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Wizards fall to Cavs as LeBron James nets triple-double

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Wizards fall to Cavs as LeBron James nets triple-double

The Washington Wizards lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-99 on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Even depleted, Cavs are a problem: Both teams entered this game without at least one of their best players due to injury, as Otto Porter sat out for the Wizards with a hip contusion. The Cavs, though, were missing Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and despite LeBron James shooting a low percentage, they still had enough to top the Wizards for the second time this season.

It was a testament to Cleveland's depth and it came in the second of a back-to-back set, as the Cavs beat the Jazz in Cleveland on Saturday night. 

It's still early in the season, but the Wizards were reminded on Sunday how they still have work to do to catch the Cavs. They are close enough to give Cleveland a worthy challenge, but the Cavs can win in so many ways.

A different LeBron: The Wizards had no answer for LeBron in the first matchup between these teams this season. Back on Nov. 3, he pummeled them for 57 points, the second-most in his illustrious career. LeBron shot an insane 23-for-34 from the field.

This time the Wizards had much better luck despte employing a similar defensive strategy. In the first matchup, they guarded him one-on-one and LeBron feasted off of fadeaway midrange jumpers. In this game those just weren't falling for him.

Before the game head coach Scott Brooks suggested the Wizards would guard him similarly, noting they will usually live with long twos, knowing the percentages. It worked this time.

To be fair, it seemed like a relatively off-night in general for LeBron scoring-wise, as he finished with 20 and had just 13 points after three quarters. He shot just 8-for-23 from the field.

Perhaps it was the product of the Cavs playing the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Jazz in Cleveland on Saturday. All that said, he still had a triple-doube with 15 assists and 12 rebounds.

But just look at this highlight for example. He traveled twice on the same play.

That's very unusual, even for a guy like LeBron who is known for getting away with travels. 

With LeBron having to beat the Wizards with his passing, Kevin Love was a benefactor. He stepped up to drop 25 points and shoot 5-for-8 from three.

[RELATED: NO MORE DUNKS AT PRACTICE FOR JOHN WALL]

Wall moves up the list: John Wall (15 points, 10 rebounds) moved up the Wizards/Bullets' franchise all-time scoring list by passing not one but two former Bullets legends in the first half. He pushed past Phil Chenier and Gus Johnson to now own sole possession of fifth place in franchise history. The four ahead of him are Elvin Hayes, Jeff Malone, Wes Unseld and Kevin Loughery. Loughery is only 46 points ahead of Wall, so he should be in fourth very soon. 

Porter didn't play: Porter was considered a gametime decision after getting elbowed in his right hip on Friday night against the L.A. Clippers. He wasn't able to go, however, and missed his second game of the season. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points, eight rebounds) started in his place and did exactly what the Wizards didn't want him to do, he got in early foul trouble.

After picking up two fouls in about 4:30 of gametime, Oubre had to take a seat and Coach Brooks had to get creative. He played Tomas Satoransky and Mike Scott some at the three for much of the rest of the first half. Oubre finished with four fouls, but only gave the Wizards 29 minutes and probably would have played more if he stayed out of foul trouble.

Scott remains hot: Another day, another big game for Scott off the Wizards' bench. With 19 points against the Cavs, he now has 99 over has last seven games while shooting 42-for-57. That's quite good.

Up next: The Wizards stay home to host Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

[RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS]

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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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