WASHINGTON — That the Cleveland Cavaliers would drop a road game against a would-be playoff team while giving LeBron James a rare day off might not be all that surprising to most.
Still, trailing by as many as 30 points along the way to a 113-99 loss to John Wall and the Washington Wizards on Sunday did not sit well with Cleveland’s J.R. Smith.
"If we’re going to play with a lack of energy … and come out and play the way we did today," Smith declared, "we shouldn’t be who we are and be in these uniforms."
Smith, who had eight points and four rebounds in 18 minutes, continued: "We can’t play basketball like this going down the stretch. … You talk about contending or being a championship contender and you’re blown out … and get thrashed, make it look good at the end. We can’t do that. If we’re serious about who we’re supposed to be, we can’t do this."
It was the second consecutive loss for Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland, which is in the middle of a stretch of three games in four days.
That busy schedule was one of the reasons coach Tyronn Lue gave for resting James, who had skipped only one other game this season, on Dec. 5 at Miami.
"Any time you (make) that kind of move, it kind of lets the guys down a little bit," Lue said. "But that’s a decision that we made."
James left the locker room without speaking to the media.
Taking advantage of not having to deal with the four-time NBA MVP, the Wizards got a boost in their bid to move into playoff position, using Wall’s 21 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds, and 21 points from Otto Porter Jr., to improve to 5-2 since the All-Star break.
"Doesn’t matter (if) they want to rest guys," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "This game still counts."
Attacking from the start, Wall made 8 of 11 shots and came out on top in his matchup against Kyrie Irving, who had 28 points and six assists on 9-of-20 shooting.
Late in the third quarter, Wall had the same number of assists as the entire Cavs team, 12; he sat out the fourth quarter.
Ahead by nine at halftime, the Wizards broke things open with a 9-0 run to start the second half, taking a 72-54 lead on one of Porter’s four 3-pointers in the third quarter. When Porter and Wall made consecutive 3s later, Washington’s margin grew to 88-63, and that was pretty much that.
While the Cavaliers entered the day 41-16 and two games ahead of Toronto for the top spot in the East, the Wizards came in with a 27-30 record and 10th in the conference, 2 1/2 games out of the final playoff berth.
After alternating wins and losses in its previous five games, but now as healthy as it’s been all season, Washington showcased the small-ball style it’s been implementing. Wall cemented his 34th double-double midway through the third quarter.
"It starts with John, there’s no question," Wittman said. "He’s been locked in here, more recently."
Wizards SG Bradley Beal again came off the bench, scoring 17 points in just under 26 minutes. Wittman said he wants to continue using Beal as a reserve while the player is under a minute restriction. Asked whether he knows how long that restriction might last, Beal replied: "I have no idea."
Cavaliers: F Kevin Love limped around a bit after colliding with a Wizards player but said after the game he is fine. … Richard Jefferson started at forward in place of James and finished with 10 points and five rebounds. … Cleveland made only 9 of 29 3-point attempts. … Signed G Jordan McRae to a 10-day contract. He played in the fourth quarter.
Wizards: F J.J. Hickson made his team debut in the fourth quarter; the team signed him Thursday. … F Alan Anderson saw his first home action of the season after having surgery on his left ankle. … G Gary Neal missed his eighth consecutive game because of a sore right leg.
Cavaliers: Host Indiana on Monday.
Wizards: Host Philadelphia on Monday.