There's an optimistic way to look at this game, and there's a pessimistic way.
The optimistic way to look at this is that this was a really great effort by an undermanned team, and if it weren't for some uncharacteristic missed free throws by AD and Jamison, it would have been a win. Despite not having Gilbert or Caron, the offense was working pretty well against a really good Cavaliers defense, and the defense was surprisingly solid, especially against LeBron. Jamison was very good in stretches, and the rest of the guys played very well. They shot 51 percent from the field and held a definite playoff team to 44 percent.
The pessimistic way to look at it is that they blew their best opportunity to get a win, because the energy level isn't going to be that high in the rest of their games. The Wizards played extremely well for three quarters, but fell apart in the fourth. Cleveland started to figure out the Wizards offense, and LeBron finally started to come alive. Bill Walton threw out a crazy stat that said the Wizards are the worst fourth-quarter shooting team in the league, and that's with Arenas and Butler. Without them, there aren't going to be too many blowouts, making that problem even more significant. The Wizards also committed 23 turnovers, including 11 from Stevenson and Daniels. As for the missed free throws, it's possible that Daniels just ran out of gas, considering he played a season-high 44 minutes.
Personally, I'm taking the optimistic route, simply because I don't see AD missing that many free throws and committing that many turnovers in the future. I also like how Etan's playing, and with the two scorers out, they could use his post scoring a lot more now. The defense finally looked like a real scheme, rather than just a number of guys doing things on their own. Etan was helping out at the right times, and guys like Songaila were hedging on screens. If Eddie doesn't switch Jamison on LeBron at the end of the game (seriously, in a game where he coached pretty well, that was awfully dumb), this could be a win, and with Andray Blatche coming back Tuesday, that should only help.
But Jon Barry hit it on the head last night (although he used one of my all-time least favorite phrases, "the little things"). Without Arenas and Butler, there's simply no margin for error with turnovers and missed free throws. You can't commit 23 turnovers and shoot 50 percent from the free throw line and expect to win, especially against good teams like Cleveland. Daniels has to play better than he did last night, and that's saying a lot, because he played fairly well. But he can't commit 7 turnovers running this offense.
As a whole though, I'm optimistic. But it remains to be seen whether that performance was simply a factor of the home energy or a sign of things to come.