Cavaliers 114, Wizards 99
-- On Larry Hughes bobblehead night at Quicken Loans Arena, the former Wizard teamed with rising superstar LeBron James to help the Cleveland Cavaliers give Washington a double dose of headaches.
James scored a season-high 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Hughes scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, helping push Cleveland to a 114-99 victory over the Wizards on Tuesday night in front of 17,685, many of whom happily walked out of the building with a miniature Hughes -- headband, baggy shorts and all -- tucked under their arms.
The loss dropped the Wizards to 5-2 overall and 2-1 on the road, and prevented Washington from its best start since the 1974-75 Bullets opened 7-0.
"It was fun playing against my former teammates and my old team," said Hughes, who added eight assists in his first regular season game against Washington since joining Cleveland in the offseason. "We came out with a win and that was our main focus."
The last time James played the Wizards in a game that mattered, the Cavaliers were fighting for a playoff berth last April at MCI Center and James was primarily defended by Hughes. James scored 38 points that night but the Wizards won and marched on to the playoffs while the Cavaliers wound up missing the postseason for the seventh consecutive season.
On Tuesday night, the Cavaliers (6-2) looked playoff worthy while winning their fifth consecutive game. For that, James could partially thank Hughes, who spurned the Wizards for the Cavaliers by signing a five-year contract worth between $65 million and $70 million over the summer.
Hughes got off to a rough start, making two of his first 13 shots. He played sticky defense on Arenas and essentially put the game away with 3 minutes 27 seconds remaining when he answered Arenas's layup with a three-pointer, giving Cleveland a 106-90 lead.
The Wizards came into the game with the NBA's best field goal percentage defense (39.1 percent) after holding the defending champion San Antonio Spurs to 41 percent shooting in Saturday night's home victory. Cleveland, however, shot 63.2 percent during the fourth quarter, 49.4 percent for the game and became just the second Washington opponent to score 100 points.
Arenas, who totaled 75 points over the weekend during home wins over Seattle and San Antonio, went without a field goal during the second and third quarters and finished with 18 points on 4-of-17 shooting to go with eight assists and five rebounds.
"Tonight I was just standing out on the perimeter shooting jump shots," said Arenas, who stopped by the Cleveland locker room after the game to trade hugs with Hughes. "We couldn't get to the basket. They played well. Every time we tried to make a run, LeBron answered. I tried to make a run at the end but then Larry hit some big shots. It was just one of those nights where everything was clicking well for them."
Forward Antwan Jamison led the Wizards with 26 points and 12 rebounds, scoring 14 points in the third quarter.
The Cavaliers led 43-38 at the half but broke the game open with a 35-point third quarter that featured an assortment of spectacular drives to the basket by James, who came into the game averaging 26.7 points. Several Wizards, including Antonio Daniels, Caron Butler, Jared Jeffries and Jamison, tried defending James, and Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan unveiled a few zone defenses. Nothing worked.
James made 6 of 8 shots and scored 14 points during the third and the Wizards found themselves in an 82-70 hole going into the fourth.
"Yeah, just like the Wizards with Gilbert Arenas," Jordan said. "That's how most teams are. Their best player rises to another level, and they usually take their team with them. For LeBron, it was very easy for him tonight. He worked hard, got to the basket, got his assists and got his rebounds. He is a heck of a player."