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Wizards rally falls short in Cleveland

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Wizards rally falls short in Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, Anderson Varejao had a career-high 23 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers opened the season with a 94-84 victory over the short-handed Washington Wizards on Tuesday night in the first game on the NBA schedule.

Rookie Dion Waiters added 17 points for the Cavs, who led by 16 in the third quarter but needed big plays from Irving and Varejao in the final minutes to hold off the Wizards, who scored the first 14 points of the fourth. Varejao had a career-high nine assists, two setting up dunks by Tristan Thompson in the last two minutes.

Jordan Crawford scored 11 points to lead the Wizards, who were without star point guard John Wall, power forward Nene and forward Kevin Seraphin. Wall, the former No. 1 overall pick, is expected to be out until late November with a knee injury.

Irving, the NBA's reigning rookie of the year, began his second season with a strong performance alongside Waiters, a surprising No. 4 overall pick. Waiters didn't start a game at Syracuse, but Cavs coach Byron Scott has been impressed with his progress and wanted to pair his two young guards together from the outset.

They played well in spurts, but made enough mistakes to keep Scott from giving them too much freedom.

The Cavs seemed to be on their way to a relatively routine win, but in a league where players are fond of saying "every team makes a run," the Wizards made theirs.

Down 61-45 in the third quarter and looking flat, Washington opened the fourth with its 14-0 spurt, taking a 76-74 lead when Jannero Pargo drained a 3-pointer from the corner. The Wizards rallied while Irving was getting some rest, and it wasn't long before Scott sent his young star back in to help restore order.

Irving's driving layup in traffic gave Cleveland an 82-80 lead, and he calmly stepped up and drained a 21-foot jumper to put the Cavaliers ahead 86-80.

With the Cavs up by four, Varejao, the Cavs' 6-foot-11 bundle of energy, fed Thompson underneath for a dunk to make it 88-84. Crawford made two free throws for Washington, and on Cleveland's next possession, Irving made a spin move in the lane and passed it to Varejao, who then upstaged his slick passing teammate with a feed to Thompson for another dunk.

Irving then rebounded a miss by the Wizards and it was his turn to pick up an assist to Thompson.

Wizards rookie Bradley Beal scored eight points -- all in the first half -- and Emeka Okafor had 10 points. Washington coach Randy Wittman has high hopes for his young team, but he won't know what he has until he gets Wall and Nene back on the court.

Despite Cleveland's youth -- an average age of 24.9 years -- and inexperience, Irving believes the Cavs can contend for a playoff spot this season.

"That's the goal," he said.

The Cavs were in the playoff conversation for the first few months last season before Varejao broke his wrist and missed the final 41 games. As has been the case in the past, Varejao may draw trade interest from other teams and it will be interesting to see if the Cavs hang on to a player with unique talents.

Irving, who had four wisdom teeth pulled last week, hit his first shot of the season, a 3-pointer, and scored 12 points in the first quarter as the Cavs opened a 31-24 lead.

Notes: Washington was just 8 of 32 on 3-pointers, and missed some big ones in the fourth. ... Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden, a big Oklahoma City fan, and RB Trent Richardson, sat behind the Cavs' bench and they got a huge ovation when shown on the giant scoreboard in the second quarter. They sat with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in the second half. ... Before the game, Gilbert said he regrets guaranteeing the Cavs would win an NBA title before LeBron James, who left Cleveland as a free agent in 2010. "Looking back now, that probably was not the most brilliant thing I've ever done in my life," Gilbert said.

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 4: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards returned to Washington, D.C. on Friday down 0-2 to the Raptors in their best-of-seven 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series

The team lost a close one in Game 1 and was run out of the building in Game 2. Game 3 was must-win, and the Wizards knew what needed to happen in order for them to secure the victory.

"Everybody eats." 

That's the phrase that has defined the Wizards throughout much of the season They are at their best when John Wall is making plays and feeding his teammates.

On Friday night, the Wizards beat the Raptors 122-103 to force at least a Game 5. Wall finished with 28 points and 14 assists.

Bradley Beal finally broke out of his slump for 28 points and  Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre all chipped in with at least 10 points.

But the stat sheet wasn't the only place where everybody eats.

Here's Marcin Gortat from Game 3. 

But if pantomiming isn't your thing, here is Bradley Beal actually eating popcorn during Game 3.

So what did we learn in Game 3? Well, for starters: "Everybody Eats" is not just a motto, it is a way of life.

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

GORTAT DITCHES MOHAWK, TEAMMATES APPROVE

MUST-SEE MOMENTS FROM WILD GAME 3

BEAL GOT AN APOLOGY FROM SCOTT BROOKS