CLEVELAND — John Wall missed the Washington Wizards’ first two meetings this season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. As he watched in a sport coat, all-star point guard Kyrie Irving erupted for a total of 55 points and led his team to two wins.
When the Wizards and Cavaliers met for the third and final time Tuesday, it was Wall’s turn to put on a show as Irving looked on from the bench with a sprained left shoulder. Wall posted season highs with 27 points and 14 assists, but any advantage the Wizards thought they had against the Cavaliers was negated by their own loss of rookie Bradley Beal and later Trevor Ariza.
Beal missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle and Ariza didn’t play in the second half after hurting his left knee, compromising the Wizards’ depth and contributing to a disappointing 95-90 loss at Quicken Loans Arena.
“It’s tough,” Martell Webster said after finishing with 17 points and connecting on five three-pointers. “Another player is down. One of our key shooters, key defenders went out, and then Brad being out, that’s what happens late in the season. Injuries start to creep up. I wish [Ariza] a speedy recovery, but we’re still trying to finish the season strong.”
Ariza, one of the team’s bright spots the past few weeks, sat with an ice pack strapped to his left knee after the game and later hobbled in and out of the shower. When asked if he would be forced to miss any time, Ariza only said he would “probably not” be available when the Wizards (20-42) host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday at Verizon Center.
With Ariza out, Webster was forced to log heavier minutes and Coach Randy Wittman had to alter his rotation and go with little-used reserve Chris Singleton down the stretch. Down three points in the final minute, the Wizards had a chance to get closer but former Wizard Shaun Livingston fought off Singleton and Nene to grab his own offensive rebound, then beat Nene in a jump ball to set up the decisive free throws by Cavaliers rookie Dion Waiters.
Waiters, who went one spot behind Beal in last June’s draft at No. 4, had 20 points to lead Cleveland, which swept the season series against Washington.
“We just feel like the game was there for us to win, but all three games, they seemed to outplay us, outhustle us for loose balls,” Singleton said.
Washington is 5-25 on the road and was swept by yet another lottery-bound team. The Cavaliers (22-42) joined Detroit, which took four games from the Wizards, and now have a one-game lead over the Wizards for the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
“We’re 0-7 against them this season,” Wall said. “No disrespect to those teams. They’re good teams. They win games, like any team can in this league. We feel like we’re better than them, but tonight, they proved they’re better than us. It’s tough to lose those games when you know you have an opportunity to win.”
Wall was a little disappointed that he wasn’t going to have the chance to measure himself against Irving, a fellow No. 1 overall pick. Irving dominated both outings, scoring 29 points on Oct. 30 in the season-opening 94-84 win and dropping 26 points in an 87-84 win on Dec. 26 at Verizon Center.
Starting in his place on Tuesday was Livingston, who played 17 games with the Wizards but was cut in December. Livingston didn’t have the same influence as a scorer but he finished with 12 points and six assists as the Cavaliers improved to 5-10 without their best player. Six Cavaliers scored in double figures.
Emeka Okafor had his 18th double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Nene had 15 points and 10 rebounds but without Beal and Ariza, the Wizards got little production from the bench and were outscored by Cleveland’s reserves, 27-11.
The Wizards jumped to an initial 11-0 advantage and led 33-20 after one quarter. But the Cavaliers held the Wizards to just 16 points apiece in the next two quarters and led 76-65 entering the final period.
“We stopped running,” Wittman said. “For whatever reason, we’ve been doing this quite a lot. After misses, we walk the ball up and we don’t run. It cost us. We scored 16 apiece because we won’t throw the ball ahead and attack in transition.”
Wall scored 10 points in the fourth period, but he also had two turnovers, including a costly turnover with 75 seconds remaining, when he threw a cross-court bounce pass that zipped by Webster and rolled out of bounds. The Wizards lost on the road for sixth time in a row without Beal.
“It’s embarrassing,” Webster said of getting swept by Cleveland, “but games are always right around the corner. Can’t worry about [it]. Wish we could do them all over again. Wish we could start the season all over again, 100 percent healthy, but we can’t. You just have to live with what you got and right now focus on Milwaukee.”