WASHINGTON — One day after the skidding Cleveland Cavaliers shook up their front office, their offense broke down the Washington Wizards.
Guard Dion Waiters scored 24 points and point guard Kyrie Irving had 23 points and matched his career-high 12 assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 115-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
Forward C.J. Miles scored 18 points for the Cavaliers (17-33), who shot 59 percent from the field through three quarters, made 29 of 33 free throws and fended off a Washington rally in the final minutes.
Irving made all 13 of his free throw attempts and had a double-double by halftime with 12 points and 10 assists despite battling a cold. Cleveland let most of a 14-point fourth quarter lead slip away in the offensive-dominate game, but finished off the Wizards the day after the Cavaliers fired general manager Chris Grant.
“The energy was different, these guys knew what was at stake after going through a situation where we went through,” said Waiters, who made 10 of his first 12 shots from the floor. “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.”
In a matchup of All-Star point guards, guard John Wall had 12 of his 32 points in the final 4:22 of the fourth quarter for the Wizards (24-25). Washington trailed 101-87 with 9:08 remaining, but pulled within two behind Wall’s and forward Martell Webster’s 3-point shooting.
Webster’s sixth basket from beyond the arc and second in the final 12 seconds pulled Washington within two points. Cavaliers guard Jarrett Jack missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds left. Left without any timeouts, the Wizards could not get off a final shot.
The Wizards opened their five-game homestand with big wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. On Wednesday, they lost in double-overtime to the San Antonio Spurs after blowing a late lead in regulation.
Now a second straight defeat dropped Washington below .500 after posting a winning record for the first time since 2009. Low early energy and defensive struggles led to the latest setback — and Randy Wittman’s blistering reaction postgame.
“We’re not a very good team,” the Wizards coach said. “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, 10, 11 times halfway through a season. … We’re not willing to pay the price to be a good team.”
Miles replaced forward Luol Deng, who missed his first game since acquired by the Cavaliers from the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 7 because of flu-like symptoms. His absence left more work for Irving. He did just that.
“To have 12 assists, getting to the free throw line was a phenomenal game,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “He helped make his teammates better tonight and that was fun to see.”
Cleveland has won four straight in Washington, including a 103-96 overtime victory Nov. 16. The Wizards countered with a 98-81 win four days later at Cleveland.
Wall also had 10 assists for Washington, which fell to 12-13 at home this season. Center Marcin Gortat scored 19 points and Webster had 18.
The Cavaliers led 67-63 at halftime and 93-85 after three quarters before a crowd of 16,294. His jumper with 9:08 remaining in the game gave the Cavaliers their largest lead at 101-87.
Both teams shot better than 60 percent from the field during a free-flowing first quarter as the Wizards led 38-32. The point-producing continued as Cleveland score more points in the first half than any team against Washington this season.
“It had nothing to do with them making shots,” Wittman said of Cleveland’s production. “It had a lot to do with how they got the shots that they got.”
NOTES: Cleveland forward Alonzo Gee scored a season-high 11 points. …Both teams combined to shoot 12 of 20 on 3-point attempts in the first half. … Cavaliers coach Mike Brown spoke pregame about the team dealing with distractions, including Wednesday’s firing of general manager Chris Grant. “It’s a tough situation to go through, anything like we’ve gone through the past day or so. We all have a job to do. I have a job to continue to leading this team and to try to execute and to play better basketball than what it’s doing right now.” …The series finale comes Feb. 23 in Cleveland. …Washington wraps up its five-game homestand against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, the same day Cleveland hosts the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.