In his first game in charge of the Cleveland Cavaliers, interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff wanted to see “grit and fight” from his team. Those traits showed up in the fourth quarter.
Collin Sexton scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth and the Cleveland Cavaliers rallied to beat the Washington Wizards 113-108 on Friday night.
“The physicality they played with,” Bickerstaff said. “The toughness, guys diving on the floor, the multiple effort plays at the rim to finish the game down the stretch. That’s who we want to be and the reputation we’re trying to build.”
Cedi Osman added 16 points and Darius Garland had 15 to help the Cavaliers win back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 9-11. After those wins, they lost 13 of 15 heading into the All-Star break, resulting in first-year head coach John Beilein’s resignation.
Andre Drummond added 12 points and 12 rebounds, Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 11 rebounds and the Cavaliers took control in the fourth quarter after not leading at all during the first three.
That duo also each blocked two shots, part of a defensive effort that held the Wizards to 21 points in the final period after scoring 41 in the first. That helped Cleveland overcome 22 turnovers.
“The guys, what we keep talking about, their willingness to compete on the defensive end of the floor,” Bickerstaff said. “We had an opportunity.”
Bradley Beal had 26 points for Washington on 9-for-28 shooting. He was 1 of 10 from 3-point range on a night the Wizards shot 24% (9 of 37) from long range and 39% (41 or 106) overall.
Rui Hachimura added 17 points as the Washington returned from the break with a loss after entering winning five of their last seven.
“Down the stretch, they made some shots and we missed some shots,” said Ish Smith, who had only five points on 2-of-12 shooting for Washington. “And sometimes it’s that simple.”
Trailing nearly the entire game and by as many as 16 early, the Cavs turned it around with a 20-4 run during the fourth quarter. They pulled into their first tie on Thompson’s alley-oop dunk.
After Beal hit two foul shots, Garland’s 3-pointer from the left elbow gave Cleveland its first lead with 6:29 left. Sexton hit another 3 from the top of the arc to complete the run, making it 107-99 with 4:07 left.
“It was tough at first,” Sexton said. “Just coming off the break I needed my legs so I had to change up a little bit my shots and stuff. I just took what the defense gave me. I didn’t try to force anything.”
Cavaliers: Kevin Porter Jr. was ejected in the third quarter after receiving consecutive technical fouls while protesting a charging call. … Porter’s ejection ended his career-best streak of double-digit scoring at seven games. … Drummond received his ninth technical foul and first since joining the Cavaliers in a trade from Detroit earlier this month with 2:42 remaining in the first half.
Wizards: With his first steal, Beal reached 600 for his career. He remains seventh in franchise history. Wes Unseld is sixth with 628. … C Thomas Bryant played his first minutes since Feb. 3 after missing four games (sore right foot). … C Ian Mahinmi also played despite entering the game listed as questionable.
While coming off the bench for a third straight game, Thompson recorded a second consecutive double-double He also had four assists to go with his two blocks in a 26-minute outing.
“He brought that energy from the start of the game til the end of the game,” Sexton said. “I feel like he’s the one that got us over the hump and pretty much got this win for us tonight.”
Thompson started his first 48 games this season.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks had some pregame advice for Bickerstaff, recalling his own start as Oklahoma City’s interim head coach during the 2008-09 season.
“Do the opposite of what I did,” Brooks said. “I took over at 1-12 and at one point we were 3-29. Thank God we had a very patient organization and general manager … .”
Cavaliers: At Miami on Saturday night.
Wizards: At Chicago on Sunday night.
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