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Find out the scoop on the CAVS from award-winning sports writer Bob Finnan.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Game 56: Cavs at Wizards

Verizon Center
Radio: WTAM-AM 1100, WMMS-FM 100.7, La Mega-FM 97.7
TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Ohio

1. ESPN viewers from around the country - and those watching locally on Fox Sports Ohio - saw what championship-caliber teams look like. They watched the Cavaliers at their very best. Some wondered if the Cavs could rekindle their magic from before the All-Star break. Now we know. They've now won 15 of their last 17 games. They totally dismantled the Wizards right from the start. The Cavs have won seven of their last 10 meetings against Washington, including five of their last six at the Verizon Center.

2. The Wizards played without shooting guard Bradley Beal, who has a mild stress reaction to the lower right fibula. Beal, second on the team in scoring with 15 points per game, is needed on this team because of his perimeter shooting. Washington was pathetic from the 3-point line - 1 of 15. Beal's replacement, Otto Porter, made the Wizards' only 3-point goal late in the fourth quarter. In the game, the Cavs outscored Washington from beyond the arc, 42-3.

3. The key to the game was holding Wizards point guard John Wall in check. In fact, he was outscored by fellow All-Star Kyrie Irving, 25-18. In pregame hype, the point guard matchup appeared very compelling. This should have been the starting backcourt in the All-Star Game. They are the two best guards in the Eastern Conference. That statement is not meant to take anything away from Toronto's Kyle Lowry, who started with Wall in the East. But Irving should have started with Wall.

4. Wall is an absolute blur on the court. He gets to the basket at will on most teams. Irving is a far better perimeter shooter. If Wall shot like Irving, he'd be the league's MVP. But the fact is he doesn't. They were both No. 1 overall picks: Irving in 2011 and Wall in 2010.

5. Starting with the Wizards game, the Cavs start the second half on a three-game road trip. They are now 13-13 on the road this season. They are also 2-1 vs. Washington, which might come in handy later when tie-breakers become relevant. In their last two games against the Wizards, the Cavs have shot 51.4 and 51.1 percent from the field. They were very efficient tonight with 28 assists. They outscored the Wizards in fastbreak points, 18-14. The Cavs had just 10 turnovers.

6. Cavs forward LeBron James was just dominant vs. Washington. His plus-minus number was +30. He just took it right at the Wizards and never let up. When he's playing like that, the Cavs can beat anyone. He had a game-high 28 points. The Wizards tried to have 37-year-old Paul Pierce guard him. It wasn't happening on this night. 

7. James (24,365) is four points shy of surpassing No. 22 Allen Iverson (24,368) on the all-time scoring list. It'll likely happen on Sunday in New York.

8. The key to the Cavs' 15-2 streak is their defense. They are holding teams to 42 percent shooting from the field during this stretch. They also have outscored teams by an average of 12.1 points, 109-96.9. Since Jan. 19, they are holding the opposition to 95 points. The Wizards are one of the best-shooting teams in the league. They are ranked fourth in field-goal percentage (47.1) and 3-point percentage (37.4). Tonight, they shot 44.2 percent from the field and 6.3 percent from behind the arc.

9. Cavs power forward Kevin Love didn't shoot the ball extremely well (3 of 8 from the field, 0 of 3 from the 3-point line). But overall, he finished with eight points and six rebounds in 30 minutes in his first game since he suffered the corneal abrasion vs. Miami on Feb. 11. He missed the Chicago game on Feb. 12. It showed just how important Love is to the Cavs' arsenal when he was not in the lineup. He helps so much to space the floor and to keep the defense honest with his 3-point shooting.

10. The Cavs moved to the No. 4 seed in the East playoff race, one-half game ahead of No. 5 Washington. They are just one-half game behind No. 3 Chicago (34-21). I think they'll move up to the second seed in the East when it's all said and done.

UP NEXT: at New York, Madison Square Garden, 1 p.m. Feb. 22

SF LeBron James (6-8, 250) vs. Paul Pierce (6-8, 220)
PF Kevin Love (6-10, 243) vs. Nene (6-11, 250)
C Timofey Mozgov (7-1, 250) vs. Marcin Gortat (6-11, 240)
SG J.R. Smith (6-6, 220) vs. Otto Porter (6-8, 198)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. John Wall (6-4, 207)
Cavs - C Anderson Varejao
Wizards - G Bradley Beal
Monty McCutchen, Lauren Holtkamp, Michael Smith


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