No James, no spark, no win

Cleveland forward Kevin Love (No. 0) is fouled by the Washington Wizards' Jared Dudley as he drives to the basket. The Wizards won 113-99 and the Cavs fell to their second straight loss.
Cleveland forward Kevin Love (No. 0) is fouled by the Washington Wizards' Jared Dudley as he drives to the basket. The Wizards won 113-99 and the Cavs fell to their second straight loss.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Wizards capitalise after Cavs' strategy to rest star backfires as fringe players fail to step up

WASHINGTON • LeBron James plays nearly every game, but Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue decided the All-Star forward needed a rest day. That meant an opportunity for others to step up in a matinee against the Washington Wizards. Nobody did.

Point guard John Wall had 21 points and 13 assists as the Wizards took advantage of James' absence to record a 113-99 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday.

James missed his second National Basketball Association league game of the season and the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers (41-17) missed their leading man.

The Wizards (28-30) led after each quarter and by as many as 30 points in the second half en route to handing Cleveland their second straight loss and third in four games.

Guard Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 28 points. Forward Kevin Love added 12 points but did not score in the second half. Cleveland shot 40 per cent from the field.

"Our top leader (wasn't) playing tonight. It's another opportunity for guys to step in and relish that opportunity," Irving said. "But our intensity level just wasn't there."

CAVS LACKED INTENSITY

Our top leader (wasn't) playing tonight. It's another opportunity for guys to step in and relish that opportunity. But our intensity level just wasn't there.

KYRIE IRVING, Cavaliers point guard, on their loss to the Washington Wizards with key player LeBron James rested.

Lue would agree.

Leading 63-54 at half-time, Washington opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run as forward Otto Porter hit a trio of three-pointers in the opening two minutes.

Soon after, Lue benched his starters. Love, guard J.R. Smith and forward Tristan Thompson played five minutes each in the second half.

"I thought (forward Richard Jefferson) played hard, and I thought (centre Timofey Mozgov) kept playing hard and playing tough. That's about it," the coach stated.

James had opened Cleveland's three-games-in-four-days stretch with 25 points in 40 minutes in a 97-99 loss at the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

Porter scored 21 points and matched his career high with four three-pointers for the Wizards, winners of two straight games. Guard Bradley Beal had 17 points.

All of Porter's three-pointers came in the third quarter and he scored 15 points in the period, one less than the Cavaliers. The margin ballooned to 30 at 111-81 before Washington's ninth sell-out of the season.

"I knew we were going to come out with a lot of intensity, whether LeBron played or not," Wall said. "It's a big game against a tough team."

Washington are 5-2 since returning from the All-Star break. The Cavaliers fell to 0-2 this season without James and 3-12 when he sits out since the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player returned to Cleveland before the 2014-15 season.

That their play is not trending up is of concern for the Cavaliers.

Smith said: "We can't play basketball like this going down the stretch. After losing a game to the No. 2 team in the East (the Toronto Raptors), and then you come out and get thrashed, make (the Wizards) look good at the end. We can't do that."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'NO JAMES, NO SPARK, NO WIN'. Print Edition | Subscribe