Wall leads Wizards to victory over Cavaliers

Associated Press
4/25/2012 9:43:34 PM
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CLEVELAND -- At the end of a wild season, the Washington Wizards found peace.

It may have taken firing a coach and making a major trade to get them there, but the Wizards are winning the way they once did.

John Wall scored 21 points and added 13 assists as the Wizards extended their longest winning streak since 2007 to five games with a 96-85 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Wall had 12 points, six assists and four steals in the third quarter, when he accounted for 24 of Washington's 28 points and helped the Wizards open a 14-point lead. He added seven rebounds and seven steals for the Wizards, whose erratic play got coach Flip Saunders fired on Jan. 24.

In March, the team traded centre JaVale McGee and guard Nick Young and wound up with centre Nene. Those moves and a few other tweaks to the roster have the Wizards finally feeling good about their future.

"Everybody plays good and plays hard," Wall said. "Nobody worries about how many points you're going to score. You can tell the whole group is having a lot more fun."

While Washington's star guard put on a show, Cleveland's watched.

Kyrie Irving, expected to be named the NBA's rookie of the year next month, played only 10 minutes -- all in the first quarter -- of the Cavs' home finale. He scored just five points and may have gotten his biggest assist afterward when he and his teammates lined up near mid-court and handed over their game-worn jerseys to fans.

D.J. Kennedy led Cleveland with 12 points in his NBA debut.

Wizards rookie forward Jan Vesely had a season-high 12 rebounds and Kevin Seraphin scored 12.

Washington is finishing a disappointing season with an unexpected flourish.

"It's a positive thing for our guys," said interim coach Randy Wittman, who replaced Saunders. "I thought our defence was what broke the game open for us. Our defence ignited things for us offensively."

It wasn't long ago when games between the Wizards and Cavaliers meant something. Washington and Cleveland met in the post-season three straight times from 2006-08, with the Cavs winning all three physical series. However, these days the clubs are collecting lottery Ping-Pong balls instead of playoff wins.

Although the game was meaningless, Wall played as if it mattered.

He scored Washington's first basket with a layup to start the third quarter, and using that speed that few, if any, players in the league can match, Wall blazed through Cleveland's defence almost at will. He went coast-to-coast for one layup, and later threw down a dunk left-handed.

Washington led 77-63 after three before the Cavs climbed back within 10 while Wall took a break. But Wittman brought Wall back with 5:31 left and he quickly turned things back around, grabbing a loose ball before delivering a one-handed, behind-the-back pass to a trailing Vesely for a dunk.

Vesely was fouled and completed the three-point play to make it 94-77.

"When he gets going up and down the floor like that, we're very effective," Wittman said of Wall.

Irving missed the Cavs' morning shootaround with the stomach flu, and the club sent out a release saying the 20-year-old was "doubtful" for the season's final home game.

But Irving was determined to play as a way of thanking Cleveland's fans, and after warming up he was cleared by Cleveland's medical staff. The final decision, though, was left to coach Byron Scott and general manager Chris Grant, who didn't announce Irving would suit up until 30 minutes before tipoff.

"I'm pretty content just to get out there and play in the final home game. Coach Scott told me I was going to get 10 minutes and I got 9:47," Irving said with a smile. "I'll roll those 13 seconds over and I'll have some rollover minutes going forward."

Scott said Irving will sit out Thursday's season finale in Chicago.

Antawn Jamison likely played his final home game for Cleveland. The 35-year-old will be a free agent this summer and said it's improbable he'll sign with the Cavs.

"I definitely have a great feeling this is probably my last home game and tomorrow will be my last game as a Cav," said Jamison, acquired in a 2010 deadline trade to help the Cavs win a title. "I wish the rest of these guys great luck. I definitely think this organization is going in the right direction as far as getting some great talent and slowly but surely putting a championship calibre team together.

"With this coaching staff, some good prospects in this draft, Cleveland can get back to what it once used to be."

The Wizards played without starting guard Jordan Crawford, who is done for the season with a sprained right ankle.

Notes: The Cavs went 3-14 in their final 17 home games. ... Cleveland is 8-27 overall since Feb. 22. ... Scott is convinced Irving's points and assists will both climb in the seasons ahead. "I just think he'll be a more prolific basketball player," he said. "I don't think there's a whole lot on the floor he's not going to be able to do." ... Cartier Martin started for Crawford and scored seven points. ... Wizards F Trevor Booker sat out with left plantar fasciitis.

John Wall (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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