The Wizards mentioned lots. Then LeBron James confirmed up.


LeBron James took on the Wizards, and gained. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Wizards are the perfect workforce within the Eastern Conference, and the Cavaliers are afraid of them.

It’s true, I swear. I heard it Friday afternoon, proper from the mouths of Bradley Beal and John Wall, proper there on ESPN. That was about eight hours earlier than LeBron James bulldozed over them, via them, round them, between them, and on high of them in one of many best exhibits of his profession; earlier than his Cavaliers flicked away this fortunately chatty Wizards group whose message had been delivered behind a microphone as an alternative of on the court docket.

You know what? On second thought, Cleveland didn’t appear afraid.

Washington has spent consecutive Friday nights on nationwide tv in opposition to the NBA’s two marquee franchises. Last week, the Wizards coughed up an 18-point lead in a loss at Golden State. This time, they have been dealt with on their house court docket by the Cavaliers — effectively, actually  by James. And this 130-122 consequence may pressure a short lived softening of Washington’s rhetoric.

The Wizards have now witnessed greatness two Fridays in a row — transcendent, unimaginable greatness from James, who poured in 57 factors, made photographs you wouldn’t even try on a Nerf hoop, and doubtless would have made the Monstars cower. He was a large stomping via a peasant village —  “We tried everything. We tried everything,” Washington Coach Scott Brooks lamented.

And due to James, you might need forgiven the Wizards for this loss, if you happen to hadn’t watched their matinee efficiency. That’s when Beal and Wall continued to lean into their unfamiliar standing as Eastern Conference heavyweights — leaning mouth first. Their frank confidence is interesting, as is a lot else about these Wizards. But somebody must clarify the utility of Washington’s two finest gamers offering Cleveland with a month’s value of motivation throughout an interview that grew to become the discuss of the NBA. Going at LeBron James verbally, if you happen to can consider it, didn’t repay on Friday night time. Maybe subsequent time?

[LeBron James pours in 57 as Cavaliers quiet Wizards, 130-122]

Wall on the Cavaliers: “We feel like we’re their biggest threat.”

Beal on the Eastern Conference: “I feel like we’re the best team.”

Wall on the Cavaliers: “I think they didn’t want the number one seed [last season] for a reason, because we would have played them in the second round. . . . I think they wanted to see us in the Eastern Conference finals.”

Beal on the buzz: “That’s all the time been type of our M.O. is we’ve acquired to get some respect. You know, we’re taking part in in opposition to high groups, we’re beating these high groups and we’re not getting the popularity we want. . . . But now we have now it, so we’ve acquired to do one thing with it.”

They didn’t, not on this night time, when Wall missed seven free throws and Washington’s workforce protection was insufficient even earlier than James took over. In the identical interview, the 2 guards earnestly and precisely ticked off the keys to future success. They would want to play higher protection. They would want to begin video games with extra fireplace. They would want to “be on our Ps and Qs to the T,” as Beal put it.

Well, give ’em a D on all of these targets. The Cavs scored 130 factors on 56 % capturing. Washington was able to play, so long as the sport was Red Light Green Light, and all of the purple lights have been busted. The sprinting Cavs had 42 factors after the primary quarter, once they made 77 % of their photographs!

“We were scoring; that wasn’t the problem,” mentioned Wall, who injured his left shoulder, left the sector in a sling and mentioned his limb was “on fire,” along with his future standing unclear. “They were getting easy layups, three-point plays and wide-open threes, and it was bad communication. … To score as many points as we have, those are supposed to be games that you can win.”

[The Wizards will reveal who they are in all the moments between the Big Games]

James was superhuman — “very hardly ever do you see a man hit like 10 straight warmth examine photographs,” Brooks noticed — and so perhaps you simply throw this field rating away and transfer on to Toronto. But this sport got here two days after the Wizards misplaced a 22-point lead at house, two days after they gave up 122 to the Suns, two days after T.J. Warren notched a career-high 40 factors. And it got here after two days of discuss how their enchancment should come on the defensive finish. Instead, Washington allowed 104 factors within the first three quarters — after giving up 97 within the closing three quarters on Wednesday.

“We’ve acquired to do higher,” Brooks mentioned. “We’ve got to do better.”

Humility doesn’t make headlines, and this may very well be essentially the most gifted Washington workforce in 40 years. Still, until your targets are producing pregame viral movies and boosting Washington Post internet site visitors, it may be time for extra displaying and fewer telling.

James shook off any suggestion that the Wizards had given him motivation — “I really don’t have a comment about it,” he mentioned, saying he was centered extra on his personal locker room and his personal workforce’s struggles. But he did appear to thrill in his scoring spree, which stopped Cleveland’s four-game shedding streak and can put a pause within the Cavs’ obituaries.

“I pretty much feel like they would rather me score than share the ball,” James mentioned when requested about Washington’s hesitancy to double-team him. “I guess they figured at some point I’d miss. And I did. I missed 11 shots.”

See, these traces deliver laughs once you’ve simply gained a sport, or once you’ve appeared in seven straight NBA Finals. But none of it actually works with out outcomes, once you don’t but have a heavyweight monitor report. Not the vocal battles with LaVar Ball. Not the suggestion that the Wizards — the Wizards! — have a goal on their backs. Not the large phrases concerning the postseason. (“We’ve just got to find a way to get over that hump and meet them in the Eastern Conference finals,” Wall mentioned of the Cavaliers earlier than the sport.)

Wall named this his “Wolf Season,” and it’s a catchy label. Good ring to it. Rolls proper off the tongue. But it’s turning into one thing of a Woof Season, with extra chatter than Tony Kornheiser’s restaurant. None of it appears possible to badist result in these long-discussed targets of 5o wins and a second-round playoff victory. Unless yelling actual loudly at guys taking uncontested layups turns into a viable defensive technique.

Read extra on the NBA:

Lonzo Ball’s offensive drought continues with scoreless outing in opposition to the Blazers

Tristan Thompson will miss a month, and the Cavs’ protection most likely will worsen

The Pacers are higher than we thought, however that doesn’t imply they gained the Paul George commerce

‘He would make a great president’: Steve Kerr endorses Gregg Popovich for increased workplace

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