In what was an early candidate for the best game of the year, the Washington Wizards pushed the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink in a highly contested 140-135 overtime battle. Two of the best from the Eastern Conference exchanged blows for the entirety of the bout as Cleveland put a halt to Washington’s 17-game home winning streak.
The matchup felt more like a playoff game than a regular season game being played in February. LeBron, Love and Kyrie combined for 94 points, with James setting a career high in assists with 17. Love had his best game of the season, with a game-high of 39 points to go along with his 12 boards just days after being thrown around in trade rumors yet again.
Cleveland’s big three was brilliant down the stretch. LeBron hit one of the greatest regular season buzzer beaters in recent memory off of an impossible 80-foot long inbound pass from Love. After LeBron recorded his 6th foul during overtime, Kyrie stepped up to the plate and closed the game with a couple of cold-blooded jump shots. This was Cleveland at their very best, playing in a game that they knew had more significance than a typical regular season game.
Washington’s stars held their own as well, with Wall recording a double-double and Beal going off for 41 points and 8 assists. Otto Porter continued his streak of efficiency, chipping in 25 points on just 11 total shots.
Cleveland walked out Monday with a crucial win after sputtering a bit in January, but a loss like this is nothing for Washington to hang their heads over. The story of the East since LeBron’s return to Cleveland has been the gap in star power between the Cavs and the rest of the conference. Wall, Beal and Porter are smashing any notions that no team can match up with Cleveland’s stars, and this young Wizards team is getting better each and every night. They aren’t very deep, as only six players (the starting lineup plus Kelly Oubre) got any significant minutes, but they compete on both ends of the floor.
There are several teams vying for the second spot in the East, with this Wizards team being one and the Celtics and the Raptors being mentioned as well. Though with the confidence Washington played with in yesterday’s overtime thriller, it seems as if eastern teams are finally starting to aim for the top spot rather than just second best.
The Cavs’ victory ensures they are still the team to beat in the East, but the Wizards proved they belong in the discussion.
Source: NY Daily News, Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports