CLEVELAND, Ohio – Finally.
After a month of misery, the Cleveland Cavaliers had cause for celebration and ended their 10-game losing streak with a win against the Atlanta Hawks (112-111). It was an unlikely hero who provided the much-needed right moment.
Uncovered rookie Lamar Stevens, who plays on a two-way contract and is struggling to prove he belongs in the league, spoke less than a week ago about not having his NBA signature moment. Forget that. He’s got one now. A game-winning dunk with 4.1 seconds on the clock that prevents the Cavaliers from wasting a 13-point lead in the first half and bounces off a five-point deficit three minutes to the end of the fourth quarter.
Darius Garland’s costly turnover of about 30 seconds left seemed to be the devastating mistake the Cavs could not overcome. But Trae Young was chased to the sideline near Cleveland’s Bank, forcing the Hawks to take their last time out, giving JB Bickerstaff a chance to make a late offensive defense replacement and call for Stevens.
After the brief interruption, Young missed one of his patented floaters, Stevens collected the rebound, quickly turned the ball to Collin Sexton and sprinted up the floor. Sexton initiated, drew several defense attorneys, and went to Stevens for an undisputed Fahrdunk. Due to time constraints, the Hawks ran around before the clock ran out.
Stevens the Dunk. Sexton, who called Tuesday’s matchup a must-have, was the assistant. Just when the Cavs worked it out, right?
Hey whatever it takes
“The best thing about this game is that you literally go up and down. Everyone who has played has contributed to winning this game,” said Bickerstaff. “That made it even better and even sweeter, even though they all taste sweet at this point.”
Sexton, who hadn’t been selected as an NBA All-Star hours earlier, scored 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 3-of-5 from 3-point range, which equates to five assists. Garland was there with 17 and eight helpers. Dylan Windler came off the bench and poured 15 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from deep. Stevens had eight points – none bigger than the staple bucket that led to his teammates attacking him all the way up the tunnel that led to the locker room.
“He has earned the respect of the coaching staff and his teammates,” said Bickerstaff. “Every minute he gets is deserved and I think that’s the most important thing. Nothing is handed to him. Nothing was given to him at the beginning of the year. He worked his cock off to show that he deserved it and that he deserved it. I think that’s why he’s rewarded for it. “
At one point during the game, teammates Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. were playing playfully on the sidelines. It was such a night. Both injured strikers, who may have been lying on the ground instead of Stevens, exploded when Stevens threw down his dunk. They greeted the boy quickest as soon as the buzzer sounded.
The Cavs have recently walked away repeatedly with dejected looks. That finally changed on Tuesday evening. The burst of joy was weeks in the making.
Matthew Dellavedova, who has not played this season due to a severe concussion and recently underwent appendicectomy, was on the bench for the first time. Dellavedova, still walking cautiously, gave advice to the young Cleveland guards throughout the game and partied on the sidelines.
Atlanta Hawks striker John Collins, who was hit in the head in the first half, was replaced by Danilo Gallinari early in the third quarter. Collins was excluded for concussion assessment. He finished 5 out of 6 with 13 points, three rebounds and an assist in 13 minutes.
The Cavs will pack up their homestand on Wednesday night and play the Houston Rockets on the second night of a back-to-back. The tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
New Cavs Face Masks For Sale: Here, you can purchase Cleveland Cavaliers-themed face covers for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All NBA proceeds were donated to charity.
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