SACRAMENTO — After going nearly four months without a victory away from home, the Cleveland Cavaliers have suddenly collected two road wins in the past three games.
That’s progress for a team with the worst overall record in the NBA that went through a 26-game road losing streak before a March 4 victory over the New York Knicks.
Ramon Sessions scored 20 points and the Cavaliers simply outhustled the Sacramento Kings in the second half to post a 97-93 win on Wednesday night.
Cleveland opened the season by winning three of its first four road games, but had dropped 28 of 29 since Nov. 10. The Cavaliers (13-53) have struggled mightily anywhere they play since LeBron James left.
“Our (road) losing streak is gone, it’s out the window,” said Sessions, who added six assists and five rebounds. “A this point, we just want to get as many wins as we can in the final 16 games.”
Marcus Thornton had 23 points for the Kings, who have lost seven of eight games and are now just 9-26 at home. Sam Dalembert contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds, Francisco Garcia and Beno Udrih both scored 14 points, while DeMarcus Cousins had 11 points and 16 rebounds.
“Even though they have a losing record, they have beaten key teams,” Cousins said. “You can’t let the record determine how you can play or how hard you can play.”
Sessions had struggled the past several weeks, but provided the biggest basket of the game. Following an offensive foul against DeMarcus Cousins, Sessions drove past three defenders and made a reverse layup to put the Cavaliers ahead 95-93 with 16 seconds to play.
“It was a high pick-and-roll and I wanted to attack their bigs,” Sessions said. “I was able to turn the corner, get by (Samuel) Dalembert, and get to the hole.”
The offensive foul against Cousins left fellow rookie Samardo Samuels on the floor, yet feeling good despite a sore back. It was a tough night for the undersized Cavaliers, who were outrebounded 49-42 and allowed the Kings to grab 17 offensive boards.
“With Cousins and Dalembert, we’re not going to out-physical them, but we managed to outsmart them,” said Samuels, who said he played high school basketball against Cousins. “There was no way I was going to bang with Cousins (on the crucial late-game possession). If he hit me, I was going down. Thankfully they called the foul on him.”
J.J. Hickson scored 17 points for Cleveland, Luke Harangody had 15 and Samuels added 13.
The game was a matchup between teams with little to look forward to until the NBA draft in June. The Cavaliers have the worst record in the Eastern Conference, while the Kings (16-50) have the worst record in the West.
The Cavaliers had a lackluster Tuesday practice that angered coach Byron Scott, who hasn’t liked the team’s effort in recent weeks.
“It’s amazing what competing will do,” Scott said. “I’ve been very critical the last few games. I told them there are three or four things you need to do every night. We did that tonight. We competed the whole game.”
After an impressive offensive showing Monday night at home in a victory over the Golden State Warriors, the Kings were not sharp against the Cavaliers. Sacramento shot 38 percent and couldn’t take advantage of many scoring opportunities from close range.
“I feel like we let that one get away,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “We should have won the game. We went 23 of 51 in the paint. You have to finish shots in the paint. They made some plays (at the end) and we missed some layups. It shouldn’t have come down to that.”
After Samuels made one of two free throws to tie the game, Udrih made a reverse layup off a pass from Cousins at the 1:21 mark to put the Kings up 93-91. But two free throws from Harangody tied the game again at 93.
Looking to tie the game, Cousins missed a driving layup and Alonzo Gee got the rebound and was promptly fouled. Gee made two free throws with 3.3 seconds left to secure the victory.
Thornton hit three 3-pointers and scored nine points in the third quarter for the Kings, who trailed at one point by eight, but rallied in the final five-plus minutes to grab a 74-73 lead heading into the fourth.
Trailing by six points at the half, the Cavaliers used a 13-3 run to assume a 65-58 lead midway through the third quarter. But a 3-pointer from Garcia and two more from Thornton quickly helped the Kings take a 67-65 lead with 4:41 left in the third.
Cousins had 11 points and eight rebounds in the opening half for the Kings, who led 51-45. Harangody scored 11 points for the sloppy Cavaliers, who committed 12 turnovers.
Notes: Tyreke Evans missed his 15th straight game with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, but was shooting and did some light running in Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “Tyreke will do a little bit more tomorrow and maybe by next week he will be able to play some limited minutes,” Westphal said. Cavaliers guard Baron Davis missed his third straight game due to the recent death of his grandmother. He is expected to play in Thursday night’s game in Portland. Garcia made a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer to give the Kings a 28-18 first-quarter lead. The Cavaliers’ three-game road trip will be over a mere 99 hours. It concludes with an afternoon game Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.