CLEVELAND | The Washington Wizards entered Wednesday night's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena expecting to be attacked with a vengeance.
For one, the Wizards just six days earlier had beaten LeBron James and Company on national television, ending their 13-game winning streak. Second, the Cavaliers are trying to maintain their narrow edge over the Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in the NBA and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. Also, Cleveland needed a win and a Boston loss to clinch the Eastern Conference.
Take all those motivating factors and also throw in the absence of Gilbert Arenas, who took the night off, and the end result was a 98-86 defeat.
James led five double-digit-scoring Cavaliers with 21 points, six rebounds and seven assists. The Wizards, meanwhile, got a rather feeble effort from their starting lineup as Javaris Crittenton (11 points) and Caron Butler (10 points on 2-for-9 shooting) were the only starters in double figures.
Antawn Jamison, the team's leading scorer, took only four shots and finished with seven points. Meanwhile, Nick Young and Andray Blatche came off the bench to score 16 and 14 points, respectively, for a Wizards team that turned the ball over 14 times and managed just 14 assists.
“If you look at the game, it was more of us than more of them,” Jamison said. “Defensively, we did OK; it's just offensively, we played like crap. … We just continue to take steps back. No excuses, no young guys on this team, you've got the Wizards. And the Wizards for some reason when they do something good, take four, five steps back and we continue to take steps back.”
The Wizards fell to 18-61 with three games remaining, while the Cavaliers improved to 63-15 on the season and 38-1 at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Wizards looked flat and disjointed from the opening tip, making just six of 17 field goal attempts in the first quarter and turning the ball over eight times. Cleveland closed out the quarter on a 18-7 run to lead 26-13 heading into the second.
“Jumping on them the way we did that first quarter, especially defensively, was good to see,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “It kind of set the tone for the rest of the game because against that team, that's what you have to do.”
After trailing by double digits for the majority of the second quarter, the Wizards pulled within six with less than five minutes left in the half. But the Cavaliers promptly responded by closing out the quarter on a 12-7 run to lead 48-37 at the break.
The fizzle continued in the second half. The Wizards missed six of their first seven shots, and Cleveland went on an 11-2 run to build a 20-point lead.
Washington never came any closer than 17 points the rest of the quarter. With his team down 78-58 heading into the fourth, Tapscott pulled Butler, Jamison and Dominic McGuire the remainder of the game, and Haywood played only a short stint in the final period.
“We just didn't have our 'A' game, and we were down 20,” coach Ed Tapscott said. “It's been a long season and sometimes you need to live to fight another day. At that point, it didn't seem like we had what we needed to make that run, so I decided to give the young guys a try.”
The Wizards' reserves outscored their counterparts 28-20 in the final frame to make the score look slightly more respectable.
Note-Beginning with Wednesday night's pregame broadcast and lasting for the entirety of the game, the Wizards and their charity, Wizards Care, held a telethon to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank. The telethon raised more than $350,000 while auctioning off player memorabilia.
“We are thrilled to have raised such an amount in the inaugural year of the Wizards Care Telethon,” Wizards owner Abe Pollin said in a statement released by the team. “This is a testament to the goodwill of our fans and the citizens of the D.C. community and shows what we can accomplish by working together to combat the issue of hunger.”