Wiz beat Cavs to end road winless streak
They carried on like kids and joked about spraying champagne in the locker room. Maybe some bubbly would have been appropriate.
It’s been a long time between road wins for the Washington Wizards.
Nick Young scored 31 points and rookie John Wall had 19 points and 14 assists as the Wizards snapped their 25-game road winless streak with a 115-100 win Sunday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who reverted to their losing ways one game after ending their record 26-game skid.
The Wizards opened a 25-point lead in the third quarter, survived a frantic Cleveland comeback and got their first road win since April 9 at Boston. Back then, LeBron James still was winning games for the Cavs and Wall was enrolled at Kentucky.
"It’s like Christmas," Wall said. "This was big for us."
Washington finished four losses shy of matching the league’s record road losing streak to start a season, 29 in a row by the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks.
If it was going to end, this was the place for the Wizards to do it.
The Cavs have the league’s worst record and a habit of sleepwalking through games.
The Wizards caught them napping.
"I’m still trying to figure them out because to me that was ridiculous," Cavs coach Byron Scott said of his sorry squad, which has lost 37 of 39. "I hope they don’t have any excuses. Just tell the truth. There has to be a sense of urgency every single night."
Antawn Jamison, facing his former team, scored 21 and J.J. Hickson added 16 and 13 rebounds for the Cavs, who stopped their losing streak Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers but failed to post back-to-back wins for just the second time this season.
Blown out and embarrassed in a 118-94 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, the Wizards were challenged at a morning breakfast by coach Flip Saunders, who tried to motivated them with a pep talk.
"After a loss like that last night, we all felt bad," said Young, who finished 14 of 21 – most of them on long jumpers. "Coach got on us and said some inspiring things. We all got punked. Tonight, we played from the beginning to the end."
Saunders wasn’t sure which Wizards team would show up.
"I really didn’t know," Saunders said. "Our guys were extremely quiet. I thought we were going to play really good or we were going to play really bad."
The Wizards came out focused on getting their first win outside D.C.’s city limits. They started 9 of 11 from the field and opened a 17-point lead in the first quarter on Young’s second straight three-point play.
Washington pushed its lead to 22 in the first half by outrunning and outhustling the flat-footed Cavs, whose gloomy season drags on. Scott wasn’t happy with his club’s early effort, and he let them know it during a timeout. Afterward, he was at a loss to explain his team’s lethargy.
"It’s disappointing," he said. "Playing hard should not be a skill. It’s your job. If we don’t give ourselves a chance by coming out and playing with a sense of urgency, then we have no shot of winning games."
About the only thing that didn’t go Washington’s way in the first half was when Wall missed a breakaway, left-handed dunk, a blunder his teammates weren’t about to forget.
"They said, ‘Welcome to the bloopers Top 10,’ " Wall said. "That was embarrassing. I could tell when I tried dunking it, it was off, and then I heard the crowd go crazy."
But the No. 1 overall pick more than made up for the gaffe with nine first-half assists, and a supersonic end-to-end dash for a layup in the final seconds that gave the Wizards a 68-46 halftime lead. The Cavs simply watched Wall’s vapor tail and didn’t offer much resistance in the third as the Wizards pushed their lead to 95-70 on Young’s third straight made jumper.
Washington came in averaging 96.7 points per game, but the Wizards topped 100 points when Josh Howard, playing for the first time since Jan. 5 because of a sore knee, hit a 3-pointer with 8:03 remaining.
Cleveland got as close as 11 on Jamario Moon’s 3-pointer, but the Wizards got two easy baskets inside by Andray Blatche to open some breathing room.
After the clock expired, Wall lifted his arms in triumph and the Wizards shared some hugs and high-fives before heading to the locker room, where they joked around and packed for a Wednesday game in Orlando with big smiles on their faces.
"This was big for us," Wall said. "They (the Spurs) did whatever they wanted to. It was like a college team playing an elementary team. They got whatever shot they wanted. Like Coach said, we had no fight. We had to come out and play hard tonight."
With point guard Mo Williams back in the starting lineup and forward Leon Powe active, the Cavaliers entered as healthy as they’ve been in weeks. They didn’t leave it that way, though.
Guard Daniel Gibson sat out the second half with a strained quadriceps muscle he injured in the second quarter. Gibson came out for warmups at halftime before going to the locker room accompanied by trainer Max Benton, who has been busy this season treating the Cavs.
Notes: Howard started and scored 16 points in 26 minutes. … If not for Hickson’s block on Baron Davis to end regulation on Friday, the Cavs’ epic losing streak would still be going. The Clippers wanted goaltending on the play. So, coach Scott, was the block legal? "No comment," he said, laughing. "It was really, really close." … Powe, sidelined since Jan. 7 after undergoing knee surgery, dressed but didn’t play.