WASHINGTON — One day after the skidding Cleveland Cavaliers shook up their front office, their offense broke down the Washington Wizards.
Guard Dion Waiters scored 24 points and point guard Kyrie Irving had 23 points and matched his career-high 12 assists as the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 115-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.
Forward C.J. Miles scored 18 points for the Cavaliers (17-33), who shot 59 percent from the field through three quarters, made 29 of 33 free throws and fended off a Washington rally in the final minutes.
Irving made all 13 of his free throw attempts and had a double-double by halftime with 12 points and 10 assists despite battling a cold. Cleveland let most of a 14-point fourth quarter lead slip away in the offensive-dominate game, but finished off the Wizards the day after the Cavaliers fired general manager Chris Grant.
“The energy was different, these guys knew what was at stake after going through a situation where we went through,” said Waiters, who made 10 of his first 12 shots from the floor. “We faced adversity and it wasn’t the first time for us but at the end of the day we came out here we played hard, played for one another and we got a big win.”
In a matchup of All-Star point guards, guard John Wall had 12 of his 32 points in the final 4:22 of the fourth quarter for the Wizards (24-25). Washington trailed 101-87 with 9:08 remaining, but pulled within two behind Wall’s and forward Martell Webster’s 3-point shooting.
Webster’s sixth basket from beyond the arc and second in the final 12 seconds pulled Washington within two points. Cavaliers guard Jarrett Jack missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds left. Left without any timeouts, the Wizards could not get off a final shot.
The Wizards opened their five-game homestand with big wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. On Wednesday, they lost in double-overtime to the San Antonio Spurs after blowing a late lead in regulation.
Now a second straight defeat dropped Washington below .500 after posting a winning record for the first time since 2009. Low early energy and defensive struggles led to the latest setback — and Randy Wittman’s blistering reaction postgame.
“We’re not a very good team,” the Wizards coach said. “Good teams don’t do that over and over and over and over again. We can get all caught up in .500, and I told you guys what that meant. Nothing. And think you’ve arrived.
“Good teams do not lose basketball games like this nine, 10, 11 times halfway through a season. … We’re not willing to pay the price to be a good team.”
Miles replaced forward Luol Deng, who missed his first game since acquired by the Cavaliers from the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 7 because of flu-like symptoms. His absence left more work for Irving. He did just that.
“To have 12 assists, getting to the free throw line was a phenomenal game,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “He helped make his teammates better tonight and that was fun to see.”
Cleveland has won four straight in Washington, including a 103-96 overtime victory Nov. 16. The Wizards countered with a 98-81 win four days later at Cleveland.
Wall also had 10 assists for Washington, which fell to 12-13 at home this season. Center Marcin Gortat scored 19 points and Webster had 18.
The Cavaliers led 67-63 at halftime and 93-85 after three quarters before a crowd of 16,294. His jumper with 9:08 remaining in the game gave the Cavaliers their largest lead at 101-87.
Both teams shot better than 60 percent from the field during a free-flowing first quarter as the Wizards led 38-32. The point-producing continued as Cleveland score more points in the first half than any team against Washington this season.
“It had nothing to do with them making shots,” Wittman said of Cleveland’s production. “It had a lot to do with how they got the shots that they got.”
NOTES: Cleveland forward Alonzo Gee scored a season-high 11 points. …Both teams combined to shoot 12 of 20 on 3-point attempts in the first half. … Cavaliers coach Mike Brown spoke pregame about the team dealing with distractions, including Wednesday’s firing of general manager Chris Grant. “It’s a tough situation to go through, anything like we’ve gone through the past day or so. We all have a job to do. I have a job to continue to leading this team and to try to execute and to play better basketball than what it’s doing right now.” …The series finale comes Feb. 23 in Cleveland. …Washington wraps up its five-game homestand against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, the same day Cleveland hosts the Memphis Grizzlies.
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