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News » Winner's wonderland


Winner's wonderland


Winner's wonderland
CAVS 93

Wizards 89

This game was very nearly a Christmas turkey.

The Cavaliers put forth a sloppy effort at both ends much of Thursday night and appeared to be headed to a loss. Their salvation was some gritty play over the last two minutes and the fact they were playing one of the NBA's worst teams.

After falling behind by seven points with 1:40 left, the Cavs sprinted home on an 11-0 run to edge the Washington Wizards, 93-89.

It was the Cavs' fifth win in a row and improved them to 15-0 at The Q. Plus, they gained ground on Eastern Conference leader Boston, which lost its 19-game winning streak earlier in the day.

"We're not happy, but we'll take the win," said LeBron James, who had a subpar game.

"It wouldn't have been good to have 20,000 people throwing up confetti/chalk and we got an 'L.' It would've ruined my Christmas."

There's plenty to discuss about what went poorly for the Cavs (25-4), but there were a few tests they passed. After all, it was the closest game they've played at home all season, and it required some strategy and pressure execution.

Coach Mike Brown made excellent situational substitutions late in the game, especially with his big men. With just 38 seconds left and the Cavs down a point, the Wizards went small out of a timeout.

Brown quickly made a quick change, subbing in Anderson Varejao for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Delonte West missed a jumper, but Varejao's quickness enabled him to get an offensive rebound over Antawn Jamison. Jamison fouled out by hacking Varejao trying to get position, and the game turned for good.

The Wizards protested the foul, as they did with a couple that went the Cavs' way late in the game. Jamison drew five of his six fouls in the fourth quarter.

Varejao, a 68 percent foul shooter, made both free throws to give the Cavs the lead for good. He finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, a vital performance in the victory.

Then, Brown put Ben Wallace into the game for defensive purposes. Without Jamison, the Wizards had to run an isolation play for Caron Butler. James, who helped hold the All-Star to six points in the game, was matched up on him. Wallace then came out and double-teamed Butler, forcing him to give the ball up.

But Butler got it right back and tried to drive to the hoop, but Wallace hustled back into position and drew a charge after Butler had slipped past James.

Mo Williams, who led the Cavs with 24 points, then hit two free throws to give the Cavs cushion. Williams scored nine points in the fourth quarter and also had six assists. He took a charge on Jamison during the run as well, which could have gone the other way and fouled Williams out.

"There were a couple poor executions on our part," Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. "And there were some other poor executions out there [by officials], too."

James didn't have one of his better games. In fact, it was the worst Christmas Day game he's played in his career. He finished with 18 points and missed four free throws, some of which were crucial. However, James scored nine points in the fourth quarter and two of his baskets came with Jamison hanging all over him late in the game.

Getting those two fouls on Jamison, who had 28 points for the Wizards (4-23), proved to be gigantic.

So there was some good execution by the Cavs, but that was the exception. They turned the ball over 17 times and many of them were unforced. They shot just 41 percent and much of it was because they settled for jumpers (season-high 31 3-point attempts) too quickly and stopped running the offense at times.

Defensively they were not terrible, but played below their standard. They repeatedly gave up dribble drives and easy baskets around the rim as Washington piled up 42 points in the paint.

They also struggled with their weakside rotations, usually losing Wizards point guard Mike James. He made open jumpers all night, scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting.

"There was a lack of focus, but you have to give Washington credit," Williams said. "We know we didn't play our best, but we'll take the win."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: bwindhorst@plaind.com; 216-999-5166


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 27, 2008

 

 
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