CLEVELAND (AP) — Maybe life without John Wall won’t be as miserable as the Wizards feared.
The All-Star break barely slowed them down, and the Cavaliers couldn’t stop them either.
Bradley Beal scored 18 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. added 17 and tried to untie the sneakers of one of Cleveland’s new players, and the Wizards withstood a late assault by LeBron James to beat the new-look Cavs 110-103 on Thursday night.
The Wizards, who have been playing for weeks without Wall, their super-speedy star guard, nearly blew a late 11-point lead as James scored 14 straight points to pull the Cavs within 106-103. But Beal hit a driving layup and James missed a free throw and committed a lane violation while intentionally missing the second one and the Wizards held on.
“We hung together,” said Wizards coach Scott Brooks. “We showed great resolve. That’s what we talked about. Resiliency is what successful teams do in this league. We’ve been showing that. We’ve just got to keep doing it.”
Washington is 8-2 since Wall went down with a knee injury. Tomas Satoransky, who has been starting in Wall’s spot, added 17 points, eight assists and didn’t have a turnover in 31 minutes.
James, back from winning MVP honors at the All-Star Game, scored 32 — 14 in the fourth — for the Cavs, who dropped to 2-1 since acquiring four new players before the trade deadline. J.R. Smith added 15 for Cleveland.
Despite the loss, James was encouraged by the performance.
“I think we played well tonight, even though we lost,” James said. “I hate losing, obviously, but I think the way we played, the way we shared the ball. Defensively, we were flying around as well and those guys, they just played better than us tonight. I like the start, I like the direction we’re headed.”
The Wizards spoiled the home debuts for Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, four new faces the Cavs are hoping can get them back to the NBA Finals.
But there are more obstacles in the Eastern Conference than ever and the Wizards could be a much tougher out in the postseason — with or without Wall. Washington overcame an early 12-point deficit and matched Cleveland’s intensity.
“It was a great team effort,” said Beal, who added nine assists. “We know the games before the break and the game after the break are always the toughest ones to get, especially when you’re playing a team like this. It was definitely a challenge for us.
“The rest of the year is going to be a challenge for us, but we did a great job starting out.”
Oubre tried to give the Wizards an extra advantage when he reached over during a dead-ball situation and tried to untie one of Hood’s shoes.
“I was just joking,” explained Oubre, whose tactic was exposed by the Cavs with a replay on their giant scoreboard. “I was down on my knees and his teammates were like, ‘Tie your shoes.’ He laughed about it. He was trying to snitch on me to the ref. That’s my guy, though.”
The four newest Cavs received warm ovations when introduced, with Nance Jr. getting the biggest roar from fans who remember his shot-blocking, dunking dad. Larry Nance Sr. was a two-time All-Star during eight seasons with Cleveland.
Wizards: Brooks would not confirm reports Washington will sign veteran G Ramon Sessions to a 10-day contract. He was released by New York last month. Washington has been playing without Wall, who had surgery on his left knee in late January and could be out until the playoffs. The 31-year-old Sessions served as Wall’s backup from 2014-16.
Cavaliers: Smith’s recent fast starts have been a key to Cleveland’s success. Smith is shooting 18 of 21 — 14 of 15 from the 3-point range — in the first quarter of the past six games. “When he’s making shots,” said coach Tyronn Lue, “we’re a different team.” … James became the seventh player with 11,000 career field goals. … The trades brought an infusion of youth to what was the league’s oldest roster. “It’s not an old team anymore,” Lue said. “We’ve definitely gotten younger.” … Signed G Marcus Thornton to a 10-day contract.
NO. 22 AGAIN
Before the game, Nance Jr. announced that the NBA will allow him to wear his dad’s retired No. 22 jersey, which will remain hanging from the rafters in Quicken Loans Arena.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” said Nance Jr., who will switch from 24 to 22 next week.
The elder Nance took part in an in-game skit, holding the ball over his head as Moondog, the team’s furry mascot, dunked off a trampoline.
After making just one 3-pointer in the first quarter, the Wizards dropped four deep shots in a span of 2:24 of the second quarter.
Oubre and Markieff Morris each made two 3s during Washington’s barrage, which enabled the Wizards to take a 57-54 lead at halftime.
Wizards: Host Charlotte on Friday.
Cavaliers: At Memphis on Friday.