LeBron James has been hot the last 13 games, averaging a triple-double over that span and he continued that level of play in Cleveland's 106-99 win over the Washington Wizards Sunday evening. He finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds. Washington had more than their fair share of opportunities in this one though, in a game where they lost by seven, missing seven free throws hurt. Bradley Beal payed 43 minutes, scoring 27 points in the process. John Wall chipped in with 15 points and 10 assists, but neither of the two had great shooting nights. The Wizards may have not been in striking distance without Mike Scott's contributions, 19 points on the night. Kevin Love had a big second half to finish with 25 points and 9 rebounds, Jeff Green had 15 off Cleveland's bench. The difference in this game was one team capitalized on miscues from the opposing team and the other failed to do so. Both teams were missing key players, Washington was without Otto Porter Jr and Cleveland didn't have the services of Dwayne Wade.
The Washington Wizards found themselves down just four with 5:11 left in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers led 97-93 at that point. Capital One Arena seemed ready to burst, but Cleveland sent on a 6-1 run to gain control of the game. James got his hands on a Wall drive for a block, Morris would get fouled and split the pair from the charity stripe to cut the deficit to three. The Wizards couldn't take advantage of a new possession when Beal got in front of James to draw a charge call from the officials. Their next two possessions would result in turnovers, one by Wall and one by Morris. In that span, Cleveland would get a three point shot from Kyle Korver followed by an and-1 play by LeBron that gave the Cavs a 103-94 lead. Usually daggers come in the form of shots, but J.R. Smith showed the Wizards something new. Following James free throw, Morris inbounded the ball, but he rolled it with the intentions of avoiding the clock from running. Smith realizing this, dove a the ball to secure the possession and called timeout before he could be tied up to force a jump ball. It was an extremely heady play and one of the biggest that cost Washington. That two minute and 11 second span played a role in Washington losing the game, but it was part of the theme of the night for the home team.
Mike Scott ended the drought by hitting a mid-range shot on the baseline, he then hit a three pointer after two made free throws from Love. The second of those shots by Scott cut the deficit to six, but Washington had already missed the great opportunity they had before them. In the deciding quarter, Cleveland held Washington to 16 points on 31% shooting from he floor and 12.5% from deep. The Cavaliers didn't shoot too much better at 42% from the floor, but their defense was enough to get them the win.
The Cavaliers made it clear early that one of their points of emphasis was to get the ball in the post on the offensive end. In the first quarter the Cavs did a good job of playing inside-outside and just getting the ball into the post caused issues for the Wizards defense. Several times, it was LeBron James or Jeff Green, Cleveland tried to take advantage of Washington's guards. The Wizards struggled to communicate, and Cleveland made them pay for it whether it was in half court or transition.
Washington struggled to get going in the first period, but that changed in the second period. Beal who ended the first quarter with four consecutive misses, started the second period with five quick points. After shooting a paltry 36.4% in the first, Washington shot 53.8% from the floor and a blistering 62.5% from beyond the arc. Mike Scott came in and had an immediate impact yet again, helping to space the floor with his shooting and his physicality changed things on the defensive end.
The Wizards had a chance to take a lead during a key sequence in the period, but they couldn't take advantage of those opportunities. They missed three extremely close shots at the rim, Cleveland would score a layup between those shots. Washington didn't stop fighting and would take a lead 60-57 lead on a John Wall three pointer, but Lebron returned the favor on the opposite end with a three of his own.
This is when Washington got back into the game, three players nearly scored double-figures to help Washington win the quarter 37-33. Both Wall and Beal had 9 a piece at the break, while Mike Scott had 8. LeBron had 9 points and 8 assists at the half, Kevin Love had 9 as well to lead the Cavaliers.
Love got going in the third period, scoring 11 points** Still, Washington and Cleveland traded baskets for much of the third quarter. Cleveland didn't get as many easy looks, while Washington did a better job of getting stops and playing in transition. Despite that they couldn't gain any separation from Cleveland. One of the positives is that Beal got going, scoring 10 points in 12 minutes. Beal logged some heavy minutes in this one, heading into the fourth, he'd played 33 of a possible 36 minutes.
The Wizards are now 2-1 on their home-stand, they end it Tuesday night when the New Orleans Pelicans come to town.