WASHINGTON • On the same day John Wall and Bradley Beal reiterated a belief that the Cleveland Cavaliers did not want to face the Washington Wizards in the early rounds during last season's play-offs, LeBron James performed like a man unafraid of anything.
He dazzled with 57 points - the second-highest scoring performance of his career - as Cleveland snapped a four-game losing streak with a 130-122 National Basketball Association (NBA) win over Washington on Friday night.
James sank 23 of 34 shots, including two three-pointers, made all nine of his free-throw attempts and had 11 rebounds with seven assists in a dominant performance befitting a four-time league Most Valuable Player.
He played the entire second half and scored 19 points in the final quarter, often inside as the Wizards tried rallying with a smaller line-up. Washington pulled within 113-120 with 3min 34sec left only for James to sink a three-pointer. Cleveland (4-5) shot 56.1 per cent from the field and hit 12 of 27 three-pointers.
"We needed this win, so I had no intention of coming out and I felt pretty good," James said. "I'm also back to myself. I'm almost back to my wind. Any time I can play a full half, I know I'm right there. It's great to get that win, for sure."
Beal scored 36 points for the Wizards (4-4), who lost for the fourth time in five games. Wall had 13 points and 15 assists, but injured his left shoulder in the second half.
The four-time All-Star left the locker room wearing a sling and said the shoulder felt like it was "on fire".
"I shouldn't have been out there. Trying to compete," said Wall, who shot four of 13 from the field and missed all three of his free-throws.
LeBron James' shooting percentage, landing 23 of 34 shots. He also had seven assists and 11 rebounds.
Neither team entered the anticipated match-up between Eastern Conference heavyweights playing like true contenders largely because of defensive woes.
The Cavaliers took greater advantage of the defence-optional game as James finished within four of his career high set on March 3, 2014, against Charlotte.
"Tonight, nothing that we did, and we did a lot of things, was going to work," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "The guy was on fire. That's what happens on certain nights with great players."
During an ESPN interview earlier on Friday, Wall and Beal reiterated a belief that Cleveland purposefully slid out of the top seed in the play-offs last season to avoid facing Washington in the early rounds.
"I really don't have a comment about it," James said, when asked about the claim made by Wall and Beal. "For me, what I'm trying to do to help this team, we've got seven new guys and I'm trying to get these guys focused, get myself focused, get our team focused on what it takes for us to win every night."
Cavaliers Tyronn Lue said sarcastically: "No comment, because I don't want to get into trouble. They're right: They are the best team in the East."
Elsewhere, Kyrie Irving finished with 25 points as the Boston Celtics (7-2) rallied from a double-digit deficit to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-94 and extend their winning streak to seven games.
Paul George led the Thunder (4-4) with 25 points, while Russell Westbrook had 19 points, six rebounds and 11 assists.
In Atlanta, James Harden had 29 points and 11 assists as the Houston Rockets bombed away early from three-point range to beat the Atlanta Hawks 119-104.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE