Washington started the game strong, racing out to a 13-8 lead and keeping the game close until the end of the second quarter. Most of the Wizards early success came on the run, either on the break or by pushing the ball quickly off made baskets before Cleveland had a chance to set their defense. But Cleveland’s defense adjusted, and their offense began to click.
The Cavaliers ended the quarter on a 19-7 run, giving the Cavs a twelve point lead at halftime. John Wall had perhaps his worst half of basketball in recent memory, scoring just two points and turning the ball over six times.
The Wizards mounted one of the strangest third quarter comebacks I’ve ever seen, with Garrett Temple going toe-to-toe with LeBron James for 14 points and four made threes. The game was fast, the game was fun, and hot shooting from Temple and Otto Porter combined with high-quality ball movement cut the deficit to two. A few minutes into the fourth quarter, the Wizards tied the game at 95 after a fastbreak dunk by Ramon Sessions.
Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Kyrie Irving went on his own personal 10-0 run to blow the game open again, and the Wizards bench failed to keep pace with James and Irving as most of the Wizards starters (including Wall) rested. Wall hit his stride in the second half, scoring 18 points, hitting all of his three point attempts, and turning the ball over just once, but it was too little too late. The Cavaliers won the game 121-115.
The return of Nene
The Brazilian big man returned after his 20 game absence. Though there was certainly some rust, it was same old Nene. He had seven points and four rebounds in twelve minutes of play, and his defensive impact was apparent from the moment he stepped on the floor. Expect the Wizards bench to get a lot better, and quickly.
The fourth quarter rotations could use work
The constant barrage of injuries has left the Wizards without a clear rhythm and flow to the fourth quarter. Today, Randy Wittman elected to give fourth quarter minutes to Gary Neal, who was newly back from injury, and Jarrell Eddie, who has been in and out of the rotation since joining the Wizards in December. This was particularly problematic when the Wizards went small with Jared Dudley at center: To make small ball really work, you need to mitigate the lack of rim protection with long, tough wing defenders, of which Neal, Eddie, and Sessions are not. Hopefully as more players get healthy Wittman will find fourth quarter rotations that work, but in the short term expect some painful tinkering.