Recap: Kuzma leads late comeback as Wizards win over Cavs, 97-94

FINAL: WIZARDS 97 | CAVALIERS 94

BOX SCORE | PHOTOS

SCORING LEADERS

WIZARDS: Montrezl Harrell (24), Kyle Kuzma (22), Bradley Beal (13)

CAVALIERS: Ricky Rubio (20), Darius Garland (19), Evan Mobley (19)

SUMMARY
Propelled by a clutch run of 3-pointers from Kyle Kuzma in the game’s closing minutes, the Wizards defeated the Cavaliers 97-94 on Wednesday night, earning their third consecutive win. The Wizards trailed by five with 90 seconds left in the game before Kuzma and Bradley Beal combined to hit three triples to swing the comeback and earn the win. Montrezl Harrell scored a game-high 24 points to lead the way for Washington while Ricky Rubio came off the bench to lead Cleveland with 20 points.

The Wizards’ defense, which ranked fifth in the NBA in defensive rating (103.1) entering Wednesday’s game, was dominant early, allowing just two points through the first four minutes of the game. The Washington offense, however, could not take advantage as both teams combined to start the game 4-19 (.210) and 15-43 (.348) in the first quarter overall. A buzzer-beating three at the end of the opening frame from Darius Garland cut Washington’s lead to 24-22 heading to the second quarter. Cleveland took the lead on a 3-pointer from Dylan Windler three minutes into the second quarter, but a 10-2 run minutes later, highlighted by a triple from Corey Kispert, put Washington up six with 3:35 left in the first half. From that point until the end of the second quarter, the Cavaliers outscored the Wizards 11-0 and took a 49-44 lead into halftime.

After Washington opened the second half on a quick 5-0 run to tie the game, Cleveland ripped off a 10-0 run of their own to go up by double-digits – the largest lead of the game for either team to that point. After a slow start in the first half, Beal got going mid-way through the third, scoring eight of his 13 total points. Washington cut the lead to three points before Garland got hot to put Cleveland back up by 10 points in the opening minutes of the fourth. Kuzma’s fourth 3-pointer of the night pulled the Wizards back within three points with under five minutes to go. After grabbing the rebound off his own miss, Spencer Dinwiddie found Beal in the corner for his first 3-pointer of the night, cutting the Cavaliers lead to 91-89 but a difficult floater from Garland with 30 seconds left put Cleveland up four. After Kuzma knocked down another three to pull within one, Rubio missed one of two free throws, leaving the door open for Washington. On the ensuing possession, Beal found Kuzma alone in the corner for the game-winning 3-pointer.

THREE THINGS TO KNOW

Beal turns it on in the fourth after slow start
Beal entered the game having shot over 44.0% from the field in the last four games and over 58.0% in each of the last two, but struggled to get things going on the offensive end Wednesday in Cleveland. Beal went without a field until the 4:30 mark of the third quarter, missing his first 10 shots of the night. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, highlighted by a clutch three late in the fourth. Beal finished with seven assists – the fifth game in a row he’s hit that mark, putting him one game shy of tying the longest such streak of his career. Beal wasn’t the only pillar of the Wizards offense to go cold against the Cavaliers. Spencer Dinwiddie finished with 11 points, but also managed to impact the game in other ways. He added 10 rebounds, six assists and was plus-five in 30 minutes.

Harrell, Kuzma come up big
Harrell picked up the slack in the early going as the Wizards’ starting guards struggled to get going. In just 11:34 of action in the first half, Harrell totaled 16 points on 5-8 (.625) shooting and 6-6 (1.000) from the free throw to go along with five rebounds. He finished the game with 24 points and secured his fifth double-double of the season on a rebound with 7:15 left in the game. It marked the sixth time this season he led the team in rebounding and the third time he led the team in scoring. It was Kuzma, however, that served as closer for the Wizards, scoring 12 of his 22 points – all on 3-pointers – in the fourth quarter. Wednesday was Kuzma’s third-consecutive game hitting three-plus threes and the third time this season he scored over 20 points.

Cavs bigs make their presence felt
Star rookie Evan Mobley came into Wednesday’s game off the best game of his young career, but was limited against the Wizards due to early foul trouble. Mobley picked up his second foul of the night contesting a step-back jumper from Beal with 8:24 remaining in the first quarter and did not return until the start of the second quarter. Still, the versatile big finished with 19 points on 7-15 (.466) shooting to go along with seven rebounds and a pair of assists. Mobley’s fellow starting big, Jarrett Allen, was a force from start to finish on each end, totaling 13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

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