The Washington Wizards’ (3-23) 20 turnovers proved costly as the last-place team fell yet again, this time to Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers (7-23) by the score of 87-84 Wednesday night.
The Cavaliers entered the Boxing Day match-up with more losses than the Wizards, but even Santa himself couldn’t wrap up a win for an ailing team forced to start its days-old point guard due to a Jordan Crawford rules violation.
Crawford delivered 17 points and three rebounds off the bench, but reports indicated he was seated for the start due to his late arrival to Wednesday’s shootaround.
Whether or not starting Shelvin Mack sent the appropriate message to Crawford, Mack arose to the occasion soon enough.
In the first quarter, he grabbed a defensive rebound, which set Martell Webster up for an easy dunk to make it 15-10 Wizards. After Washington expanded their lead to 10 points, Mack provided Emeka Okafor with a similar opportunity, opening him up for a dunk to make it 22-10.
Okafor tallied eight of his 17 points on the evening in the first quarter alone. He also managed 10 rebounds and four blocks before day’s end.
With less than five minutes left in the quarter, it looked like the Wizards would make the most of the Cavaliers’ ugly shot attempts and the referees’ reluctance to blow the whistle.
That is, until Irving had something to say about it.
After sinking a technical free throw and a long jumper, Irving set up Tyler Zeller for a huge dunk to trim the Wizards’ lead to just 22-17. Irving’s two free throws to end the quarter trimmed the lead to just four as the Wizards maintained a 26-22 lead at the buzzer.
Despite Washington’s decent start, turnovers continued to cost the Wizards’ countless opportunities to add padding to their lead. Back-to-back-to-back bad passes by Nene, Cartier Martin and Nene again in the second quarter helped spark the Cavaliers’ offense – which, more or less, relied upon Irving, who led with 26 points and eight assists on the night.
Nevertheless, the second piece of Washington’s Christmas signings – Garrett Temple – kept the Wizards within two as he dropped the hammer with just seconds left in the half to make it 45-43 Cavaliers.
Surprisingly enough, the Wizards started the third quarter on a 12-0 run, which included back-to-back three-pointers by Mack.
But, it didn’t take long for Washington’s 62-53 lead to dwindle.
If earlier turnovers failed to indicate that the lead would not hold, Webster’s goaltending turnover – against himself – seemed to leave fans shaking their heads muttering, “Only on the Wizards…” Through traffic, Crawford managed a stellar pass to a wide-open Webster, but Webster drove for the dunk by grabbing onto the rim with his left hand and attempting to sink the ball with his right.
Rather than wowing the crowd, the play resulted in a whistle and no additional points for the Wizards.
It also seemed to awake the Cavaliers’ offense, which made it a tie game – 68 apiece – at the close of the quarter.
The Wizards managed to hold onto a narrow lead for several minutes into the fourth. With 5:11 remaining, however, the Cavaliers’ Alonzo Gee made a huge dunk – two-handed, to be safe – and Zeller followed up with a layup to make it a tie game at 79-79.
Dion Waiters sunk a huge three-pointer to give Cleveland an 82-79 lead with 3:35 left to play, but Okafor’s two-point shot brought the Wizards within one. With under a minute left, Okafor made one of two free throws to tie it, but Tristan Thompson answered with a go-ahead jumper and-1.
With just seconds left, Irving made the first of two free throws due to Temple’s personal foul, but immediately after, Crawford drew a foul himself and sunk both of his free throws.
Down to seconds left to play, Irving made it 87-84 on one last free throw, and Crawford’s missed buzzer-beater attempt from three-point-land allowed the Wizards to tie Cleveland in the loss column with 23 apiece.
The loss also enabled the Cavaliers to do what the Wizards have yet to accomplish all season – win two games back-to-back.
Additionally, the game marked Shaun Livingston’s return to the Verizon Center – in a Cavaliers jersey – but he did not play.