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The Cleveland Cavaliers victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime on Saturday dampened the hype for yesterday’s match-up between the Washington Wizards and the Cavs. The potential 0-27 streak vs a team with an 0-25 road record was looked forward to by many and while the Cavs were still the same, horrid team against the Wizards in this one, I feel like it wasn’t as special as it could have been.
That being said, it was fitting. The defense the Cavs played in this game was comical and the Wizards dominated throughout despite a mini-comeback in the fourth quarter from Cleveland – of course, once there was a feeling the Cavs could comeback, their defense surrendered a wide open Kirk Hinrich three and the game becomes unreachable again – and ended up with a 15-point victory, 115-100.
Washington scored a ridiculous 119.8 points per 100 possessions in this game, easily their highest scoring output of the season, while the Cavs managed just 104.2 points per 100 possessions.
This game was dominated by Washington Wizards shooting guard Nick Young. I wrote about Young and his coming out party earlier in the year when he started to see increased minutes because of the Gilbert Arenas trade and he has continued to impress over the course of the season. He was hitting all kinds of shots in this game. Whether he was catching the ball off of a down screen or just catching it on the swing, Young was connecting. Young finished with a game high 31 points on 14-of-21 shooting while connecting on seven of his 12 long two point jumpers. The fourth year guard out of USC is now shooting a a ridiculously high 48% from 16-23 feet and continues to quite the complement for John Wall on the wing, at least offensively.
Wall had an off night from the outside, missing seven of his nine jumpshots, but he got to the rim time after time and ended up with 19 points. Wall also dished out 14 assists while grabbing five rebounds, nabbing two steals and blocking two shots. Wall is clearly not on the same level as Blake Griffin right now but he’s still a great, great rookie and he’d be the number one candidate for Rookie of the Year right now if Griffin wasn’t still considered a rook.
Kirk Hinrich, who returned to the bench in favor of Josh Howard (who played in his first game since January 5th and tallied 16 points on six-of-11 shooting), also played well, making seven of his 13 shots to score 17 points while handing out five helpers. Andray Blatche played inspired basketball, which is always a good thing for the Wizards, and his work on the offensive glass and in the post played a big part in the win for Washington. Blatche shot eight-of-11 from the field (17 points), grabbed nine rebounds (four offensive) and even racked up five assists when passing out of the post.
The Cavs got some nice things from J.J. Hickson, but his 16 points and 13 rebounds weren’t enough to make up for off shooting nights for Mo Williams (3-of-9 for 10 points) and Anthony Parker (4-of-12 for 10 points). Antawn Jamison starting making some shots in the fourth quarter but the Cavs’ defense killed all chances at a comeback as their allowed open looks for the Wizards shooters and watched as Blatche and Trevor Booker crashed the offensive glass.
The Wizards are a very bad team, but they aren’t as bad as the Cavs and they aren’t even one of the five worst teams in the league in my mind (Cleveland, Toronto, Sacramento and Minnesota all have worse records and they beat New Jersey by 20 at home). Their defense is a bit better and even though their offense is relegated to one-on-one stuff far too often, their offensive players are more talented that Cleveland’s by far and that led to an easy victory last night.
Washington isn’t going to be making a playoff push anytime soon, but they do have a nice young core of players with Wall, Young, Blatche (if he’s motivated, which is a big if) and McGee and they just got a tad bit deeper thanks to the return of Josh Howard. Cleveland also just got back a key player in Mo Williams, but the talent around him is far inferior to the guys John Wall has to play with. Not to say either club is very good, both teams will be in the mix for a top three pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, but it is pretty clear that the team that won the Toilet Bowl 2011 was the better one.