For the first time in the current campaign, the Cleveland Cavaliers have themselves a win streak. The Cavs (7-23) not only won their first consecutive game of the season, but they won on the road for only the fourth time. This loss drops the Washington Wizards to a 3-23 record, which makes them the worst team in the NBA. Both of these teams have quite a bit in common. They both won the NBA lottery recently and have taken point guards with the top pick. The Wizards and Cavs have drafted shooting guards high in the first round and both Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters are struggling from the field so far in their rookie seasons. Both teams have Brazilian centers who make their teams play better when healthy. Last but not least, both teams are in the process of rebuilding but don't appear to be getting better despite the yearly addition of high lottery picks.
The Wizards have a problem with health. John Wall has not played a game yet this year. With the addition of veterans like Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, one has to think that they would have more than three wins if John Wall were playing. The Wizards big men were giving the Cavs problems throughout the game. Emeka Okafor and Nene combined for 33 points on 58% shooting. The absence of Anderson Varejao surely had a role in their dominance in the paint, but nobody knows to what extent. Nene had two and-one baskets in the first quarter alone. Despite their dominance, the Cavs were able to make up for it in other areas and ultimately go home with the win.
The Cavs should have probably lost the game. The Wizards were much better at rebounding and shooting than the Cavs, but they made up for it with fewer turnovers, more free throws made and attempted, three pointers made, total possessions, 2nd chance points and turnovers. The Cavs shot a horrible 37.8% compared to the Wizards who shot a respectable 46.1%. If a team gets enough extra possessions, they often have an opportunity to win.
The Cavs got off to a slow start and found themselves trailing 22-10 after seven minutes. The first quarter ended with Daniel Gibson converting on a three point attempt and Kyrie Irving making two free throws. The Cavs trailed 26-22 going into the second quarter and they didn't have their first lead in the game until a C.J. Miles three pointer put the Cavs up 31-30 with 7:58 left in the second quarter. Kyrie Irving made 5 of 7 shots in the second quarter on his way to 12 points. Irving was putting on a show for the Wizards fans. At one point, Irving had an impressive crossover and he made a three pointer from the top of the arc.
Despite his fantastic second quarter performance, Kyrie Irving was uncharacteristic throughout the rest of the game. Irving had 20 points in the first half and he only finished with 26 points. In fact, Irving shot 1-10 and only 4-8 from the free throw line in the second half of the game. Irving, who traditionally performs best when pressure is high, seemingly choked at the free throw line. With the Cavs up 82-81 with 1:01 left in the game, Irving clanked two free throws that could have put the Cavs up by three points. Ironically, Tristan Thompson converted on a tough and-one on the very next possession. With the score 85-82, the Cavs never relinquished the lead and won for only the seventh time this season.
Thompson had another strong performance with Anderson Varejao out of the lineup. He had his fourth straight double-double and is playing much better than he was earlier in the season. It's not time to crown Tristan Thompson the starting power forward of the future for the Cavs, but his development is a welcome change.
Dion Waiters had another subpar night shooting the basketball. Waiters took 11 shots and scored 9 points. Despite his struggles shooting the basketball, he did make a big three point basket with 3:36 remaining in the game that put the Cavs up by three points. Dion Waiters struggled, but his draft-mate Bradley Beal had an even worse game. Beal took 5 shots and missed all of them.
The Cavs take on the Atlanta Hawks in Cleveland on Friday night. Tipoff is at 7:30.