CLEVELAND (AP) — Larry Nance Jr. wasn’t sure the clock would ever run out Tuesday night.
The Cavaliers’ forward wasn’t the only one. Cleveland nearly squandered a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding off Washington’s comeback for a 116-113 win over the Wizards.
“We were at like 32 seconds for three minutes, I swear,” Nance said of the harrowing finish.
The Cavaliers seemed to be on their way to an easy victory most of the night. Jordan Clarkson scored 28 points and Cedi Osman had 26. Cleveland matched a season high with 15 3-pointers and led 105-80 with 6:58 remaining.
Then the Cavaliers, who hit seven of 16 free throws in the final period, nearly fell apart as Washington’s reserves almost pulled out a stunner.
The margin was trimmed to nine, but Cleveland still led 115-103 with 42 seconds remaining. Jordan McRae hit two 3-pointers and Tony Brown Jr. had a layup as the Cavs missed three of four from the line.
McRae’s two foul shots with 18 seconds remaining cut the deficit to three. Osman missed two free throws with 11 seconds left and the Wizards called a timeout to set up a chance to tie the game.
Osman stripped the ball from Brown at the 3-point line and Nance dribbled out the clock.
Washington’s starters were on the bench most of the fourth quarter and coach Scott Brooks kept them there for the last possession.
“They earned the right to win the game,” he said of his backups. “These guys earned the right to get us to overtime.”
The Cavaliers were relieved to head home with the win.
“Momentum’s a scary thing,” Nance said. “When another team has momentum it doesn’t matter if you put the guys with the best plus-minus on the team in. Once it snowballs and gets rolling, it’s hard to stop.”
Ante Zizic had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Nance added 13 points with 11 rebounds.
The Cavaliers, who defeated Chicago on Sunday, won back-to-back games for the second time this season. Cleveland (11-41) had lost 18 of 19 before beating the Bulls.
Bradley Beal scored 31 but Washington lost in Cleveland for the second time this season. The Cavaliers topped the Wizards 116-101 on Dec. 8, a game Cleveland led by 29 points.
The other time the Cavs won consecutive games was Nov. 23-24 when they stunned Philadelphia and Houston. Cleveland also broke a nine-game home losing streak and won at Quicken Loans Arena for the first time since beating New York on Dec. 12.
Trevor Ariza had 13 points. McRae scored 15 points and Gary Payton II had 11 — all in the final quarter.
McRae was a reserve on Cleveland’s 2015-16 team that won the NBA championship.
HE SAID IT
Beal had a simple theory on why the Wizards played so poorly until the final minutes.
“We probably thought that Cleveland was terrible, and they came out and punched us in the mouth, just like they did last time,” he said. “You can’t overlook anybody. You’ve got to respect every team in the league.”
THE NEXT STEP
Kevin Love will likely participate in contact drills this week. Cleveland coach Larry Drew has been impressed with how the All-Star forward has moved in offensive drills. The Cavaliers are off until hosting Dallas on Saturday, but Drew doesn’t anticipate Love will play this week. Love had foot surgery in November.
Wizards: C Ian Mahinmi (sprained right thumb) and F Sam Dekker (back spasms) returned after missing one game apiece. Dekker began the season with Cleveland and was traded to Washington on Dec. 8 as part of a three-team deal that included Milwaukee.
Cavaliers: Had six players in doubles figures. Collin Sexton scored 12 points and Matthew Dellavedova added 10. … Sexton fouled Beal while the Wizards’ guard was hitting a 3 in the first quarter. Beal completed the four-point play at the line. … Osman was selected to the World Team for the Rising Stars game that will take place during All-Star weekend.
Wizards: Host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
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