LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The Cleveland Cavaliers returned from the NBA All-Star break with a thud on Thursday (Feb 22), falling 103-110 to the Washington Wizards despite 32 points from LeBron James.
The Cavs had not lost since trading half a dozen players and receiving four at the Feb 8 trade deadline, winning four straight heading into the All-Star break.
James, who earned his third All-Star Most Valuable Player award on Sunday in his 14th straight start in the mid-season exhibition, connected on 13 of 18 shots from the floor, pulled down nine rebounds and handed out eight assists.
He became the seventh player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history with 11,000 career baskets, scoring Cleveland's last 14 points in defeat.
"We got some really, really good looks," James said. "We played hard. I think the legs, being off for nine days kind of got to us, especially after the first quarter."
The Cavs had led by 12 in the second period, but they finished just eight-of-35 from three-point range as the Wizards, still without injured five-time All-Star point guard John Wall, gained the win.
Bradley Beal scored 18 points to lead the Wizards, who are now half a game behind Cleveland for third place in the Eastern Conference.
Trailing 79-82 going into the fourth, Cleveland took an 89-88 lead on Kyle Korver's three-pointer with 9:42 remaining.
But Washington scored nine straight points to regain the lead.
"It's still a work in progress for us," James said. "It's not going to be overnight no matter the excitement before the break. We've got a lot of things to work on... we still played our game, we just didn't make a lot of shots."
If the All-Star break slowed the Cavs, it seemed to have energised the reigning champions Golden State Warriors, who held off the determined Los Angeles Clippers 134-127 in Oakland.
"Obviously the break came at a good time for us," said Warriors star Stephen Curry, who scored 44 points.
Kevin Durant added 21 with eight assists, Klay Thompson scored 19 points and Draymond Green chipped in 13 points with seven rebounds and six assists for a Golden State team that coach Steve Kerr described as "mentally fried" as they lumbered into the All-Star break.
Curry connected on 14 of his 19 shots from the field, including eight of 11 from three-point range.
Golden State led 104-93 early in the fourth quarter before the Clippers put together a 9-0 scoring run to trim the deficit to two.
With less than two minutes remaining, Curry's deep three-pointer had the Warriors' lead back to seven points and the Clippers would not get closer than five from there.
"We've still got some stuff to work on," Curry said. "But I like our competitive spirit. We found a way to win down the stretch."
On Saturday (Feb 24), the Warriors host the Oklahoma City Thunder, who edged out the Kings in Sacramento 110-107 thanks to Russell Westbrook's game-winning three-pointer as time expired.
Trailing 21-44 after the first period, the Kings had battled back to lead 90-85 going into the final frame.
It was tied at 107-107 with one second left, but after a timeout Westbrook nailed the game-winner over Sacramento's Garrett Temple.
"Couldn't make nothing in the second half, but I made the one that counted," said Westbrook, who finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists, his 18th triple-double of the season.
Simmons lifts Sixers
Philadelphia's Australian rookie Ben Simmons scored 32 points, draining two free-throws with 5.6 seconds left to lift the 76ers to a 116-115 victory over the Bulls in Chicago.
"Stepping up to the line, I knew I was going to knock them down," he said. "That's one of those things, you have to have the mentality. So, I was put to the line. I can't be thinking I'm going to miss them."
Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds for Philadelphia and Joel Embiid chipped in 30 points and 13 rebounds as the 76ers, who trailed by five with less than a minute remaining, snapped a four-game road losing streak.