Wizards

Morning tip: Even in defeat to Cavs, Wizards earn respect in East

Wizards

The lack of respect is an ongoing theme for the Wizards, dating to their first playoff run with John Wall in 2014, the following year with Paul Pierce and bleeding into this season following a disappointing .500 showing in 2016.

They didn't get the win Monday vs. the best team in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the recognition is the next best thing even though it came at the expense of their 17-game home winning streak. 

"They respect us," said John Wall after posting 22 points and 12 assists in a 140-135 overtime loss. "That's the most important thing. They respect us. Throughout the game LeBron (James) was saying, 'Y'all are playing hell of a basketball (game) right now.'"

The Wizards (30-21) appeared to have this game on several occasions.

James' Hail Mary three-pointer with three-tenths of a second left tied it at 120. Otto Porter's inbound to Wall, who'd gotten free on a curl only to have the ball clang off the rim, would've been a game-winning dunk. Then James fouled out with 4:13 left in the extra session and the Wizards were creating separation with a 127-122 lead.

Then Kyle Korver happened. Then Kyrie Irving. 

The defending champion Cavs won as many expected them to do so. It just wasn't easy. These weren't the same Wizards who'd fold at the slightest sign of adversity when they went 41-41 just a year ago under then-coach Randy Wittman. 

 

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This group has greater resolve under Scott Brooks, and it's because they've developed more weapons than Wall.

Bradley Beal scored 40 or more points for the third time this season (41) and was a creator, too (eight assists). He also didn't have a turnover. Otto Porter had 25 points as he made 5 of 7 three-pointers. 

The season series has been won by Cleveland 2-0, with one meeting left, but this is a much different team than the one beaten at Verizon Center on Nov. 11, 104-95. Beal was hurt and didn't play.

"Just a lot of confidence, especially at home," Cavs forward Kevin Love said in describing the difference in the Wizards now vs. then. "John has been playing amazing basketball. Maybe the best of his career. Beal is healthy. You saw what he is capable of."

The home streak had to end at some point, but the Wizards are 22-7 there. They have a game Wednesday at the nine-win Brooklyn Nets, two matchups with the Indiana Pacers that could determine the season series and in between they have another national TV game before the All-Star break.

Wall, who will be a four-time All-Star but as a reserve behind Irving, showed why he's probably the best point guard in the conference. He did more than score and assist but controlled the pace and defended at a much more superior level. Beal showed why he probably should've been an All-Star for the first time in the point-guard heavy East. 

Irving had 23 points on 8-for-24 shooting to go with five assists. His team has more star power, but Wall's team is a lot more than the blue-collar lot than they were in previous years. They had dazzle and pizzaz, too. They're still one step away from being able to beat the Cavs but got their attention. The gap is closing. There is no such thing as sneaking up on anyone anymore.

"They kind of circled this game on their calendar. They were ready to play," Cleveland coach Ty Lue said. "They came out. They were juiced up. They played great. You got to tip your hat to those guys. They really fought. They competed. They played well."

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