By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: On his final shot of the night, a 3-pointer that extended the Cavaliers’ lead to 15 and gave him another new career high in scoring, Anthony Bennett threw both arms in the air in relief as he jogged toward the Cavs’ bench.
The Kings called a timeout and teammates sprang off the bench to congratulate Bennett, the much-maligned rookie who was enjoying his first career double-double and easily his finest night of the season. He has been a punch line for the first three months of his rookie season, but if the last couple of weeks are any indication, Bennett might just have the last laugh.
He had 19 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday and the Cavs beat the Sacramento Kings 109-99 for their third consecutive victory, matching their longest winning streak of the season and their longest of the past four seasons. And Bennett was a big reason why.
“I’ve been saying this all along: He can play,” Mike Brown said. “He’s just now getting to be who you will see going forward in the future.”
With Anderson Varejao out of the lineup nursing an assortment of ailments, the Cavs needed to find another big man. Bennett delivered 30 minutes, shot 6-for-9 (made all three of his 3-point attempts) and grabbed three offensive rebounds. He was active inside, poking loose balls away and making himself a presence at both ends.
He grabbed a defensive rebound late in the game for his 10th rebound and first double-double, then Kyrie Irving zipped him a pass at the other end for his final basket and ensuing arm-raising celebration.
“I was just having fun,” Bennett said. “We’re winning, we’re playing good defense, that shot was a huge relief for me.”
And the last time he had fun on a basketball court?
“I don’t remember,” he said. “But today was definitely one of those days.”
The Cavs received contributions from everyone to avenge a 44-point loss at Sacramento a few weeks ago, a loss that stood as the most lopsided in the NBA until recently. Luol Deng had 22 points, Tristan Thompson had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Irving had 13 points and six assists and Dion Waiters had 20 points and eight assists off the bench.
DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, but he didn’t score a basket after the first quarter (his final 10 points came from the free-throw line) and he only attempted two shots the rest of the night.
The Cavs swarmed him with a collection of guys that included Tyler Zeller and Henry Sims, who fouled out in 18 minutes but contributed seven points and five rebounds.
The Cavs moved the ball well offensively, generating 30 assists on 41 baskets, and they defended the way Brown likes for most of the night. Now they have a chance today for a four-game winning streak with a victory at Detroit, something that hasn’t happened in Cleveland since LeBron James wore a Cavs jersey.
“We’re getting there, we’re not there yet,” Deng said. “We’ve done a nice job of moving the ball and playing better defense. We still have to keep trying to improve, but the last three games shows how good we can be.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.