In their third game without Anderson Varejao, the Cavs did not make it easy for themselves against the lowly Washington Wizards. In a back-and-forth game where the Cavaliers only shot 38 percent from field, the Cavaliers eked out an 87-84 win in Washington. Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Tristan Thompson chipped in 15 points and 12 rebounds. Emeka Okafor and Jordan Crawford co-led the Wizards with 17 points.
The first six minutes of the game saw the Cavaliers battle back from an early 11-4 deficit, only to have it again extended to seven again. Outside of a highlight alley-oop from Irving to Gee, the part of the first quarter was all Washington. On a whole, the Wizards really worked the Cavaliers inside with Nene and Okafor. Irving led the Cavaliers with eight points and five assists in the quarter.
The second quarter was a much more competitive quarter for the Cavaliers. They were, for the most part, able to stop the Wizards from penetrating the paint and getting easy buckets. Even with that improvement, the Cavaliers were unable to take the lead until right before the final minute in the quarter. In that final minute, Gee missed an easy dunk and almost hurt himself in the process. On their last possession, Irving broke Shelvin Mack’s ankles and got a generous roll on a three-point attempt. At the half, the Cavaliers led 45-13, with Irving leading the way with 20 points.
The third quarter was an uneven one for the Cavs. They started off slow, and were only saved by a late run. It was a distinct turn in play from the Cavaliers, as the slow pace of the third erased all the momentum they built up in the second quarter. In particular, Irving was noticeably off of his game in the third quarter after a 12-point second quarter. Sans some solid play from Thompson and four points from Luke Walton, the Cavaliers really did nothing on the offensive end. Starting the fourth, the score was tied 68-68.
The fourth started off as a back-and-forth affair. Both teams had small runs, but Washington got the better of most of the action. When Irving returned after his normal fourth quarter rest, the Cavs energy level immediately increased, as they ripped off six straight at one point. A huge Waiters’ three pointer put the Cavaliers ahead by four, but the Wizards capitalized on two Cavalier turnovers and pulled within one. After an Okafor free throw, Irving assisted Thompson, who scored a bucket and got fouled. Thompson nailed his free throw, and put the Cavaliers ahead 85-82. After stopping the Wizards and forcing them to foul, Irving hit one free throw, putting the Cavaliers up 86-82. After another Wizards bucket and one more Irving free throw, the Cavaliers pulled out the victory.
This was the Cavaliers first back-to-back wins since March 7-11 of last year, when they won three straight. Although the Bucks and Wizards are not really good teams in the NBA, this is a good step forward for the Cavs, especially considering Varejao is still out with a knee injury. But as the case with any young team, there were a lot of mistakes made by the Cavaliers down the stretch. Irving, normally efficient from the free throw line, missed four of his last six from the line. The Cavaliers also committed four traveling violations (two from Tyler Zeller, one from Waiters and one from Irving) in the final period. These little mistakes (along with ugly trends like 36 points allowed in the paint) are things that will need to get improved if they will take the next step forward in their growth.