Mistakes by the Lake: Cleveland Drills Wizards
Thursday, January 24, 2008
CLEVELAND, Jan. 23 -- Coach Eddie Jordan called it "painful" and "bordering on embarrassing." Antonio Daniels labeled it "a major league butt-whipping."
Antawn Jamison talked about how the Washington Wizards "never got it going" and Caron Butler said it was so ugly, he just couldn't wait to get on the plane and head back home.
There are many ways to describe the 121-85 beating the previously hot Wizards received from the still-hot Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, but none of them could quite summarize how badly things went for Washington.
In winning for the 11th time in 13 games, the Cavaliers shot 56.6 percent, finished with a 53-29 advantage in rebounds and racked up 39 assists with only five turnovers.
The 36-point margin of defeat was the largest of the season for the Wizards, who entered having won five of their previous six games but appeared to forget how to play defense, rebound or run a fluid offense.
If Jordan's team was feeling overconfident following recent wins over the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday's beat-down took care of that.
"We were very nonathletic," Jordan said. "We didn't play at the rim, much less above it. We didn't stay up with their cutters, we didn't get back in transition. We just weren't quick enough, strong enough or athletic enough and frankly, I stayed with the starters probably a half-quarter too long. They didn't deserve to play and our bench didn't give us a lot of enthusiasm, so from man one through 11 and the coaching staff, we just didn't bring it tonight."
Center Brendan Haywood led the Wizards with 11 points. Butler and Jamison each finished with 10 -- well below their season averages -- and combined to make 8 of 21 shots.
Washington's reserves scored 45 points, but that hardly mattered because the bench players were on the floor when the game went from bad to worse in the second half.
Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (24 points on 10-of-10 shooting) and LeBron James (23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists) led the Cavaliers, and five Cleveland players scored in double figures.
Despite a ragged first half, the Wizards trailed only 52-46 at the break. They missed their first nine shots of the third quarter -- most of them jump shots taken early in the shot clock -- and Cleveland's lead reached 20 points on a pair of Sasha Pavlovic free throws with 6 minutes 52 seconds remaining.
After former Wizard Larry Hughes dribbled freely down the lane and threw down an uncontested two-handed dunk at the five-minute mark, Jordan went to his bench, but that didn't help much. The Cavaliers kept rolling and eventually pushed their lead to 45 points with 3:20 left in the game.
"We talked about going for their jugular," said Cleveland's Drew Gooden (18 points and 10 rebounds). "We didn't want to let up, even when they took their starters out and put their reserves in to try and bring some energy. We wanted to keep pounding the ball down low and get right into them."
Washington's only highlight was provided by rookie Nick Young, who finished a second-quarter break by throwing down a spectacular one-handed dunk over James. Still, the Cavaliers easily avenged a 105-86 loss at Washington on Dec. 5 when they played without James, who was out with a sprained left index finger.
"I certainly remember LeBron saying very shortly after our game that he was going to remember all the butt-kicking they got while he was out," Jordan said. "I don't know if our guys remember it. Maybe I should have reminded them, but this was one of those paybacks."
Note: At halftime, the Cavaliers honored several former players, including Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in an NBA game.
The Alexandria native broke the color line on Oct. 31, 1950, as a member of the Washington Capitols and went on to play nine seasons with the Capitols (who folded after the 1950-51 season), the Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons.
Of the 23 players who played in Wednesday's game, 18 were black.