuesday before the game everyone is awaiting: The return of James with the Miami Heat on Thursday.