CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Tryonn Lue and the new look Cavaliers have made it no secret that they are a work in progress.
It was evident Thursday night, and that’s quite fine.
Washington ended their four-game win streak and climbed to within half a game in the Eastern Conference standings with a 110-103 win at Quicken Loans Arena.
LeBron James scored 14 straight for the Cavs late in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough. James finished with 32 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in the loss that ended their 4-game win streak.
“Like I told you guys, it’s still a work in progress with us,” James said. “It’s not going to be overnight. No matter the excitement before the break, we got a lot of things to work on, implement what we need to do. Tonight we still played to our game, just didn’t make a lot of shots.”
Bradley Beal led 5 in double figures for Washington with 18 points and 9 asissts. He also had 2 blocks and 2 rebounds while Tomas Sateransky and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 17 points each. Sateransky, playing for the injured John Wall, also dished out 8 assists.
Difference From Distance – The Wizards were able to make life difficult on the Cavs thanks in part to their three-point shooting while Cleveland struggled from deep.
The Cavs, who shot 50 percent for the game (42-84) besting Washington’s 47.8 percent (44-92) from the field, hit just 8 of 35 three-point tries while Washington knocked down 12 of 30.
“We missed some open threes,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “I mean, shooting 8-for-35 it’s going to be tough to beat a lot of teams. We had some good looks and good shots [but] they just didn’t fall for us.”
Jeff Green, George Hill and Jordan Clarkson combined to shoot 0-10 (Green 0-3, Clarkson 0-3, Hill 0-4) for the Cavs from beyond the arc.
“We can’t make excuses, we missed some great looks tonight,” Hill, who finished with 6 points, said.
“It’s very frustrating especially when I’m used to making them. My teammates kept telling me to fire away because they know it doesn’t happen that often. Just couldn’t buy one tonight.”
Second Q Surge – In the second quarter the Wizards made six 3-pointers – 4 in the span of less than 2:30, closed the half with 19-8 run and scored 35 points.
It allowed Washington to turn a 12-point deficit into a 57-54 lead over the Cavs at the break.
Despite being outscored by 8 the Cavs still shot 50-percent – 9 of 18 – in the quarter.
Getting Back – One area the Cavs have shown marked improvement since the trade deadline has been transition defense, and it showed again against the Wizards.
Cleveland committed 14 turnovers but gave up just 4 points off of them, a great sign considering how frequent opponents were able to torch them off turnovers earlier this season. Conversely the Cavs turned 11 Wizards turnovers into 15 points.
“I think we played well tonight, even though we lost,” James said. “I hate losing, obviously, but I think the way we played, the way we shared the ball. Defensively, we were flying around as well and those guys, they just played better than us tonight. I like the start, I like the direction we’re headed.”
Another Milestone – With James’ eighth field goal make Thursday night, he became just the seventh player in NBA history to tally 11,000 career made field goals.
Welcome Home – The 4 new Cavaliers – Hill, Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. all received warm welcomes from the sellout crowd as they made their Cleveland debuts.
The loudest cheers came for Nance Jr., the son of Cavs legend Larry Nance Sr. whose No. 22 was retired by the team in 1995, when he checked into the game with 1:52 left in the first quarter.
“It was fun. Honestly, the second the game started and I checked in, I didn’t even realize where [I was],” Nance Jr. said. “It didn’t even matter anymore. I was just playing basketball and having fun. But I did obviously hear the crowd when I checked in, and honestly that was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever had in my life. It was really cool.”
An Assist From Sr. – With his son, Larry Nance Jr., making his Cavs debut – and also being permitted to wear his retired No. 22 for the Cavs starting next week – the Cavs’ legend known for dunking and blocking shots handed out an assist during a second quarter timeout.
With the crowd worked up into a frenzy when he stepped on the floor, the older Nance held a basketball over his head for the team’s mascot – Moondog – to jump off a trampoline, grab the ball and slam it home.
The first attempt didn’t go well with Moondog unable to finish it but the second effort went smoothly and drew cheers from the sellout crowd.
Busy Stretch – Following the loss to Washington the Cavs have 25 games left on the regular season schedule to figure things out and prepare themselves for what they hope to be another Finals run into June.
“It’s going to be challenging,” James said. “It’s going to be very challenging but I accept the challenge and the guys are excited about just trying to learn every day. The good thing about it is now we’re going to get to a point where we’re playing every other day so we can learn on the floor.”
Thursday night’s game marked the first of 17 games the Cavs will play over the next 32 days.