It was bound to happen sooner or later, but on Christmas day? The Cleveland Cavaliers, over the last few years, have been known to play down to the level of their competition. This year, however, had been the exception.
The Cavs came into last nights game with a record of 19-0 against teams with losing records, and not only that, they had been absolutely mauling inferior opponents. But as fate would have it, that would not be the case in this Christmas-day showdown with the eastern conference's worst team.
The Washington Wizards came into the Q with a record of 4-24, and they brought along with them a seven-game loosing streak and were still without their starting center Brenden Haywood and their best player Gilbert (Agent Zero) Arenas.
Now, one would think that there was another routine Cleveland blowout in the offing, but Behind Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and Mike (king for a day) James, the Wizards came out firing and gave Cleveland all they could handle for the full 48 minutes.
The undermanned Wizards led by two after one and were only down two going into the locker room at halftime. And as if that weren't enough, they came out and thoroughly outplayed a Cavalier team that had been dominating opponents in the third quarter.
Not that they did'nt have help; the Cavs played what was probably their sloppiest quarter of basketball in what most assuredly was their sloppiest game of the season. Cleveland committed nine turnovers, which led to 13 points for the Wizards in the third quarter. The defensive intensity that has been a staple of the Cavalier attack all season was non-existent.
The only bright spots and the saving grace for Cleveland in the game was the three-point shooting, and the play of their main offseason addition Mo Williams. Williams led the Cavs with 24 points, six assists, and three rebounds.
LeBron and Delonte West each contributed 18 points a piece, and Anderson Verajao rounded out the Cavaliers in double figures with 13 points. He also pulled down a game high 13 rebounds.
Washington was led by Antawn Jamisons' 28 points, Mike James had 26, and Andray Blatch was the only other Wizard to reach double figures in scoring with 12.
Caron Butler was a factor, with six points, six rebounds, and 10 assists, but the Wizards lack of defense in the final minutes, combined with Cleveland's defensive prowess proved to be the difference in the game as they allowed Cleveland 11 points in the final 1:32 of regulation while they were held scoreless turning an 89-82 lead into an 93-89 loss.