Wizards give away another to Cavaliers

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

The moment at which the Wizards began to unravel toward their latest defeat, their eighth in a row, was awkward.

The reason they came apart was simple.

Washington turned the ball over 20 times to sacrifice leads in every quarter of Wednesday's 87-84 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers. They came in all forms, from every Wizard player but one of the 11 that saw the floor.

The final four came in the final five minutes, and Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple, playing their first NBA minutes of the year after being signed from the NBA Development League the day before, accounted for three of them.

"It's a little different playing 40 minutes in the D-League, and 40 minutes in the NBA," Mack said after what was also his first career start for the team that cut him at the end of the preseason. He also finished the game with a groin strain.

He finished with six points, seven assists, and a career-high six rebounds. But he committed a pair of errors that allowed the Cavaliers (7-23) to reel off a 9-0 run after the Wizards (3-23) had taken a 79-73 lead.

They had led by as many 12 points in the first quarter before going into halftime down 45-43. They turned it back into a 62-53 advantage in the third quarter, and the lead was poised to grow to double digits when Martell Webster (12 points, 10 rebounds) caught Jordan Crawford's over-the-shoulder pass for a wide open slam. But when he caught contact from Alonzo Gee, it led him to grab the rim with his right hand before dunking the ball with his left - which earned a basket interference call. The game was tied at 68 when the period ended.

"I was trying not to trip and tried to get the ball in the hoop with two hands," Webster said. "But, whatever."

Mack looked like he'd never left as he delivered Washington's first basket with an alley oop feed to Webster. The Wizards also shot 46 percent, which was an improvement for the Cavaliers, the NBA's most porous team (47.3 percent shooting defense).

Emeka Okafor (17 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) and Nene (16 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks) both rejected rookie Dion Waiters at the rim.

Kyrie Irving (26 points, eight assists, six rebounds) took advantage of Mack, but Temple (two points, two assists, three rebounds) answered the reigning rookie of the year's step-back 3-pointer with a monster slam for his first points in Washington at the end of the first half.

Irving went 1-for-10 in the second half while Jordan Crawford scored 15 of his 17 points off the bench, having been demoted for a team rules violation.

With Cleveland leading 82-81, Temple threw the ball out of bounds right past Nene - who was a remarkable plus-25 in 26 minutes.

Washington still had another chance when Kyrie Irving (26 points, eight assists, six rebounds) missed two free throws.

At one end, Nene drove in the lane and dumped the ball down to Okafor, who elevated for a dunk but barely made it to the rim as he was fouled and had to settle for one of two free throws.

When Kyrie Irving took his man off the dribble and found Tristan Thompson (15 points, 12 rebounds) in almost the exact same spot, the second-year forward rose high enough to absorb contact and still finish a shot that was somewhere between a dunk and layup.

Despite Irving missing four of eight free throws in the final period, Temple and Crawford both missed potential game-tying three pointers.

"I learned that it's a team that doesn't give up," Temple said. "Usually you see a team with a record that we have, sometimes at the end of the games they may just give up. but guys kept playing, We had a shot to tie it at the end of the game, and that's what you want."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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