- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

CLEVELAND — LeBron James didn’t do anything cryptic or dramatic.

He simply changed positions and the Cleveland Cavaliers shifted into high gear.

James moved to power forward in Cleveland’s “small” starting lineup and nearly recorded a triple-double in three quarters, Kyrie Irving scored 21 points and the Cavaliers avenged a recent ugly loss to Washington by throttling the Washington Wizards, 108-83, on Friday night.

Cleveland was blown out at Washington on Sunday, when James watched from the bench and the Wizards built a 30-point lead.

But, with James energized after not playing since Monday, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue utilized a smaller, speedier lineup that didn’t include Kevin Love and the Cavaliers snapped Washington’s four-game winning streak.

James finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists before resting the entire fourth quarter. More importantly, the Cavaliers may have found a wrinkle that could help them play against the Golden State Warriors if the teams meet in the NBA Finals again.

“It was great for us,” said Lue, who rested Love and started Iman Shumpert in James‘ usual spot at small forward. “The guys bought into playing that way, that style of basketball. LeBron did a great job just spreading the floor, running and setting picks. And when he gets the rebound and takes it off the glass, it’s tough for teams to get back and get matched.”

Timofey Mozgov scored 14 points, 12 on dunks, for Cleveland, which unveiled a look which Lue plans to use more often in the coming weeks as the Cavaliers prepare for the playoffs.

“It worked to our favor for sure,” James said of the lineup change, which had him at a position he grew accustomed to with the Miami heat. “Our offense is a lot faster, a little bit more precise with me at the four. I’m going to be setting a lot more transition and half-court pick and rolls. I know I can either get my guy open or if they put two on the ball I’m able to make a play, able to be a quarterback, so it definitely worked really well for us tonight.”

John Wall scored 17 points and Markieff Morris had 13 points for the Wizards, who missed a chance to move into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s not a step back,” Wall said as the Wizards dropped to 7-3 since the all-star break. “It’s just an old-fashioned tail whipping. That’s what they gave us.”

Since their last game, the Cavaliers had been surrounded by drama.

During a break in Cleveland’s schedule, James raised some eyebrows by making a two-day trip to visit good friend and former teammate Dwyane Wade in South Florida, and the superstar’s two mysterious tweets on Twitter led to speculation the Cavaliers were having internal issues.

But back on the court, the Eastern Conference’s top team played with purpose and easily took care of a Washington squad they could face in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers led by 17 points at half, pushed their advantage to 21 points in the third and led by 30 points in the fourth, allowing Lue to keep James off his feet for the last 12 minutes.

With Love out, Lue used the “small ball” look, which he had been toying with trying for weeks. Lue plans to return his regular starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Boston Celtics, but he now has another option.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide