Wall leads Wizards past Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND | John Wall grabbed the ball under one basket, and a few dribbles later, it was dropping through the net 94 feet away.

In the blink of an eye, the lightning-fast rookie turned his game around.

Wall missed his first nine shots before showing the all-around skills that made the 20-year-old the top overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, pacing the Washington Wizards to a 97-83 preseason win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.

For most of three quarters, Wall looked like your average first-year pro.

After scoring 21 in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Dallas, Wall didn’t get his first basket until there was just 3:15 left in the third quarter. He hit a driving layup off a fast break, something he’s certain to do hundreds of times this season.

From there on, he hardly missed.

Wall scored 12 points in a span of 8:26, and finished with nine assists in 37 minutes before coach Flip Saunders pulled him with 6:49 to play and the Wizards comfortably ahead.

“It’s a learning experience,” Wall said of his second game as a pro. “I told everybody it was going to be up and down. I had a good game the other day. This was an average game, like a C or a D.”

Yi Jianlian scored 16 points and Gilbert Arenas 13 for Washington.

J.J. Hickson scored 16, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson 10 and Ryan Hollins had 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, still finding their way without superstar LeBron James and in new coach Byron Scott’s uptempo offense. Cleveland had 26 turnovers and shot only 35 percent.

“We’re still in the crawling stage,” said Scott. “We knew this was going to take some time.”

Wall displayed some of the jaw-dropping speed that convinced the Wizards he can be the face of their franchise and the one to bring them back following an embarrassing 26-56 season marked by Arenas’ 50-game suspension for a felony gun conviction.

With the third quarter winding down, Wall took the inbounds pass, darted past several Cavaliers and streaked down the lane for a layup in the final second. In the fourth, Wall converted a three-point play underneath that helped the Wizards, who led 61-53 after three, open a 74-57 lead.

“He’s pretty quick,” Scott said. “When he gets in the open floor, he’s a blur. He can get to the basket and you can see he’s got a really good feel for the game. His shot is something he’s going to have to work on. You can tell he’s going to be a great player.”

The Cavs were again without starting point guard Mo Williams, who has been out since the beginning of training camp with a groin injury. Scott also decided to rest forward Antawn Jamison so he could get a look at some of his other big men.

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