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Wizards revert to their old ways
CLEVELAND — Eddie Jordan remembers the last time his Wizards played the Cleveland Cavaliers before last night.
Washington, playing at home, surpassed the century mark in points and defeated Cleveland by double digits. LeBron James was in street clothes for that game with a sprained finger, and he didn’t take kindly to how the Wizards roughed up his teammates.
Said Jordan: “I remember LeBron saying shortly after our game that he was gonna remember the butt-kicking they got while he was out and people talking about them and that when he comes back, he was gonna get some payback.”
And boy did he.
James and the Cavaliers thrashed the Wizards 121-85 last night at Quicken Loans Arena to hand the Wizards their most lopsided defeat of the season and avenge Cleveland’s 105-86 loss in the District on Dec. 5.
“I don’t know if our guys remembered or not, and maybe I should’ve reminded them,” Jordan said. “But this was definitely one of those payback nights.”
It marked the worst defeat Washington has suffered since a 44-point drubbing by New Jersey in 2002. The most lopsided loss in the franchise’s history was by 52 points against Milwaukee in 1971.
“This was painful and bordering on embarrassing,” said Jordan, whose Wizards dropped to 22-18. “We were very nonathletic and didn’t play at the rim, much less above it. Didn’t stay up on their cutters, didn’t stay with their transition and didn’t get back. We just weren’t quick enough or athletic enough.”
The Cavaliers (23-18) outplayed the Wizards in every facet of the game, boasting five double-digit scorers, outrebounding them 53-29 and shooting 56.6 percent from the field. The Cavaliers also totaled 39 assists, the most by an NBA team since the league started keeping official tallies during the 1977-78 season.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who finished with 24 points on 10-for-10 shooting, served as the early catalyst for the Cavaliers, scoring 13 points in the first nine minutes of the first quarter. Ilgauskas tallied 19 in the first half, and James had 14 in the first two quarters, helping his team to a 52-46 halftime lead.
James — who finished with 23 points — and Ilgauskas paced the Cavaliers in the first half. But the supporting cast got involved in the second half. Cleveland opened a 43-point third quarter by scoring on seven of its first eight trips down the court, cashing in with a diverse arsenal — layups and outside shots from guard Sasha Pavlovic (13 points), putbacks and fade-away jumpers from forward Drew Gooden (18 points) and more points in the paint from James and Ilgauskas.
“It seemed like they didn’t miss and we didn’t hit,” said Wizards point guard Antonio Daniels, who had two points and five assists. “Poor defensive game for us, obviously. We didn’t knock shots down. Major league [butt]-whoopin’ right there. Major league [butt]-whoopin’ for sure.”
Washington, which had won seven of its last nine, struggled all night on the offensive end, shooting 39.0 percent from the floor. Leading scorers Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison fell well below their season averages, mustering 10 points apiece.
With his team down 78-58 with four minutes left in the third quarter, Jordan pulled his starters. Cleveland, however, refused to let up, playing its starters until the start of the fourth quarter.
The Wizards’ backups failed to slow their Cavaliers counterparts and got outscored 26-22 in the fourth quarter.
By John R. Bolton
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