Gooden scores season high, Cavs fight off Grizzlies

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Damon Jones offered an apology before the game. He wasn't sorry for anything he did during it.

Jones, who was ejected for the first time in his career in Cleveland's previous game, made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and two free throws in the final seconds, helping the Cavaliers hold off the Memphis Grizzlies 97-94 on Tuesday night.

Drew Gooden scored a season-high 22 points with 15 rebounds and LeBron James kicked in 15 points and nine assists for the Cavs, who nearly blew a 20-point lead in the second half before making big shots and big plays down the stretch to improve the Eastern Conference's best record to 8-3.

On Saturday, Jones was tossed from Cleveland's loss in Washington for arguing with officials. He felt bad enough about it that he spent several minutes explaining his uncharacteristic actions.

Then he went out did something he usually does.

"I had some great looks," said Jones, who finished with 21 points. "But I don't think this makes up for my early exit."

Jones, averaging 15.6 points in his last five games, scored 11 of Cleveland's 17 points in the fourth quarter.

"Damon was huge," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "Damon really bailed us out offensively. I knew it wasn't going to be an issue with him bouncing back after the game in Washington. We were all frustrated."

The Grizzlies, who trailed by 14 entering the fourth, twice got within one point in the final seconds -- both times on layups by Mike Miller. But Jones made two free throws with 15 seconds left and Donyell Marshall hit a pair with 6.7 seconds to put the Cavaliers ahead by three.

Memphis didn't have any timeouts left and pushed the ball up before Brian Cardinal, who helped bring the Grizzlies back with four 3-pointers in the second half, shot an airball from behind the arc with one second left.

"We had no timeouts, so we had to go on the fly," coach Mike Fratello said. "We got a look at the basket with the right guy. He had a look but it was short. But it was right on line."

Chucky Atkins had 17 to lead the Grizzlies. But it was Miller's 15 points and Cardinal who brought them back. Memphis outscored Cleveland 28-17 in the final period but never took the lead.

Gooden went 9-of-12 from the field in 30 minutes against the team that selected him with the No. 4 overall pick in 2002 and traded him after just 51 games. If not for Gooden's intensity and rebounding, the Cavaliers, who have had a tendency to play up or down to their competition this season, would have been in trouble.

"I just think Jerry West was watching somewhere," Gooden said, referring to Memphis' president of basketball operations, who dealt him to Orlando as a rookie. "The Grizzlies and Orlando, yeah, I like them a lot."

Despite playing their second game in two nights, the Grizzlies were the ones with all the energy in the second half.

Trailing 80-66 after three, they outscored the Cavaliers 12-0 to open the fourth and were within two on a layup by Dahntay Jones with 7:06 remaining. But Damon Jones drained a 3-pointer with 6:33 left, another three minutes later, and his third with 2:13 left to give the Cavaliers a 91-84 lead.

The Grizzlies, though, kept clawing. Miller's layup with 18 seconds to play got Memphis within 93-92.

It then came down to free throws for the Cavaliers, and the league's worst team from the line made four in the final 15 seconds to seal a win that nearly slipped away.

James, who was just 7-of-21 from the floor, had his dunk du jour in the second quarter.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas threw a long outlet pass up the floor to Gooden near the basket. But instead of shooting, Gooden dropped the ball back to a trailing James, who grabbed it, soared to the hoop and began screaming even before the ball tore through the hoop.

Game notes
On Monday, James was named Eastern Conference player of the week for the ninth time. He doesn't receive a plaque for the honor, and he says it's getting harder to keep track of his trophies at home. "My mom keeps taking them back to her house," he said. ... Miller had a season-high seven assists. ... Grizzlies rookie G Kyle Lowry injured his wrist in the third quarter and didn't return. ... Jones promised that his first ejection will be his last. "It was truly unprofessional," he said. "That's not my character. I made mistakes and so can they (officials)."