Cleveland 90, Washington 89

CLEVELAND, Feb. 22 (AP) -- Short-handed, undermanned, inadequate. The Cleveland Cavaliers weren't themselves Friday night, nowhere close.

And it didn't matter.

LeBron James was still around.

James made two free throws with 7.8 seconds left and scored 33 points as the Cavaliers, playing with just eight one day after a humongous trade, had enough to beat the Washington Wizards 90-89 on Friday night.

"As long as I'm on the court, I expect us to win,'' James said.

As they say, it ain't braggin' if you can back it up.

"I've said it a million times,'' Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "LeBron James is the MVP. He was spectacular.''

James added 15 rebounds and eight assists in 45 minutes for the Cavs, who added four players in an 11-player blockbuster deal on Thursday but couldn't dress Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith or Delonte West.

James could have used some help, but as always, he did whatever Cleveland needed.

Damon Jones scored a season-high 27 points for the Cavs, who were forced to sign Billy Thomas and Kaniel Dickens from the NBA Development League to 10-day contracts just so they'd have enough players to meet the league's required eight for a game.

After James dropped his free throws, Washington went to DeShawn Stevenson for the final shot. He drove the right side and lofted a high layup that bounced off the top of the backboard and then the front of the rim.

James grabbed the ball and fired it into the scoreboard in celebration. Jones jumped up on the scorer's table and pointed in the direction of his new teammates, who watched from a luxury suite.

"I was telling them, 'C'mon, I can't be playing that many minutes,''' joked Jones, who logged 45, 25 more than his average. "I love to play and everything, but man.''

Jones was also sending a message to the newest Cavs.

"We wanted to make those guys feel comfortable, let them know we're going to enjoy what they bring to us,'' he said.

Following the morning shootaround, James told Jones he would have to score 20 to 25 points for the Cavs to win.

"I knew he was going to get open looks,'' James said. "He scored 27, so I guess I was wrong.''

Darius Songalia scored a season-high 19 points and Stevenson 18 to lead the Wizards, who have lost 10 of 11.

Washington doesn't have injured stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, but even at less than full strength, the Wizards figured they'd be able to handle the Cavs.

"It's frustrating to lose to anybody, whether you're short-handed or not,'' coach Eddie Jordan said. "But they have a great player. He's a monster. He creates for everyone else.''

The Cavaliers went up 88-85 on Devin Brown's dunk with 1:42 to play, but Zydrunas Ilgauskas fouled Brendan Haywood, who made two foul shots to bring the Wizards within one. After a Cleveland turnover, Ilgauskas was whistled for another foul and Stevenson's two free throws put the Wizards up 89-88.

James missed a tough 3-pointer from the corner, but the Wizards couldn't convert and gave Cleveland's All-Star another chance. He was fouled on a drive in the lane and calmly made both free throws.

Dressed in sport coats, the four newest Cavaliers watched from a luxury suite. They were introduced to the crowd in the first quarter and received a thundering ovation as "Welcome To The Family'' was flashed on the video scoreboard.

As the Cavs prepared to take the floor before the game, Wallace, Smith and West walked into the hallway outside Cleveland's locker room and were immediately pulled into the team's prayer huddle.

"It's great to walk into an arena where you used to be a rival, the enemy and be welcomed,'' Wallace said at halftime.

The quartet will make their debut on Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

"I can't wait,'' James said.

Notes: Wizards G Antonio Daniels took a nasty spill while dunking in the final second of the first half. As he went up, he was brushed by a hustling Ilgauskas and fell hard on the floor. Daniels laid motionless for several seconds before being helped to his feet. His basket was initially called good but waved off after the officials looked at TV replays. ... Wallace had his hair in tight cornrows, but promised to let his 'do go. "You're always going to see the 'fro,'' he said. ... Cleveland tried a season-high with 32 3-pointers.

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