NBA Wizards 

James scores 57 to lead Cleveland past Washington

It sounded as if the Washington Wizards had learned their lesson after Wednesday’s 22-point collapse against the Phoenix Suns. The talk after the game was centered around what’s become their achilles heel on this young season, defense. In that game, Washington surrendered 106 points in three quarters to the visiting Suns. With a struggling Cleveland team in town, it seemed like a prime opportunity to prove that they can in fact get it done on that end of the floor. That wouldn’t be the case as the Wizards seemed to be just what the Cavaliers needed to get right. LeBron James may have sent a message with his play last night, posting a ridiculous 57 points (23 of 34 from the floor), 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. A subtle reminder of who Washington has to go through to get where they want to go in the Eastern Conference. Bradley Beal had 36 points on 12 of 19 shooting. However it was Washington’s failure to get stops that once again kept them from victory.

“They played me a lot of one-on-one in the low post and I’ve been working quite a bit on that. My turnarounds, my fadeaways, and my footwork, and things of that nature. I was able to get to it and once I fade-away I don’t see he defender as much so I just focus on the target.” – LeBron James

That was the case early on as Cleveland scored 42 points in the opening period on 77% shooting, now it’s not as if the Cavs were playing great defense either as they watched Washington shoot 66% from the floor. Turnovers and trips to the foul line is what helped create the separation early on. Cleveland’s Derrick Rose led the charge with a quick 13 points(20 on the night) in the quarter, but LeBron James topped him by scoring 15 points. Rose had a couple of sequences that had fans both in attendance and through the television thinking of yesteryear.

Washington started the second quarter very slow, their inability to get a stop was part of the reason and the other was spacing. Several times, whether it was Marcin Gortat or Ian Mahinmi, it seemed as if they were inadvertently cutting off driving lanes for their teammates. The failure to get stops was a bigger issue as the Wizards bench outscored Cleveland’s 21-8. One of the positives in that quarter for the home team was Wall and Beal starting to get going with about three minutes left in the half, it came from attacking the basket. As mentioned earlier, Cleveland’s defense is just as bad and both of Washington’s guards could get to the basket whenever they chose.

Cleveland held a 74-66 lead at the half, LeBron had 24 points and all but one of the Cavaliers starting five were in double-figures scoring wise. John Wall had 8 points and 8 assists, Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal had 13 points a piece. Again, the story was the lack of defense by both teams, but with Washington trailing the onus was on them a bit more than Cleveland. That would also give Washington a very ugly streak, five consecutive quarters played in which they surrendered at least 30 plus points.

Every time the Wizards tried to make a run in the third quarter, a minor mistake would derail them. It was the little things, not boxing out, getting defensive three called on them. Cleveland’s Jae Crowder made a living off the little things, just by being active, similar to what TJ Warren did to the Wizards. 

The Cavaliers started to pull away midway through the quater, pushing the lead to 17 at one point, Scott Brooks called timeout to try and get his team under control. The brief stoppage in play must of helped Washington, they came out and made a run, cutting the lead to 10. Beal was one of the sole constants for the Wizards, as the Cavs couldn’t stop him from putting the ball in the basket. The problem is Washington couldn’t generate stops, but Mike Scott came in and gave them a much needed  lift.  A Kelly Oubre steal and dunk in transition cut the lead to 6, but Korver hit a triple on the ensuing possession to push the lead back to 9. Then it was LeBron, closing the quarter strong for his team, literally refusing to let the Wizards back into the game. Washington’s nightmarish streak on the defensive end continues, Cleveland scored exactly 30 points in the period. 

 

The Wizards would eventually cut the lead to five, but by then James was in the zone. At one point during the second half, he hit 15 consecutive shots. Down the stretch, he hit fade away after fade away over any Washington player that was guarding him.  John Wall took the challenge of trying to slow him down late in the fourth, but there was only so much he could do. The best player in the league was in the middle of one of his masterpieces and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

“Yeah, he has a sprain left shoulder. I’m sure he’s going to go get X-rays tonight. We’ll know more later. – Scott Brooks on Wall

Wall has taken quite a few spills this season, but in the fourth quarter he attempted to split a double team and appeared to have been fouled. He hit the gournd hard and stayed down for a couple of minutes, typically he bounces back up quickly. That was a clear indication that this fall seemed to have caused some real pain, he went out the game for a bit, but upon returning he didn’t seem the same. After the game, he addressed the media with his left shoulder in a sling. It isn’t believed to be very serious per several reporters close to the team, but it is definitely a cause for concern.

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