Continuing our countdown of the Cleveland Cavaliers' top games from the past season (and sorry for the delay, I just moved back to school), we have reached one of the strangest games of the season. David recapped the #5 game of the season last week, Cleveland's inexplicable win on the road against the Thunder. Next on the list is a game that the Cavaliers didn't even win. However, it was so absurd and exciting -- albeit not very well-played -- that I had to include it.
Throughout the shortened 66-game season that somehow felt like the longest season ever, the Cavaliers hit a few bumps in the road. Anderson Varejao went down with an injury and Kyrie Irving missed several games for various minor ailments. Once it became clear that the team was destined for the lottery, the tanking began. It wasn't that the players weren't trying hard -- they were. Rather, the players just weren't very good. And that was by design.
The Cavaliers searched through the D-League, looking for a diamond in the rough. Jeremy Lin made his big splash with the Knicks after spending time in the D-League. Alonzo Gee started in the D-League before catching on with the Cavs. The Cavaliers had roster spots open and signed a bunch of different guys to 10-day contracts. Donald Sloan was one of them. Manny Harris was another. And then there was Lester Hudson.
Hudson was a 27-year old combo guard that had bounced around from the NBA to the D-League to China and back to the NBA. With Irving sustaining a shoulder injury and Anthony Parker being Anthony Parker, the Cavs signed Hudson to a 10-day contract. He had some nice games during that stretch, but none more ridiculous than against the Nets on April 8, 2012.
In a game that the Cavaliers eventually lost by a score of 122-117 in overtime, nothing that happened made any sense. Does anybody remember the Cavs' starting lineup for that night? You probably don't, so here it is:
PG: Donald Sloan
SG: Manny Harris
SF: Alonzo Gee
PF: Antawn Jamison
Luke Walton played 9 minutes. WHY DID LUKE WALTON PLAY NINE MINUTES? AND HE HAD A BLOCK? WUT I DONT EVEN.
Shelden freaking Williams almost had a freaking double-double with 9 points and 10 rebounds (SIX OFFENSIVE).
Donald Sloan dropped 14 dimes with just two turnovers. The only thing is that he shot 3-13 from the field. His 14 assists were four more than Deron Williams total (come at me, Nets fans!) and Williams committed four turnovers. Williams scored 18 points but missed all seven of his three-point attempts.
Tristan Thompson was a beast. He had 15 points and 15 rebounds. He had TEN offensive rebounds.
Antawn Jamison and Gerald Green were freakishly efficient. Green (another D-League product) scored 32 points on 11-18 shooting for the Nets. He made 5 of his 7 three-pointers. Antawn scored 34 points on 12-19 shooting. What the heck happened?
I could go on and on about the random stuff that happened in this game. But let's get back to the reason that we're here -- Lester Hudson.
Once Hudson started getting some significant minutes with the Cavs, he just started chucking. He shot under 40% in his time last year in Cleveland but averaged over 12 points per game. During a four-game stretch, he averaged just over 23 points per game. It was quite inexplicable and pretty much summed up the 2011-12 Cleveland Cavaliers... just weird. One week the Cavs would look like world-beaters, taking down the likes of Oklahoma City and Denver on the road. The next they would look like a D-League roster and have a 27-year old combo guard drop 26 points in 29 minutes while shooting 6-12 from three.
As Jamison and Green battled back and forth in regulation (Stop. Now read that clause again. That's a thing that actually happened), the two teams were neck and neck as the fourth quarter was winding down. With just over 30 seconds left in the game, Green drained a three to put the Nets up 109-106. Avery Johnson refused to foul and give the Cavs 2 free throws and instead let the Cavs try for a three. With no timeouts, the Cavs scrambled to get the ball across halfcourt and into the hands of a shooter. Manny Harris had the ball on the wing and pump-faked but didn't take the shot (much to the chagrin of Manny Harris guy). Instead, he passed it to Lester Hudson, a career 26.3% three-point shooter. Hudson was in the corner, made a totally unnecessary pump-fake and faded away as he shot the ball.
Hudson drained the shot and Lesteria ensued. It resulted in one of the best lines of the season from Fred McLeod:
"LESTER HUDSON! YOU ARE A CAVALIER! GUTS OF A BURGLAR!"
Austin Carr yelled deliriously and the game went to overtime. As you know, the Cavs lost in the extra period (which was kind of good because, yaknow, tanking).
Hudson had a couple more solid games. He provided some excitement towards the end of a tough season and then he was gone. As quickly as it arrived, Lesteria disappeared. He signed with the Grizzlies for the remainder of the season but got no playing time. Apparently he's going back to China next season. But no matter where he's playing, Fred is right: he is, indeed, a Cavalier.
He may be gone, but the Legend of Lester will live on in the hearts of Cavs fans forever, maybe. As a great man once said, "Never stop being you, Lester. Goodnight sweet prince."
*montage of Lester Hudson's highlights with 'Chariots of Fire' in the background*
*fade to black*