When LeBron James visited D.C. last month, he torched the Washington Wizards for 57 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
On Sunday, the 13-time All-Star only scored 20 points but dished out 15 assists and pulled down 12 rebounds for his third straight triple-double, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Wizards, 106-99.
Cleveland (23-8) traveled from home after the team defeated the Utah Jazz on Saturday. James played 37 minutes and recorded a triple-double. He played slightly more than 41 minutes Sunday for the Cavaliers’ fifth straight win.
“I’m available — I’m not injured,” he said after the game. “I could use the rest, but … my teammates needed me tonight. It’s a big road win for our ball club.”
The sellout crowd at Capital One Arena in northwest D.C. witnessed a future Hall of Famer in James that included a third quarter pass from about 50 feet to Jae Crowder for a layup.
Wizards faithful didn’t get to one of the team’s three centerpieces in Otto Porter Jr., who didn’t play because of a bruised right thigh.
Porter’s absence created a few mismatches with guards Bradley Beal or John Wall to check James on post-ups. But Wizards forward Mike Scott, who’s been the most dependable scoring off the Wizards bench, tried to slow down James when he checked in the game.
“I accept the challenge,” Scott said. “When [James is] in the post, he makes passes and tries to get everyone else involved. I see he’s a lot more aggressive with John or Brad in the post. I would [do the same thing]. A great team like that, you just got to be sharp whole game.”
The Wizards (16-14) had chances with the game knotted at 60 at halftime and 83 at the end of the third quarter. But the Cavaliers showed their championship pedigree late, as Kevin Love (25 points, nine rebounds) drained a 3-pointer at the 3:24 mark to push Cleveland’s lead to six, and Washington would get no closer the rest of the way.
Both teams committed 10 turnovers and nearly took the same number of 3-point attempts. Cleveland shot 34 and Washington with 33.
One discrepancy: Washington shot only 9-for-16, or 56 percent, from the free throw line. Cleveland converted 10 of 12, or 83 percent.
Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said the team works on them daily. The team came into Sunday’s game ranked 14th in the league at 77 percent.
“I think it’s a mental thing. They’re free,” Beal, who led all scorers with 27, said of his team’s woes at the line. “We can’t make an excuse for it, me included. We got to step up to the line, be confident and just knock them down.”
Wall scored 15 points in Sunday’s game, passing Washington Bullets great Phil Chenier for sixth on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 9,787 points.
But Wall didn’t have much to say about it after the game.
“We lost, so it doesn’t really mean too much,” he said. “It’s a great honor. Phil’s a legend and that’s all I really got to say, to be honest.”
The Wizards host the New Orleans Pelicans (15-15) on Tuesday.