After sneaking out with a win over the New Orleans Pelicans last night at home, the Wizards had to get the victory over the undermanned Cavaliers on the second night on a back-to-back, especially considering how tight the playoff race has become in the Eastern Conference. Despite a few bad lapses, the Wizards picked up a double-digit victory over Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers on the road tonight, 96-83.
Washington’s big men were terrific against the Pelicans last night, and they continued their stellar play tonight, but Nene unfortunately went down with injury mid way through the third quarter. The injury appeared to be non-contact, and Nene was diagnosed with a “left knee sprain” and ruled out for the remainder of the game. Of course, an MRI will need to be done to determine the severity of his knee injury. He finished the game with 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists before getting hurt. Luckily for the Wizards, Marcin Gortat was able to pick up the slack. He scored 13 points to go along side 13 rebounds, and I thought he really mixed it up well in the post as well as some mid-range shots.
Trevor Ariza also stepped his game up once Nene was ruled out, putting up 15 points and 10 rebounds, including 3 of 6 made three point shots. Ariza seemed hesitant early on, passing up some wide open shots, but he got it going later in the game. He knocked down a “dagger” corner three that put the Cavaliers away for the game.
John Wall and Kyrie Irving were obviously the marquee match up coming into the game, and I think it’s safe to say Wall got the best of Irving tonight. He scored 21 points and dished out 9 assists, while Irving scored 15 points on 17 shot attempts to go with just 5 assists. Wall clamped down defensively early on, forcing Irving to take some tough perimeter shots and he didn’t get in a rhythm at all tonight. Wall’s backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, also chipped in with 17 points and 5 assists. I still thought both guards took way too many perimeter shots, often times giving up driving lanes to shoot jump shots, but they did a pretty good job overall. John Wall’s defense really made the difference tonight.
The Wizards also got some unexpected contributions from Al Harrington, who scored 5 points in just 7 minutes of action. If Nene misses a few games, the Wizards are going to need Harrington to fill the scoring void.
Washington will have a day to rest before getting back in action against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. They were very resilient tonight, even when it looked like the game might slip away, but the win might be overshadowed by Nene’s injury. Let’s hope all goes well and he’s back sooner rather than later.