6:00 PM ET, April 13, 2008
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Daniel Gibson raised up on his tip toes, pointed his right hand toward the basket and admired a 3-pointer long after it went in.
It was a thing of beauty.
On Sunday night, it was about the only thing that looked any good.
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Gibson made his 3-pointer and three straight free throws early in the fourth quarter while LeBron James rested, and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved closer to the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed with an unappealing 84-76 win over the Miami Heat.
"Sometimes you've got to grind them out," Gibson said. "Sometimes the ugly ones are the best ones. We got the win."
Delonte West scored 18 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 and 14 rebounds and James finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Cavaliers, who played poorly but did enough down the stretch to beat the pathetic Heat.
Cleveland led by just two points after three quarters and didn't pull comfortably ahead until there was less than five minutes to go.
The Cavaliers, who are only 13-12 since a major trade in February, need to win one of their final two games -- at Philadelphia on Monday or home against Detroit on Wednesday -- to secure the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs against Washington.
The Wizards have clinched at least the No. 5 seed, and will meet the Cavs in the postseason for the third straight year.
"I wanted to play somebody else," James said. "But if we had to play somebody, I'm happy it's Washington."
Let the trash talking begin. Or continue.
For the past few weeks, the Wizards have been stirring things up with comments about James and the Cavaliers, who beat Washington in six games in 2006 and then swept the Wizards in four straight last year. First, DeShawn Stevenson called James "overrated." Then, Gilbert Arenas said in a blog last week that "everybody wants Cleveland in that first round."
"He's going to get his wish," Cavs forward Joe Smith said. "We're going to bring it."
The Cavs outscored the Heat 12-2 -- with James was on the bench -- in the first 4:45 of the fourth to open a 69-61 lead.
Gibson, who has struggled to find his shot since missing 18 games with an ankle injury, triggered the run with a 3-pointer. On Cleveland's next trip, he was fouled by Jayson Williams while attempting a 3-pointer and made all three free throws to put the Cavs ahead 65-60.
After making his 3-pointer, Gibson stayed at the arc with his arm outstretched like a statue.
"My father has been telling me that I'm leaving before the shot hits the rim," Gibson said. "So I did that for him. I was going to stay there an extra 10 seconds so he could see that I wasn't going anywhere. And it went in, so maybe he's right."
llgauskas and Anderson Varejao scored to cap the run, and by the time James checked in with 5:18 remaining, Cleveland had an eight-point lead.
The Cavaliers have been out of step for weeks, and the losses, injuries and inconsistency has led to some frustration.
After Varejao fumbled away an inside pass in the third quarter from James, Cleveland's All-Star forward yelled at his frizzy-haired teammate, who didn't take the criticism well. As James took a seat on the bench for a timeout, Varejao walked over and the two exchanged words.
But later in the fourth, Varejao and James seemed to have made up and the Cavaliers avoided an embarrassing loss to the NBA's worst team.
"We made free throws down the stretch and we gradually nailed the coffin," James said. "Defensively we were very good. Offensively we couldn't make shots, but I can live with it if we play defense like that. It's tough when the crowd expects you to come in and blow them out. We continued to grind and grind and grind."
The Cavaliers, who had lost three of four coming in, played most of the second half without Wally Szczerbiak and Ben Wallace, acquired along with West and Smith in 1-player deal at the deadline. Szczerbiak went 0-for-3 in 10 minutes and Wallace had two points in 20.
The Heat were in position for an upset before going 6-of-17 from the floor in the fourth.
"We just went stone cold," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "I thought we played extremely well, but not driving the ball really hurt in the fourth. We just kept taking jumper after jumper. We just couldn't make enough shots. It's the same old story."
Cleveland swept the season series from Miami for the first time since 1989-90. ... Patriots WR Randy Moss sat behind Cleveland's bench. He and Williams were high school teammates. ... Riley hasn't had much to praise this season, but he's proud of Davis, who is on target to play in all 82 games. "I give him a lot of kudos," Riley said. "He's been playing hurt. There's a lot of players today who don't play hurt." ... The Cavs outrebounded the Heat 53-33 and 15-4 on the offensive end.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||26-66 (.394)||28-74 (.378)|
|3PM-3PA||8-16 (.500)||6-14 (.429)|
|FTM-FTA||16-22 (.727)||22-31 (.710)|
|Fast Break Points||4||9|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||25 (0/0)||18 (0/0)|