We all knew the Cavaliers would get one of these.
We knew they would keep things close in a road game -- then finish the job. OK, maybe we didnt know it for sure. But it had to happen sometime, right?
Right, said the Cavs in their 113-111 victory Friday in a thriller at Atlanta. It didnt end until Alonzo Gee followed in a missed Dion Waiters shot with 0.4 seconds left. Before that, Cavs fans had to be thinking, Aw, man. Here we go again.
At least, anyone who saw Atlantas Josh Smith hit a three-pointer after the ball bounced off several legs probably thought it. Anyone who saw Atlantas Lou Williams tie the game with a corner three with 13.6 seconds left probably thought it, too.
The Hawks entered the game as winners of six straight. Smith and center Al Horford are borderline All-Stars. These guys are no slouches.
Neither were road opponents Memphis and Miami before them. Difference is, the Cavs just couldnt find a way.
But one thing you cant deny is even without the injured Kyrie Irving, the Cavs are making the progress coach Byron Scott and GM Chris Grant want to see. Oh, theres the occasional clunker (see the home loss vs. Phoenix earlier this week), and thats going to happen with a team with so many youngsters. It just is, so accept it and move on.
Know what else will happen?
Games like the one in Atlanta on Friday, when Jeremy Pargo scores 22 points, Waiters scores 21 and Anderson Varejao does his usual wild thing by compiling 20 points and 18 rebounds. But that wasnt all.
Daniel Gibson made a big contribution off the bench. So did Omri Casspi. Gee played an underrated game and hit the winner. Tristan Thompson somehow collected 15 rebounds -- playing with the type of winning hustle and energy usually reserved solely for Varejao.
Scott has the Cavs playing like a team, riding out the occasional rough spots and encouraging them to keep with it.
They wont win them all. They wont win most. Not yet.
But they will give fans something to enjoy the majority of the time, and based on the past seven days, they will continue to head in the right direction.
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
7:30 p.m. EST
FOX Sports Ohio HD (Cavaliers Live pre-game show begins at 7 p.m.)
Cleveland - WTAM-1100 AM (broadcast begins at 7 p.m.)
C J.J. Hickson; PF LaMarcus Aldridge; SF Nicolas Batum; SG Wesley Matthews; PG Damian Lillard. Coach: Terry Stotts.
C Anderson Varejao; PF Tristan Thompson; SF Alonzo Gee; SG Dion Waiters; PG Jeremy Pargo. Coach: Byron Scott.
Portland is coming off a 96-78 loss at Boston on Friday. The Blazers have lost four straight, all on their current swing through the East. Former Cavs big man J.J. Hickson is averaging 11.4 points and 10.6 rebounds as the Blazers starting center. Hes shooting 53 percent. Lillard is averaging 18.4 points. He was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Shooting guard Sasha Pavlovic, a member of the Cavs 2007 Finals team, comes off the Blazers bench. The Blazers lead the all-time series 61-48 and have won three in a row. The Cavs, however, have won 11 of the previous 16.