More Love, more problems for the Washington Wizards Friday night in the Nation’s Capital, as veteran Kevin Love proved to be the difference-maker for the Cleveland Cavaliers in defeating the John Wall-less Wizards.
In a battle of two of the NBA’s youngest franchises, the 2-5 Cleveland Cavaliers traveled to Washington to take on the equally struggling 2-5 Washington Wizards. After Lebron’s defection to Los Angeles, this new era for Cleveland has been a learning experience with a number of unproven youngsters trying to earn their place in the league. Led by veterans in Love and Tristan Thompson alongside the future of the program; Colin Sexton and Darius Garland, Cleveland is looking to find their way out of the basement and amongst contenders in the league. After wins against the respectable Bulls and Pacers and a narrow defeat by the hands of the Celtics, Cleveland is proving to be more than just Love and some pieces around him.
Washington finds itself off to a rough start, similar to the way it ended last season, which earned them a lottery pick. Taking the forward out of Gonzaga, Rui Hachimura was brought in with the idea of contributing immediately to fill the void of all-star John Wall, who is sidelined for what will likely be the rest of this season. With veteran Isiah Thomas serving in a blast-from-the-past role, Washington is looking to restore its name and lighten the load off of Bradley Beal.
Cleveland took control of the game in the early stages of this contest, jumping out to a quick lead after the opening tip. A couple of quick Tristan Thompson baskets opened up the scoring for the Cavs and set the pace for the remainder of the way. Cleveland took a commanding lead in the first quarter going up 12-2 in the first couple of minutes. After a run by Washington, they cut the lead down and went into the second quarter behind only four, 30 to 26.
The shooting stroke for the Wizards went cold as they made just six baskets over the first nine minutes of the quarter. In that stretch, Cleveland out-dueled Washington 29-14, leading by as much as 21 points. Behind eight points by Hachimura, Washington was able to score 12 points in the final three minutes of the half to enter the midway point down only 15, 67-52. At the half, Rui led the way for Washington with 15 points. The balanced attack of rookie Darius Garland, second-year player Colin Sexton and Thompson paved the way for the Cavaliers in the first half.
A half-time conversation must have ignited a fire in Washington as they came out looking like a completely different team in the second half. Washington closed out the third quarter on 25-11 run, outscoring Cleveland 32-21. This left them down just four points going into the fourth and final quarter. The same energy carried over into the fourth as on multiple occasions in the early minutes, the Wizards found themselves down by just a single-point, yet unable to claim the lead. With a strong defensive effort and clutch scoring from Love and Thompson, Cleveland was able to outscore Washington by nine in the fourth and cling on to a 113-100 victory.
After spending most of the game in their seats and relatively quiet, those in attendance at Capital One Arena were able to deliver an astounding round of applause for Mike Rizzo, General Manager of the World Series Champion Washington Nationals, who was in attendance.
The score certainly does not do Washington justice, as they had advantages in the three major categories: rebounds, assists, and shooting percentage. The Achilles heel for Washington was their 19 turnovers to Cleveland’s 13 and the total free throws of the Wizards. In four quarters of basketball, 48 minutes of game-play, the Wizards managed to shoot just six free throws, knocking down three at the charity stripe. This is in comparison to the 25-29 the Cavaliers made and attempted. Of those, 15 for 19 came from the combination of Thompson and Love. Washington will need to draw more fouls and accrue free points at the line to garner success in the future, a trait they are lacking in the absence of Wall.
Thompson and Wizards center Thomas Bryant had the key match-up of the night. Thompson notched a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Bryant scored 23 and pulled down 8 boards. Sexton and Love each contributed 16 points, with Love grabbing 12 rebounds himself. Rookie Rui Hachimura added 21 for Washington, going 10 for 13 from the field. The team’s most consistent scorer, Bradley Beal, contributed 20 points and led the game with nine assists.
With the win, Cleveland improves to 3-5 on the season, picking up the first road win of the year and first in the pro career of new head coach John Beilein. They will look to continue their success at the struggling New York Knicks on Sunday, Nov. 10.
Washington falls to 2-6 on the year and just 1-3 at home. They will be back in action on Wednesday, Nov. 13, against the red-hot Celtics, who are led by Kemba Walker.