Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/26/12
WASHINGTON -- Someone had to win the matchup between the two losingest teams in the NBA's Eastern Conference. The combined performance lived up to the lowered expectations, leaving even the triumphant coach displeased, though smiling. For these teams, any win is ultimately a good one. Kyrie Irving scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half and Tristan Thompson scored the go-ahead 3-point play with 24.4 seconds remaining as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Washington Wizards 87-84 on Wednesday night at Verizon Center. Thompson had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who have consecutive wins for the first time this season -- both without center Anderson Varejao -- after losing 11 of 12. Cleveland (7-23) hung on despite Irving missing 4 of 6 free throws inside the final 51 seconds. "I guess I should be a lot happier than I am," said Cavaliers coach Byron Scott after his team improved to 2-0 against Washington this season. "Just some of the bonehead mistakes that we made, fouls, some of the things we did on the defensive end... "We had an opportunity to really close it out and we just couldn't make free throws." Fortunately for Scott, the Wizards, losers of eight straight, have their own issues. Owners of the NBA's worst record, Washington (3-23) led 79-73 midway through the fourth quarter, but missed eight of their final nine shots including open 3-pointers by Garrett Temple and Jordan Crawford inside the final 10 seconds "You just have two teams struggling," said Scott, who slipped in a smile or two during his postgame press conference when asked about the back-to-back triumphs. "Right now, we feel pretty good about the two wins. Now it's just trying to build on them. That's the biggest thing." Out of the starting lineup for the first time in nine games after violating a team rule, Crawford scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half for Washington. Emeka Okafor finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Nene had 16. Irving's jumper sparked a 9-0 run, putting the Cavaliers up 82-79 as Washington went scoreless for more than four minutes. Okafor's jump hook with 1:50 left broke the drought and his subsequent free throw tied the game with 46 seconds left. On the next possession, Irving penetrated before dishing to a cutting Thompson, who powered home a rim-rattling layup despite being fouled on the baseline drive. "We're trying to get the ball out of Kyrie Irving's hands. He was going 1-on-1 all the time and we wanted to see somebody else beat us and not him," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "We were scrambling a little bit and it was a good play on their part." Irving's free throws struggles kept the door open, but Crawford missed the potential game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left. Washington missed all six of its attempts from beyond the arc in the fourth, "Those looks in crunch time are the ones that we need and we got some great ones," said Martell Webster, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Washington. "We just weren't able to knock them down." Varejao, the NBA's leading rebounder, missed his fourth consecutive game for the Cavaliers with a right knee contusion. Behind the Brazilian big man, Cleveland dominated the glass in its 94-84 season-opening win over Washington. In the rematch, the Wizards returned the favor 51-38. However, Washington also committed 20 turnovers, four in the final five minutes. "We turned the ball over at crucial times," Wittman said. "We won't commit -- all of us -- won't commit to playing defense. We make too many critical mistakes because we're just not alert down the stretch." In his first game since his recall from the D-League, Shelvin Mack started in place of Crawford, Washington's leading scorer. The Wizards 2011 second-round pick, Mack had six points and seven assists in 28 minutes, but missed most of the fourth quarter with a groin injury. Temple, also added from the D-League on Tuesday played throughout the fourth quarter and scored two points in 19 minutes. Giving two point guards from the NBA's minor league heavy minutes in their first game with the team speaks volumes about where the Wizards are these days. With the Mack directing the early offense, Washington jumped out to a 22-10 lead, but Irving scored 12 points in the second quarter as the rallying Cavaliers entered halftime leading 45-43. NOTES: In 26 games, the Wizards have used 11 different starting lineups. ... In the first meeting, Cleveland finished with a 54-39 rebounding advantage. ... Released by the Wizards on Saturday, Shaun Livingston was claimed off waivers by Cleveland on Tuesday, but did not play against his former team. ... The Cavaliers host the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, the same day the Wizards face visiting the Orlando Magic.
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