For three quarters, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards traded runs. For three quarters, the Cavaliers kept the game close despite only shooting 2-12 from deep through three quarters and struggling to get consistent offensive production from anyone not named Spencer Hawes.
But it was in the final quarter that the Cavaliers ultimately lost the game and blew their chance to regain some of the momentum they lost when they lost to the Toronto Raptors last Friday. In the final quarter, the Cavaliers were only able to score 11 points as opposed to the Wizards’ 18 and cost themselves some positioning in the crowded bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Coming into the game, the Cavaliers found themselves less than five games back of the Brooklyn Nets in the East. Tonight’s loss, while not head-to-head loss against a team in similar standing, did drop them another half game behind the Nets for East’s eighth and final playoff spot. That half game will be stretched to a full game back if the Nets can beat the Los Angeles Lakers.
The games tipping point came about midway through the fourth, when in a span of a few minutes, the Wizards took any wind the Cavaliers had left in their comeback sails. It started when Wizards guard Bradley Beal was fouled in the open court by Hawes. The referees ruled the foul a clear path foul and Beal went to the line. He made one of two free throws and stretched the Washington lead to nine.
And then Washington point guard John Wall, with some help from Wizards forward Trevor Ariza, went all-in and ripped the sails off the Cavaliers mast. Wall hit step-back jump shot from the right wing that prompted a Cavalier timeout and visibly took away some of the Cavaliers remaining energy. Ariza, on the other, hit a well defended triple that came right as the Cavaliers started to look like they had one more run left in them.
As the game wore on, the Wizards kept on making these types of plays – plays that simply ate away at the Cavaliers and ultimately resulted in a 96-83 defeat.
Editor’s note: The Nets did beat the Lakers, thus putting the Cavaliers another full game out of the final spot in the Eastern Conference.