CLEVELAND In a generous, gift-giving mood, the Cleveland Cavaliers nearly handed a precious win to one of the NBA s neediest teams.
Down by seven points in the final minutes to woeful Washington and their home winning streak in serious jeopardy, the Cavaliers clamped down on defense, made their free throws, and scored 11 straight points in the final 1:33 to beat the Wizards 93-89 last night
Mo Williams scored 24 points, and LeBron James and Delonte West had 18 apiece for the Cavs, who had to scrap to improve to 15-0 on their home floor and remain the league s only unblemished team at home.
Afterward, James knew he and his teammates salvaged what would have been a depressing holiday.
Would have ruined my Christmas, he said.
Cleveland, which had played flawlessly at home most of this season, trailed 89-82 before storming back with three free throws by James, a 3-pointer by Williams, and five more foul shots in the last 26 seconds. But none of that would have been possible if the Cavs hadn t done it with their defense as Williams and Ben Wallace drew charging fouls to fuel the final push.
Antawn Jamison scored 28 points, and Mike James 26 for the Wizards, who dropped their eighth straight and continue to find new ways to lose. Washington has lost 13 games it has led in the fourth quarter this season.
Some of the Wizards weren t happy with calls that could have gone either way down the stretch.
It s tough because we had a chance to win, Mike James said. We re up six and the calls didn t go our way, man. But that s the way it goes sometimes.
The Cavaliers home winning streak was as good as history when Jamison drained a 3-pointer with 1:40 left to put the Wizards ahead by seven points.
But LeBron James was fouled shooting a 3 and, after starting 3-of-7 from the line, Cleveland s superstar made three straight from the line to pull Cleveland to 89-85. Williams then drew a charge on Jamison in the lane and then demanded the ball from James and got it before hitting a 3-pointer to make it 89-88 with 1:03 to go.
Mike James missed for Washington, and Jamison fouled out while battling Anderson Varejao for a rebound. Varejao, a 68 percent free-throw shooter, made both to give the Cavs a 90-88 lead, and Cleveland got the ball right back when Caron Butler was called for charging into Ben Wallace. The Wizards had to foul, and Williams made them pay by hitting two free throws to make it 92-89.
The Wizards still had a chance to tie, but James, recently acquired in a trade from Memphis, missed a 3-pointer and West made 1-of-2 foul shots to ice it.
Not a pretty one, and we re not satisfied at all, LeBron James said. But we ll take the win.
During their home streak, the Cavs have been blowing teams out, but a sloppy third quarter left them in an unfamiliar position of trailing entering the fourth.
The Wizards turned nine turnovers by Cleveland in the third into 13 points, and Mike James scored eight straight points in the final 2:40 as Washington opened a 71-68 lead, stunning Cavs fans who had been in a festive mood from the opening tip.
The Wizards-Cavaliers holiday matchup looked great on paper before the season started. After all, the clubs have met in the playoffs three straight years with last season s series best remembered for Washington s hard fouls on James as well as DeShawn Stevenson s endless trash talking at Cleveland s superstar.
As James performed his pregame routine of tossing hand chalk into the air yesterday, the sellout crowd threw packets of white confetti aloft with him, creating a blizzard-like effect inside Quicken Loans Arena. The theatrical stunt was to promote James new Nike chalk shoe, one of several variations he has worn this season.
That was unbelievable, James said of the indoor snowstorm. I will never forget that.
The Wizards, though, weren t about to be used as props and built a 25-22 lead after one.
But with James on the bench, the Cavaliers went on a 20-9 run to open the second and were poised for another early blowout. Jamison wouldn t let it happen as he scored 17 points in the first half to keep the Wizards to 49-47 at halftime.
SPURS 91, SUNS 90
PHOENIX Roger Mason sank a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer to give San Antonio a victory over Phoenix.
The Suns had taken the lead on Grant Hill s layup on an out-of-bounds play with 4.3 seconds to go. Tony Parker drove toward the basket for San Antonio and threw to Mason, who was wide open because defender Jason Richardson was late getting there.
Parker scored 27, and Tim Duncan had 25 points and 17 rebounds as the Spurs won their fourth straight. Amare Stoudemire had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Shaquille O Neal 23 points and 12 boards for the Suns, who led most of the afternoon but never by more than eight in the second half.
Hill added 16 for the Suns, the last two coming on the same play Phoenix used to beat Orlando this season. After a timeout, he inbounded to Stoudemire, than ran to the baseline and toward the basket, where Stoudemire found him for the uncontested layup.
But the Spurs had the last shot. When Parker drove toward the basket, Richardson came in to help on defense. That left Mason, a 48 percent 3-point shooter, alone for the winner, sending San Antonio to its 10th win in its last 12 games.
MAGIC 88, HORNETS 68
ORLANDO, Fla. Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points to lead Orlando over New Orleans in a matchup of division leaders.
David West had 13 points for New Orleans. Chris Paul and Devin Brown each added 12.
Paul, the NBA steals leader (3.7 average), snapped his league-record string of 108 games with at least one.
Dwight Howard had 12 points and 15 rebounds in Southeast-leading Orlando s sixth-straight win. Rashard Lewis added 18 points and Jameer Nelson 14.
The Magic led by as many as 31 points early in the third quarter. The Hornets did not get closer than 19 points the rest of the game.
New Orleans came in off a 13-point home loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. With backup point guard Antonio Daniels still sidelined, Paul has had to play nearly all the minutes, including a 17-point, 10-assist performance in 46 minutes against Los Angeles.
Hornets center Tyson Chandler picked up two fouls in the first six minutes.
Howard had three blocks and was called for goaltending twice as Orlando built a lead that grew to 29-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Fueled by a pair of 3s by Nelson and six straight points by Howard, including a rousing putback dunk, Orlando went on a 22-4 run to take a 59-29 lead with just over two minutes left in the first half.