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Game Notebook 55, Wizards vs Cavaliers: Humbled at Home

Wizards 89
Cavaliers 127

February 20, 2015 – Verizon Center, Washington, DC

Wiz Cavs

Pick your storyline: Wizards vs. Cavaliers; Kyrie vs. John; every Wizards fan in the world vs. LeBron; or how about two Eastern Conference teams battling for playoff position?

In the first game back from what seemed like a yearlong All-Star break, the Wizards drew LeBron and the Cavaliers on national TV. Two things could have happened last night: a) the Wizards could show a larger than normal audience that they’re serious about a second half push or, b) LeBron and his amigos put on a show that leaves #WizardsTwitter spiraling out of control in negativity.

What the Verizon Center faithful got was the latter. I’m not quite sure how to explain it but the whole game was like a really bad hangover. Nothing seemed to make any sense, there were brief moments of clarity followed by pounding migraines, and a whole lot of head shaking.

The bottom line to last night’s Wizards loss is that you can’t take off for nine days, do relatively nothing at the trade deadline, and then put on a performance like the one we saw last night and not expect to take heat for it today. This whole idea of being in a funk, playing your way out of it or the don’t worry things will get better mindset is getting tiresome and it’s not just the fans watching and the people that are covering this team who seem to be noticing…that team we saw on the court last night had that JaVale/Nick/Dray era-type feel to it.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving led the way for the Cavaliers, scoring 28 and 25 respectively in addition to a slew of highlight-reel dunks along with layups and passes that seemed to take the life out of anyone affiliated with the Washington Wizards, one play at a time. It wasn’t just those two for the Cavs either; the entire team had a field day with the Wizards defense quarter by quarter by quarter. This was no more evident than by the plus/minus stats at the end of the game. Cleveland had everyone in the plus, while the Wizards looked like the weather forecast for Antarctica the next 12 days.

The Cavaliers enjoyed a 40 point lead at one point and pulled away from the Wizards for good in the 3rd quarter after back to back 3-point shots by LeBron James, to which John Wall admitted being “devastating” after the game. Our friends at Truth About It pointed out via ESPN Stats & Info: “the (Cavs win) largest margin of victory for a road team over a home team this season.” Not exactly how you want to come out of the break in front of a national audience, right?

I honestly think the worst part about the loss is that nothing seems to have changed. Defense, once a strength of the team is simply gone. Turnovers continue to happen at a high rate against really good teams, who by the way are the only teams you get to face in the playoffs. The 3-point shooting, once another strength of this team has gone quiet – and I don’t want to hear about Bradley Beal missing because even when he’s in they don’t get him enough shots. My point on 3’s is that you can’t shoot 1-16 and expect to beat anybody in the NBA, much less a Cavaliers team that has won 15 of its past 17 games.

Pick the area you’d like to focus on, there is plenty for everyone to be concerned about. It’s hard to imagine that someone could be so concerned about a team that is 33-22, but when you start the season 19-6 and go 14-16 over the last 30 games, who are fans supposed to think you are closer to being?

Game Leaders:

[ezcol_1third]WIZARDS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third][/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]CAVS[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Wall and Nene (18)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]POINTS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]LeBron James (28)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]John Wall (9)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]ASSISTS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Kyrie Irving (7)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Gortat and Humphries (6)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]REBOUNDS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Tristan Thompson (9)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]John Wall (2)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]BLOCKS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Timofey Mozgov (2)[/ezcol_1third_end][ezcol_1third]Nene and Sessions (-5)[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third]PLUS/MINUS[/ezcol_1third][ezcol_1third_end]Timofey Mozgov (+42)[/ezcol_1third_end]





On what went wrong in tonight’s game:

“It was everything. I’ve talked about it before, we’ve got to — me, the coaches, the players — we’ve lost that edge of nastiness that we’ve played with. Tonight we came out and felt like we were going to warm ourselves into this game and they had other ideas. They hit us in the mouth right from the jump ball and we couldn’t recover from it. I’ve got to find a way to get our nastiness back, our edge back. We didn’t defend, we didn’t take anything away, that’s what we do and when we don’t [do that] we’re not very good.”

On missing early shots affecting the rest of the game:

“The effort should be there not matter if we are making or missing shots. That has nothing to do with our playing defense. They were able to get out and get some easy baskets, but if we want to use that as an excuse than we are going to stay where we are at.”

On losing to a top team in the East:

“Every game is important. We have to worry about Sunday. Let’s do that first and that’s what we have to do. I say it to you guys all the time, it’s hard to win in this league. It’s hard to win games. It doesn’t come easy. I think we thought it did there for a while. We got comfortable and thought that it was just going to happen, that we are going to win games no matter what the effort that we put into it. It’s caught up with us a little bit and coming off this break that’s what it looked like. They’re bodies were here but their minds weren’t.”

On the Cavaliers’ intensity tonight:

“They came to send a message. No question. Absolutely. That’s what good teams do. That’s where we have to get. We have to understand where we are at, what we’re playing for, and we’ll be the ones that send the message. We’re sending nothing but bad vibes right now and we have to get back to working hard, putting more time in. We have 15 guys and I have guys complaining about playing time all the time. Well, here it is. What are you going to do with it? Show me you deserve to play. Right now I’m looking for that. I’m looking for that obviously with Bradley [Beal] being out. Opportunities are there and guys have got to step up and give me more than they’re giving me.”


On how the team can bounce back:

“We’ve lost our edge. We’re going to try and figure it out tomorrow. We have to go back to the video and the film and try to correct a lot of things.”

On what tonight’s performance lacked:

“It was a mix of a lot of different things. We couldn’t make a shot. I don’t think we made a three, maybe at the end. The bottom line is they shot the ball well. We didn’t play any defense or offense. That’s how you lose a game.”


On getting minutes in his first game in Washington:

“It’s tough anytime you come in a situation like that, the first game back. My first game out there, not really sure what the calls are — I was just trying to get into a little rhythm. But it was a disappointing loss tonight. We definitely wanted a better outcome.”

On coming out of the All-Star break:

“It’s one of those games. It is after the break, this was an extended break, the three to four days that we normally get, this was a six day break. There was a little rust out there, that’s kind of expected a little bit but there are things that we could have done a little bit better as a team. This is a tough loss, there’s not a single thing that you can put your hand on, it’s definitely just a tough loss for us.”


On the loss:

“They came out the more physical team. I don’t think we made one three out of the whole game and they made theirs. We had a couple of careless turnovers and they scored but we just did not come out with enough physicality and they were the tougher team tonight.”

On Wizards’ defense

“It was not one-on-one. They had too many pick and rolls. We didn’t do a good job of sticking to our coverages and being aggressive. They picked us apart.”

On loss of effort:

“I think a couple of guys said we look like we are fatigued and tired. The main thing is that you try to put this game behind you. Tonight was just a terrible outcome for coming home your first game after the break and getting beat that badly.”

On moving forward:

“We have to find it, we compete harder in practice than we do against other opponents. We have to come out the second half of the season with a chip on our shoulder and try to not be so friendly and compete. I think this is just a stretch where we have Brad [Bradley Beal] hurt and there are opportunities for guys to step up. It is a tough time that we are going through. This is something you don’t want to go through at this point in the season but we have to find a way to get out of it.”


On tonight’s game: 

“We did want to quicken the pace with discipline when we didn’t have fast breaks because Washington is a very good half court defensive team. We felt it was important for us to get easy baskets. Also to take good care of the basketball. What a difference a few months make. Remember we played a game here in Washington some months ago and we turned it over 19 times and we were definitely not the together unit that we are right now. We got a lot of good looks and we got them in the way we wanted to get them.”

On playoff standings:

“Obviously we’re competing with Washington for home court advantage and we were 1-1 in the series so far, so on an away win against a very, very good basketball team was important. I don’t know if it’s a statement as much as it’s a step that we had to make. One of many steps that we have to take to improve our position.”

On LeBron James sitting out the fourth quarter:   

“When your number one guy is out, you have to raise your energy level and focus level. We lost a little bit of ground there but nothing serious. I thought LeBron (James) played a terrific game by the way. In 25 minutes you look at what he did, he was just really focused at both ends and lead his guys so well.”

On J.R. Smith: 

“From day one J.R. Smith has come in here with great impact and with great focus on being a good two-way player. He’s defending his position well, he’s rebounding his position, he’s giving us a real presence at both ends and without question J has been one of the main differences in our team.”


On the Cavaliers performance tonight: 

“We were just clicking awesome. We came out with a defensive mindset, got out in transition, guys were hitting shots. We got a lot of open looks that didn’t even go down but guys were offensive rebounding.”

On the physicality of the game:

“We should expect that, especially against a great team like that. The bigs running the floor, protecting the paint. Their guards are out in the perimeter and stretch the floor on the offensive end and going forward we have to be prepared.”

On coming off All-Star break:

“I felt pretty fresh. A little bit more nervous than usual. Being out there for the first time, especially after All-Star break. You know All-Star game it is what it is but we’re a game and a half behind them. The game was a little bit on the line, and meant something in the second-half push. Just trying to be as prepared as possible. Just going out there and giving energy on both ends and do whatever it takes. It was exciting. I was happy to be a part of an environment like this and can’t ask for better teammates.”

On the team’s standing: 

“It means a lot. This is my first time being a part of a playoff push and you have to be aware of those types of things. The coaches are aware, the whole team is aware. I’m just doing this playoff push with guys like this that are helping me and getting prepared game to game as I can be.”

Biggest challenge of switching teams midseason:

“Just trying to get the system down as best as possible. Coming in as a point guard you have to learn the system because you’re a coach out there on the floor with the second unit. It’s just one of those things, you just have to transition quickly. It’s all about being a pro, no one is going to feel sorry for you.”


On what his focus was after the All-Star break:

“Trying to get the job done. I am the leader of this team and I set the tempo, I set the pace, I set the aggressiveness and the guys follow me. We all have to do our job and we did that tonight.  

 On how different the team is from the last time they played the Wizards:

“Totally different team. Obviously we have a lot more room for improvement. Still have some things to take care of but we have been playing some good basketball as of late.”

 On what it means to get this quality win over a good Wizards team:

“We are not competing against those guys. We are competing against ourselves. This team is a very good team. They are playoff ready, they are playoff tested. We are not. We are not competing against Washington or any other team that is above us. We are competing against ourselves and understanding how important every game is for us going forward.”

On being close to passing Allen Iverson:

“I am blessed. Blessed and my teammates along the way give me an opportunity to go out and do the things that I love to do. To be that close to a guy that I looked up to is unbelievable, and I already know that and it is a wow factor for sure.”


On how the team has transformed:

“I think we’re a team that has a different identity. We do the little things more. We’re scrappier and more physical, and we take it to teams first. We’re not waiting for ourselves to get into the game. I think you saw that tonight, and hopefully it will hold true to the rest of the season. This was a great start for us coming off the break.”

On whether his individual stat line matters much to him:

“Oh no, not at all. It’s going to be different guys stepping up and having great games. Iman [Shumpert] hit some big threes and guys do a lot of little things that might not necessarily show up in the stat sheet. Those are things that help win games. That’s a good team we just beat, especially on the road.”

On the team showing depth with LeBron out of the game:

“We’re able to sustain the lead. Basketball is a game of runs. We were able to get back in there, and continue pushing the lead and hold down the fort.”

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