And until one or all of the members of that injured trio returns, the Wizards will have a difficult time overcoming nights like Tuesday, when they had no counter for an explosive point guard (Kyrie Irving) and an active big man (Anderson Varejao) and lost to the Cavaliers, 94-84.
“Disappointing loss,” Okafor said. “You just have to fight. Every game is going to be unique and can’t use what you don’t have as an excuse.”
Wearing a sport coat and spectacles on the bench, Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, had a front-row seat as Irving — the top choice in 2011 and last year’s rookie of the year — carved up the Wizards’ defense for 29 points and Varejao took advantage of their depleted front line by grabbing 21 of his career-high 23 rebounds in the first three quarters.
The Wizards trailed, 74-62, to start the fourth quarter, but Coach Randy Wittman went with a lineup featuring Jannero Pargo, Earl Barron, Chris Singleton, Jordan Crawford and Martell Webster, and that group scored the game’s next 14 points. Pargo, a veteran who beat out Shelvin Mack for one of the final roster spots, gave them a two-point lead when he buried a three-pointer from the left corner.
Cleveland went five minutes without scoring until rookie Dion Waiters buried a fadeaway three-pointer and Varejao drew a foul while fighting for a rebound. Varejao made the free throw to put the Cavaliers back ahead, but Crawford came back to knock down a difficult baseline floater to tie the score at 78.
“I know my mind-set was to stick a dagger in them,” said Crawford, who led the team with just 11 points but needed 13 shots. “That’s what I wanted to do.”
Former Wizard Alonzo Gee had a putback to give the Cavaliers an 82-80 lead and they never looked back, pulling away for good with a pair of dunks from second-year player Tristan Thompson (12 points, 10 rebounds) on passes from Varejao on consecutive possessions. Varejao nearly had a triple-double with nine points and a game-high nine assists. He also had 12 offensive rebounds.
“To me, he’s their best player,” Booker said of Varejao. “Kyrie might be the most talented, but to me, Varejao is their best player and he showed it. He was a ball magnet. Every ball that came off came his way. Even when our players had him boxed out, it came to his hands.”