CLEVELAND (AP) – The Cleveland Cavaliers showed they can win a close game without Kyrie Irving on Tuesday night.
Dion Waiters scored 20 points, including 12 in the final 7:29, and the Cavaliers held off a late run to beat the Washington Wizards 95-90.
Cleveland played its first game since Irving sprained his left shoulder Sunday against Toronto. The All-Star point guard, who watched the game from the bench with his left arm in a sling, could miss the next month – and maybe the rest of this season. The Cavaliers are 5-10 without him this season.
Cleveland definitely missed its star player in the beginning, falling behind 11-0 in the game’s first two minutes. Waiters did his best Irving imitation with the game on the line by hitting a jumper, converting on a drive, scoring on a dunk and making 6 of 8 free throws.
“Everybody lives for the moment, whether it’s knocking down free throws or hitting big shots,” said Waiters, who hit four foul shots in the final 13.1 seconds to secure the win.
Waiters, selected with the No. 4 pick in the draft, will take on more responsibility with Irving sidelined.
“Coach told me to keep attacking,” he said. “Either to get to the basket or find an open teammate. That’s what I was trying to do.”
Waiters had no explanation for Cleveland’s poor start, which caused Cleveland coach Byron Scott to call timeout and bench all of his starters with the exception of Shaun Livingston, who has moved into the point guard spot with Irving sidelined.
“I can’t really answer that,” Waiters said. “The way we came out was terrible. It just was ugly.”
John Wall led Washington with a season-high 27 points, but the Wizards couldn’t convert down the stretch and have league’s worst road record at 5-25. Cleveland swept the three-game series from Washington, a fact that didn’t get by Wall.
“We got swept by Cleveland and Detroit, who are good teams and everything, but we just felt like we were better than them,” he said. “Instead, we went 0-7, which is tough.”
Wall also had season highs with 14 assists and seven rebounds. Emeka Okafor scored 18 points and had 11 rebounds, while Martell Webster added 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
Rookie guard Bradley Beal, who entered the night as the Wizards’ leading scorer, missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle.
Cleveland placed six players in double figures. Alonzo Gee had 17, while Tristan Thompson scored 13 points and had 14 rebounds. Livingston and Wayne Ellington added 12 points apiece. C.J. Miles added 10.
Cleveland led 90-78 with 4:29 remaining, but the Wizards cut the margin to 91-88 with 45 seconds left. Livingston, who was claimed off waivers from the Wizards on Dec. 25, won a crucial jump ball from Nene with 20 seconds remaining to keep a possession alive, and Waiters came through at the line.
Scott was in a much better mood following the game than he was early in it.
“They didn’t want to play, so I took them out,” he said of his mass benching in the first quarter. “Simple as that. I was going to do the same thing in the third quarter. … My patience ran thin. I was tired of what I was seeing, so I made changes.”
Wall, who was 13 of 14 from the line, was the No. 1 pick in the draft in 2010 while Irving was chosen first the following season. The two won’t meet this season, as Wall missed the first two games while he came back from a leg injury. The Cavaliers are 9-21 in games Irving has missed the last seasons.
The Wizards were 16 for 16 from the foul line in the first half.
The Cavaliers used a 16-7 run to end the third quarter and took a 76-65 lead into the final period. The spurt was sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from Gee, a jumper by Luke Walton as the shot clock expired and a reverse layup by Ellington.
Washington led 33-20 after one quarter, but Thompson scored all 11 of his first-half points in the second period as the Cavaliers rallied to lead 50-49 at halftime.
“The second and third quarters was when we really lost the game,” Wall said. “It was a game of runs and they outhustled us at the end. We just didn’t get it done.”
NOTES: G Garrett Temple made his second consecutive start in Beal’s spot. … Wizards coach Randy Wittman isn’t sure when Beal will return. “It could be a day. It could be a week. We’ll just have to wait and see,” he said. … Cavaliers F Omri Casspi (appendectomy) was active for the first time since Feb. 20. He was stricken with appendicitis on Feb. 23, just before Cleveland’s game in Orlando. Casspi has not played in a game since Feb. 6 against Charlotte and has not scored a point since Jan. 22 against Boston. … G Daniel Gibson, who will see more playing time with Irving out, appeared for the first time since March 4.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.