WASHINGTON (AP) — LeBron James set aside first-half foul trouble to finish with 28 points in only 25 minutes Friday night, and Kyrie Irving scored 25, helping the surging Cleveland Cavaliers overwhelm the Washington Wizards 127-89.
Cleveland led by as many as 22 points before halftime and as many as 40 after to win for the 15th time in its past 17 games.
The 38-point margin was Washington’s largest loss of the season. The Cavaliers also produced the most points by a Washington opponent in a first quarter (35) and first half (65).
About the only glaring mistake the Cavs made was Kevin Love’s flubbed attempt at a driving, two-handed dunk — the basketball hit the front of the rim.
All-Star point guard John Wall had 18 points and nine assists for Washington.
The Wizards are 14-16 over their last 30 games, following a 19-6 start that prompted talk about whether they were ready to be a real factor in the Eastern Conference.
Entering the first game for both teams after the All-Star break, the Wizards were fourth in the East, and the Cavaliers were fifth. They now swap spots. If the clubs were to stay seeded 4-5 the rest of the way, they would meet in the first round of the playoffs.
And if Friday was any indication, the Wizards probably ought to hope that doesn’t happen — even if they were without starting shooting guard Bradley Beal (right leg injury) and reserve forward Kevin Seraphin (flu-like symptoms) from the tipoff, then had starting forward Nene leave in the third quarter because of cramps after scoring 18 points.
Fact is, this one was not much of a contest at all, adding up to Washington’s biggest loss of the season, worse than a 31-point defeat at East-leading Atlanta on Jan. 11.
James had 10 points and Irving added nine in the first quarter, which ended with the Cavaliers ahead 35-26. The Cavaliers piled on in the second quarter, starting with a 14-2 run that included 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Iman Shumpert. When James hit a 3 with about 7 1/2 minutes left in the half, it was 52-30.
Soon after, though, James headed to the sideline with his third foul after getting called for charging while driving along the baseline against Marcin Gortat. James sat out the rest of the half, which Washington ended with a 6-0 spurt.
Still, Cleveland’s 65-51 halftime edge was plenty comfortable. The Wizards didn’t help themselves by shooting 0 for 11 on 3-point attempts in the half; they finished 1 for 16.
After the Wizards got within 12 early in the third quarter, a pair of 3s by James made it 77-59.
Cavaliers: Coach David Blatt said that C Anderson Varejao, who had season-ending surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon in December, is "making great progress. He’s out of the boot. He’s even walking, weight-bearing, on the leg. … It’s just great having Andy around whenever he’s around. He always lifts everybody’s spirits."
Wizards: Washington allowed 63 points in the first half of a 114-87 loss at Dallas on Dec. 30. … Beal missed his fourth consecutive game. Wizards coach Randy Wittman said "things are progressing really good" for Beal, and that doctors gave him the go-ahead to "do some shooting and running and stuff." … G Ramon Sessions, acquired Thursday from Sacramento, made his Wizards debut in the fourth quarter.