Wrap-Up — When in doubt, call the King.
The Cavaliers haven’t dropped five straight since January 2015, and they weren’t going to do it again on LeBron James’ watch in D.C. – as the four-time MVP tied a franchise record, going off for 57 points in the Wine & Gold’s 130-122 win on Friday night at Capital One Arena.
James’ outburst was his first since returning to Cleveland in 2014 and ties Kyrie Irving’s 57-point game against San Antonio on March 12, 2015. (Although LeBron did all his damage in four quarters; Irving scored 11 of his 57 in overtime.) The last time Numeral 23 topped the 50-point plateau was March 3, 2014 – when he dropped 61 points on the Hornets as a member of the Heat.
As for Friday’s victory, LeBron set the tone early and closed out the affair late – notching 15 points in the first quarter and 19 in the fourth. On the night, he was 23-of-34 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from long-range, and a perfect 9-of-9 from the stripe. He led both squads with 11 boards, his team with seven assists while adding three steals and a pair of blocks.
Cleveland came into the contest riding a four-game skein – looking flat and falling behind early in each loss. But against their longtime Eastern Conference rivals – eager to topple the reeling Cavs – the Wine & Gold was sharp from the opening tip, grabbing the lead late in the first quarter and never looking back.
As incredible as LeBron – who also became just the seventh player (and the youngest) in NBA history to 29,000 points – was on Friday night, the Cavaliers got solid efforts throughout the rotation – with four starters finishing in double-figures and two offseason additions have their best offensive outings of the season.
Derrick Rose had his highest scoring total as a Cavalier – scoring 18 of his 20 points before intermission, taking it directly to John Wall all night. Overall, Rose finished 8-of-16 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from long-range. Wall did lead both squads with 15 assists, but was just 4-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-12 from the stripe on the night.
Jae Crowder, back into the starting lineup with Tristan Thompson sidelined with a left calf strain, was very good on both ends – notching 17 points on 4-for-7 shooting, going 8-of-8 from the stripe, adding seven boards and a pair of steals.
Kevin Love, returning to his role as starting center, failed to double-up for only the second time this season – chipping in with 11 points and eight boards in the win.
LBJ leads the Wine & Gold’s scoring attack as DRose chips in 20 points.
The Wizards got 36 points from Bradley Beal, who went 12-for-19 from the floor. Kelly Oubre, Jr. came off the bench to add 21 points – when LeBron wasn’t tormenting him – going 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Both teams shot the ball well in Friday’s slugfest – the Cavs at 56 percent; the Wizards, 54. But the Cavaliers were excellent from the line – going 26-for-28 – and canned a dozen three-pointers. But maybe the most impressive stat of the night that didn’t belong to LeBron James was 0 – the amount of fastbreak points the high-octane Wizards managed in defeat.
Turning Point — During the Cavaliers’ four-game losing streak, teams jumped on them early, forcing Cleveland into comeback mode for the rest of the night. LeBron James and Derrick Rose were not going to let that happen on Friday.
Each former MVP went 6-for-7 from the floor in the first quarter and the Wine & Gold shot 77 percent in the period.
The game was tied at 35-apiece with just over a minute to play in the first when LeBron canned his first triple of the evening, keying a 7-1 run that put Cleveland up six to end the quarter. The Cavaliers didn’t trail again the rest of the way.
By the Numbers – 11 … career games that LeBron James has topped the 50-point mark – nine as a member of the Cavaliers, two with the Heat. (He actually lost the first two games in which he did so, winning the last nine.) His averages in those 11 contests are 53.4 points, 7.7 boards, 7.9 assists.
Quotable – Dwyane Wade, on LeBron James’ performance on Friday night …
”He’s the best player in the game. He’s the best player in the world. When he’s in that kind of rhythm, that kind of mindset, there’s no one on this Earth that can stop him. He knew how important this game was for us, having lost four in a row. And he just put us on his back and everyone chipped in.”
Up Next — The Cavaliers play two straight at The Q before hitting the road for their longest trip of the young season – a four-gamer. On Sunday, the Cavs welcome the rebuilding Hawks to Cleveland before a Tuesday night matchup against Milwaukee. On Thursday, the trip begins with a marquee meeting against James Harden, Chris Paul and the Rockets before completing the Texas two-step on Saturday in Dallas. The Wine & Gold travel to New York for a rematch with Kristaps Porzingis and the surprising Knicks on Monday before wrapping up the trip next Wednesday night in Charlotte.
Calls of the Game