Posted on February 23, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The All-Star break couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, players on both teams needed the break to let some aches and pains heal. But both teams were red-hot entering the break. Washington had won seven of its last nine and without the services of John Wall. The reborn Cavaliers were on a four-game winning streak and had yet to lose with their new players.
So, when the two met Thursday night in Cleveland, both hoped they could start the second half of the season where the first ended.
At first, it looked like the Cavaliers were going to be able to get right back on the horse. A strong first quarter saw them take an early 31-22 lead over the Wizards. LeBron James really pushed the tempo and succeeded in creating opportunities for himself and his teammates.
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Cleveland quickly turned a nine-point first quarter lead into a 12-point advantage about five minutes into the second. But then Wizards head coach Scott Brooks decided to put Markieff Morris at center, and things started to click for Washington. Kelly Oubre Jr. started knocking down some shots which helped open things up for everyone else.
By the time the first half came to a close, the Cavaliers 12-point lead had turned into a three-point deficit.
The third quarter was the competitive kind of battle fans like to see. But the home crowd would have liked it if their team could have taken the lead going into the fourth. Instead, the Wizards held onto a three-point lead, 82-79.
Kyle Korver put the Cavaliers ahead 89-88 with a 26-foot three-pointer and 9:42 to play. But then everything went wrong for the Cavs as Washington went on a 16-4 to take a commanding 104-93 lead with 3:44 to play.
James scored the final 14 points for the Cavs (over the course of the last six minutes of the game). But it wasn’t enough. He pulled the Cavs within three, 104-101, with 1:13 to play, but the Wizards were able to secure the win, 110-103
“We stayed together and showed a lot of resolve,” Scott Brooks said postgame of the team’s turnaround after falling behind early (via the team’s website). “We kept competing, and they’re not an easy team to play.”
Bradley Beal led the way for the Wizards with 18 points followed by Tomas Satoransky with 17. Kelly Oubre Jr. chipped in 17 off the bench.
LeBron James led all scorers with 32 points, but this time he didn’t get a ton of help from his new friends. The four of them (George Hill, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, and Jordan Clarkson) only managed to score a combined 29 points.
After the game, James did his best to calm the nerves of fans ready to jump ship after their first loss following the trades (Cleveland.com):
“Like I told you guys, it’s still a work in progress with us,” James said. “It’s not going to be overnight, no matter the excitement before the break. We got a lot of things to work on, implement what we need to do. Tonight, we still played to our game, just didn’t make a lot of shots.”
To win in today’s NBA, you need to be proficient at making three-pointers. Thursday night saw the Cavs make just eight of 35 attempts. When you miss so many, it is going to be hard to win games.
But while the game was good, the highlight of the night had little to do with basketball. For some crazy reason, Kelly Oubre Jr. decided he needed to try to untie Rodney Hood’s shoes during a dead ball foul. Childish? Yes. Juvenile? Absolutely. Freaking hilarious? You bet!
The win now moves Washington within a half game of the Cavaliers in the standings. They will face the Charlotte Hornets at home Friday night. Cleveland will be back in action Friday night as well when they travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies.