(The Sports Xchange) – Washington guard John Wall scored a season-high 35 points, and coach Randy Wittman’s seat cooled ever so slightly after the Wizards’ impressive 97-85 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.
It was the Cavaliers’ first home loss of the season following a 9-0 start at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland had won 29 of their previous 30 home games.
Cleveland’s LeBron James scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, but committed nine turnovers. The Cavaliers (13-5) shot 33.7 percent and committed 18 turnovers.
They still possess the best record in the East, but are 5-4 following an eight-game winning streak. The Wizards (7-8) badly underperformed throughout the early stages of this season, but belted the best team in the East on their home floor after dropping three of four to the Cavaliers last season.
“I had some lineups out there tonight that I don’t know if I would have dreamed about,” Wittman said. “But I give them credit. Our guys did everything that they possibly could and it was enough.”
Wittman’s job security came into question during the Wizards’ dismal start. For at least one night, they looked every bit the team that won 46 games last season and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Wittman went extra small in the fourth, with three guards and no player over 6 feet 9 inces. Marcin Gortat, despite piling up 15 points and 11 rebounds, did not enter in the fourth until 2:47 remained.
The Wizards did not wait until the fourth to push the tempo – Wall did that all night. He added 10 assists (and five turnovers) while producing the Wizards’ first 30-point game of the season.
It has been a miserable start to the season for Wall, who began the game shooting 39 percent. His 21 points by halftime were more than he scored in all but two of the Wizards’ first 14 games.
“I can’t say my team mates are doing something wrong because I’ve been getting the shots I always get, I’m just not making them,” Wall said. “It’s frustrating.”
The Wizards led by as many as 22 in the third quarter – the Cavaliers’ largest deficit of the season – but guard Matthew Dellavedova scored 10 points in the third to bring them back.
His three-pointer with a minute left pulled Cleveland within 78-67, but Bradley Beal and Wall consistently made big shots to keep the Cavs at bay.
Beal scored 18 points, including 13 in the second half, while Wall finally enjoyed a bit of a reprieve. Wall has not hidden during his struggles, in fact he has been doing the exact opposite.
“I read everything, I hear everything that people say, because I like it,” Wall said. “You’ve got to take the criticism if you’re going to take the praise.”
James has certainly been dishing out the criticism on his team mates privately and publicly in recent weeks, chastising mistakes and lackadaisical effort when he felt the Cavaliers were coasting through portions of games and the schedule.
Kevin Love had eight points and eight rebounds, and J.R. Smith added 13 points. The two combined to shoot 5-for-24 and the Cavaliers never led after falling in a 10-0 hole in the first three minutes.
“They beat us from beginning to end,” James said. “They beat us in every facet of the game, right from the beginning. Their pace, their speed, their ability to get the ball up the floor really caused us problems tonight.”
The Wizards lost their last two road games prior to Tuesday by a combined 47 points.
“We are an unpredictable team,” Gortat said. “Last year, we proved we could beat good teams by 20, but we can lose at Philly. We are a crazy team.
“If John and Bradley play like that, we’re going to be all right. We’re going to have success.”