WASHINGTON - For a player that thrives on “moments,” Friday night’s game under the ESPN lights in the nation’s capital was almost routine LeBron James.
The last time he came to Washington, he hit a last minute 3-ball to force overtime and help the Cleveland Cavaliers pull out a win. A moment.
Friday night’s game was another big “moment”. For Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks, it was a reminder of why he’s “one of the best players to ever play the game.”
“And he still has it,” Brooks said, noting that the Cavaliers haven’t gotten off to a good start this season, but when your leader is James, nothing matters.
James hung 57 points on 23 of 34 shooting, including 11 rebounds and 7 assists on a lowly Wizards team that was already reeling following recent losses to the Lakers and Suns.
It was his moment, and everyone in Capital One Arena knew it — oohing and aahing at every made shot. Even when the defense was at its best from the Wizards, the shots kept falling for James.
James barely rested on Friday’s game, playing the entire second half, playing 42 of 48 minutes.
“I had no intentions of coming out. I’m almost back to myself, I’m almost back to my wind,” James said postgame, adding how important it was to get the win amid a major Cavaliers slump.
James emphasized how important efficiency is to him, and he wouldn’t have taken that many shots if he didn’t know they were going in.
“Every shot that I took I felt like it was going in,” he said. “Even when they were highly contested.”
If the moment for James was there — 57 points is his highest scoring effort since his 61 point effort in 2014 as part of the Miami Heat — it wasn’t there for his the home team.
John Wall, who also thrives when the lights shine brightest, had moments of his own — but of concern and disappointment.
Wall was taken out on a screen by Cleveland big man Channing Frye at the end of the third quarter that left him writhing in pain on the floor.
With his arm in a sling and a look of letdown on his face postgame, Wall described how his arm was “on fire” and that he shouldn’t have played the rest of the game following the injury.
But that’s not who Wall is, not the guy who before the game said the Cavaliers wanted to avoid getting the top seed last season so they could dodge the Wizards in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Not the guy who dubbed this season "Wolf Season" and has the Eastern Conference Finals in his sights.
“This is the type of person I am, the competitive person I am,” Wall told reporters about playing through the pain and even guarding James toward the end of the game. “Whenever you have the opportunity to go against one of the best players to play the game and compete against him and just try to make it tough, why not take on the challenge? It’s the only way I can make myself better as a defensive player and just showing I got heart.”
The heart was there but the buckets were not for Wall. He made only 4 of his 13 shots and missed 7 of his 12 free throws.
The Wizards — who have lost 4 of their last 5 — travel to Toronto on Sunday to take on a great Raptors team, and though the X-rays on his shoulder came back negative, Wall may or may not be available.
“We’re going to have to wait and see. I hope so,” Wall said.