ATLANTA: He was in this position last season, the guy under the basket with the ball in his hands and time running out. In fact, it was this same basket on this same floor in this same arena when Alonzo Gee crashed in following a miss by Kyrie Irving, gathered the rebound and missed the follow on a wide-open look in overtime last March.
Given another chance following another miss — this time from Dion Waiters on a wild 3-pointer — Gee capitalized to give the Cavs a stunning 113-111 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The win ended the Cavs’ four-game losing streak and the Hawks’ NBA-best six-game winning streak. And it came on a wild finish.
“I thought it was good,” Gee said of Waiters’ final shot. “I just ran to the rim and it fell in my hands. Then when I caught it … it was another opportunity. Last year I had the same play, but I missed the shot. It was good.”
With the score tied at 111, Cavs coach Byron Scott was torn on whether to put the ball in the hands of Jeremy Pargo or the rookie Waiters. After deliberating with his coaches, Scott settled on Waiters. It didn’t take long for the rookie to make him regret the decision — albeit briefly.
Waiters had 21 points and tied a career high with seven assists, and he did the bulk of that damage with the Hawks’ DeShawn Stevenson defending him. So when Waiters crossed the half-court line and Stevenson picked him up, Scott admitted he was excited. The Cavs had the matchup they wanted and Waiters had the ball in his hands as the clock ticked down.
Then with 2.9 seconds left, to the horror of Scott and everyone on the Cavs’ bench, Waiters hoisted an ill-advised 3-pointer that hit absolutely nothing. Waiters insists it glanced off the rim, but he’s the only one who saw it hit iron. Everyone else saw an errant air ball that landed in Gee’s hands.
As the rest of the players on the floor seemed to relax for a split-second, Gee caught the shot/pass and put it in with three-tenths of a second left. The Hawks left the court stunned as the Cavs celebrated their second victory since Nov. 5.
“It was like, ‘We’re going to clear it out.’ I guess I have to be a little more specific and say, ‘Try to get to the basket,’ ” Scott joked. “We had the matchup. I thought it was a perfect matchup for us. Then he bailed [Stevenson] out by shooting a 3 that didn’t touch nothing. Luckily ‘Zo’ was there to rebound the ball and put it in.”
Scott said a number of players were hammering Waiters for taking the 3, but he insisted even after the game it was the right shot.
“I wouldn’t take the shot back at all. If I had a chance to do it again, I’d take the same shot,” Waiters said before hesitating and adding, “Maybe get a little closer.”
The Cavs surrendered a season-high 67 points in the first half and trailed by 11 at halftime, but fought back in the second half by tightening up on defense and dominating the glass. The Cavs smashed the Hawks in rebounding 49-28. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson alone outrebounded the Hawks 33-28.
Varejao was fantastic again with 20 points and 18 rebounds, his seventh consecutive double-double. He has recorded at least 10 points, 15 rebounds and five offensive rebounds in every game during the streak, a feat that hasn’t been done since Moses Malone, according to ESPN Stats.
Thompson matched a career high with 15 rebounds, Jeremy Pargo had 22 points (10 in the fourth quarter) and Gee finished with 13 points and his first NBA game-winning shot.
“It was a great feeling for me,” he said. “We needed this win. It was very important for us.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.