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After a 3-1 start, Cleveland has been lost in the woods. The Cavs defense has been particularly disastrous, with at least 112 points allowed in each of their last four losses.
James didn’t bother to leave anything up to the defense, tying Kyrie Irving‘s franchise record with 57 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out seven assists.
At 32 years old and in his 15th NBA season, James said after the win he’s never felt better than he does right now:
“This is the best I’ve felt in my career right now” – @KingJames #NBAPostgame https://t.co/efoOpqahRO
If the Cavaliers needed extra motivation for this game, beyond wanting to end their losing streak, Wizards star John Wall gave it to them:
NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA
John Wall believes LeBron and the Cavs intentionally dodged the Wizards in the playoffs last year. https://t.co/H6QnWqh4yF
ESPN’s Jemele Hill wasn’t buying any of what Wall was trying to sell:
Jemele Hill @jemelehill
Wizards: The Cavs tanked in the playoffs to avoid playing us.
The Cavs went 4-7 down the stretch last season, finishing two games behind the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Wizards took the Celtics the distance in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before falling 115-105 in Game 7.
On this night, James decided to make a statement to Wall and the Wizards. The four-time MVP joined Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history with at least 10 points in 800 straight games.
But James wasn’t done there, as he also surpassed 29,000 career points in style:
Wall with the bucket and LeBron follows with career points No.29,000! https://t.co/znmJ1oJPFL
There have only been seven players in NBA history to hit the 29,000-point mark, but James is the youngest one to do it:
Cavs Official Notes @CavsNotes
.@KingJames (32 yrs/308 days) is the 7th player in @NBAHistory to reach 29,000PTS & the youngest to do so (prev. K. Bryant, 33 yrs/199 days)
Per Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver, James’ 11 games with at least 50 points are more than double the number of times any active NBA player has hit that mark. Stephen Curry, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are all tied for second with five 50-point games.
For a player who has already done it all in his NBA career, James has never had a shooting game like the one he put up against the Wizards:
Tom Haberstroh @tomhaberstroh
LeBron made 23 baskets tonight. Career high. Still notching career-highs in his age-33 season after 7 straight Finals trips.
Bill Simmons of The Ringer offered one possible solution for the Cavaliers as they make their way through the rest of this season:
Bill Simmons @BillSimmons
If LeBron can keep putting up a 60-13-10 every night I think the Cavs will be fine.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, James picked on every defender Washington threw at him, but Wall was hit harder than anyone:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
LeBron James Points – By Defender on Friday
John Wall 16
Kelly Oubre Jr. 11
Otto Porter Jr. 11
Bradley Beal 10 https://t.co/JCzlX4BRrn
If the Cavaliers are going to meet expectations this season, James will need more help than he’s gotten from his supporting cast. That group showed up in a big way on Friday.
Derrick Rose appears to be finding his offensive stroke after scoring 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. He followed that up with 20 points against the Wizards, showing some of that explosiveness from back when he was an All-Star with the Chicago Bulls:
Josh Eberley of Hoop Magazine noted Rose was putting up those numbers against high-quality competition:
Josh Eberley 🇨🇦 @JoshEberley
Derrick Rose with his hottest start of the season against the best defensive PG in the East.. Hold on.. 🤔
Another key reason for Cleveland’s success against the Wizards was its long-distance shooting. The Cavs entered Friday with the NBA’s eighth-worst three-point percentage (33.1), but they changed that narrative by going 12-of-27 beyond the arc.
This still wasn’t an easy win for the Cavaliers because their defense isn’t intimidating anyone, though at least they have the excuse of going up against the NBA’s fourth-highest scoring offense in this game.
The Wizards were simply overwhelmed by a more aggressive team Friday night. Wall had his own shooting struggles (4-of-13) that offset his season-high 15 assists. Bradley Beal, who was coming off a 40-point effort against the Phoenix Suns, remained hot with 36 against Cleveland’s defense.
Unfortunately for Beal, he picked the wrong night to try stealing the show.
This is still a Cleveland team in transition after trading Irving to Boston two months ago. The Cavs’ new-look roster has struggled with the adjustment so far, but there is still plenty of time for them to piece things together before panicking.
It’s also easy to have a sense of calm when James decides to have one of the best games of his career. This was exactly what the Cavaliers needed to see and good enough to silence questions about their early struggles for at least one day.