In what could have been slow motion, the ball rotated perfectly, was in line, but caught just enough of the back of the rim and bounced out. The end result was a New Jersey Nets win, 103-101, and the Cavalier’s 17th straight loss.
“I had the range,” said Gibson. “When I let it go, I thought it was good. I really thought it was good. It caught a little bit of the back rim.”
Following the miss, Gibson crumbled to the floor and sat with his head on his wrists, both resting on his knees. The purveyor of many past three-point conversions (10th in the NBA in threes made, seventh in three-point percentage), Gibson said that all he could think about was how making that shot would have brought smiles to the faces of his teammates and the fans back in Cleveland. Being on the more favorable side of the scoreboard for much of the game, the Cavaliers let the Nets stay just close enough so that a fourth-quarter lead would ultimately dissipate. A Brook Lopez hook shot with 1.4 seconds put the Nets up two points for the final play of the game despite an attempted foul – with one to give – by Ryan Hollins.
“It hurts,” said Gibson. ”It hurts a lot, because we tied it. We played the right type of basketball. We put ourselves in the position to win and we didn’t finish it.”
Gibson was one of three Cavaliers to play at least 38 minutes in the contest, finishing with 19 points and five assists. The loss was hardly his fault, but a confluence of events that merely allowed this one to slip away, including Hollins opting to slap the 265-pound Lopez on the back rather than wrapping him up and not allowing a shot.
Teammates Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions helped chip in among the starting five, finishing with 26 and 16 points, respecitively. Off of the bench, it was the abovementioned Graham who played one of his better contests of the season, tallying 14 points – three of which came on a clutch late-game three-pointer to tie the game before Lopez would take the lead right back.
Lopez finished with 28 points and seven rebounds. Point guard Devin Harris accounted for 14 points and 10 assists. And, once again, it was Anthony Morrow with several huge baskets in the final period, finishing with 16 points – 10 of which came in the fourth quarter.
“It was one of those games where I thought our guys played really hard,” said head coach Byron Scott. ”We had some mistakes towards the end that I think cost us the game. It’s tough, it’s tough to take the loss because I thought our guys played hard enough to get the win.”
The contest comes on the heels of relatively competitive games between the Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls. The Suns and Bulls contests saw the Cavaliers within reach late in fourth quarters, only to fall short in both occasions.
“We have to keep playing hard and applying all the things we talked about on both ends of the floor. We have to know that it’s going to work out for us, we’re going to have a breakout game. Right now we’re losing some of these battles, in the long run hopefully we’ll win the war.”
The battles that exist ahead come in the form of the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)