Cavaliers top Timberwolves 140-138 in overtime thriller
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
Entering Wednesday night’s matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Cleveland Cavaliers had been dreadful against teams with a better record than them, including the T-wolves that entered the night with a two-game advantage over Cleveland. The Cavs entered the matchup with the Timberwolves with a 1-8 record against top-tier teams, having already lost by 28 points in Minnesota earlier this season. Wednesday’s contest was a much different story.
With 13 losses and just six victories since Christmas, the Cavs needed a win over a top team, and they got it Wednesday with a thrilling 140-138 triumph over the Timberwolves in overtime in Quicken Loans Arena. In a back-and-forth battle, LeBron James sank a jumper at the buzzer to earn the Cavs the much-needed win.
“I was just trying to not turn the ball over,” Cavs forward Jeff Green, who inbounded the pass to James, said. “The play was to get LeBron the ball. I just tried to throw it to the open spot.
“He went and got it and made a play.”
James was unbelievable the entire evening, recording a triple-double with 37 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. He passed Zydrunas Ilgauskas (5,904 REB) to become the Cavs’ all-time leader in total rebounds, joining Michael Jordan (Bulls) and Kevin Garnett (Timberwolves) as the only players that lead a franchise in points, rebounds and assists. However, his final two points against Minnesota on Wednesday were the biggest of all.
“I don’t think we proved nothing, we know we’re a better team than what we’ve shown,” Cavs point guard Isaiah Thomas said. “We know we can play a lot better, even tonight we feel like we could have played a better game. The most important thing is the win.”
James missed a game-winning attempt at the buzzer in regulation, but redeemed himself in the end. However, those weren’t his only heroics. After former, brief Cavalier Andrew Wiggins sank a jump shot that gave Minnesota a 138-136 lead with a little more than a minute to play in overtime, James responded with a layup to tie the game with 24 seconds showing. Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler, who was also outstanding Wednesday with 35 points, five rebounds and six assists, had a chance to win the game on the ensuing possession. However, James swatted the attempt and the Cavs recovered the ball for James’ final shot from the free throw line that found nothing but the bottom of the net.
“We have to play him a lot of minutes,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought he carried us tonight.”
Cavs shooting guard J.R. Smith scored 20 points, while Tristan Thompson chipped-in 17 points and five rebounds.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the other standout for Minnesota, finishing with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Wiggins finished with 19 points.
A win couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cavs. They’ve been up and down much of the season after reconfiguring their team before the season. Lue knew his team would face adversity this season.
“I knew it would be tough to start the season with I.T. being out until January,” Lue said. “We got past that. We were able to find some combinations that worked and kind of rolled it out from there.
“LeBron was playing at very, very high level, and it was just tough trying to mix and match ‘Bron playing point guard and Shump playing point guard, but those guys figured it out. It’s just taking some time right now for us to get ourselves gelling offensively, with I.T. being out for so long and then having to come back and having the pressure to play well when he’s not really 100 percent yet as far as getting his legs and conditioning wise. I didn’t think it would be like this, but it’s something we have to continue to keep fighting and try to dig ourselves out of this hole.”
So, what would cure most of the ills the Cavs have had this season?
“Winning,” Lue said. “I think we just have to stick together. The biggest thing about professional sports is it’s a team sport, and we need everyone to be all in and we need everyone to play together. That’s how you win.
“You don’t win with one individual or two individuals, you win with everybody. We have to understand that and realize that, but winning cures a lot of different things.”.
POSTED 02/07/2018 23:25