Feeding off a sellout crowd at home, Gilbert Arenas and the woeful Washington Wizards upset LeBron James and the league-leading Cleveland Cavaliers last week to end their franchise-record winning streak.
The Wizards could have a hard time duplicating that performance in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers look to run their home mark to 38-1 on Wednesday night when they face the Wizards, owners of one the NBA’s worst road records.
Washington (18-60) is in last place in the Eastern Conference in part because Arenas has played only two games, having spent the majority of the season recovering from knee surgery.
Arenas was on the court Thursday night, however, and helped the Wizards to a 109-101 victory over the Cavaliers (62-15), who had won a team-record 13 consecutive games. Arenas shot 3-for-11 but had 11 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as Washington won for the second time in three meetings with Cleveland this season.
“Records never matter when you play the Wizards,” said James, who had 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists Thursday. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in first place or who is not in first place. It’s always going to be like that every time we play them.”
James has to feel better about his team’s chances of earning a split of the season series with the finale taking place at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers’ gaudy home mark includes 14 straight wins in Cleveland since a 101-91 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 8.
Cleveland’s most recent home victory was one of its most impressive. James scored 38 points - 18 in the first quarter - and Mo Williams and Delonte West added 22 apiece as the Cavaliers bounced back from consecutive defeats with a 101-81 win over San Antonio on Sunday.
“It was a wake-up call,” Williams said of the back-to-back defeats. “We didn’t get overexcited about the losses. It just kind of hit everybody the same way. That’s why we’re such a good team. We didn’t talk about it. We just put it behind us. We knew what we had to do and everybody came out and responded real well.”
While Cleveland has been nearly unstoppable at home, Washington is tied with Sacramento for the worst road record in the NBA at 5-33. Including the playoffs, the Wizards have dropped nine of 10 in Cleveland. In their first trip there this season, they fell 93-89 on Christmas Day.
Washington’s latest loss came at home Saturday night, when it let Miami shoot 55.1 percent from the field and make 14 3-pointers in a 118-104 defeat.
“We didn’t seem to have the energy,” Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. “It looked like we were running in the sand a little bit early.”
The loss overshadowed a big game from Wizards center Brendan Haywood, who spent most of the season on the bench with Arenas while recovering from offseason wrist surgery. In his third game of 2008-09, Haywood scored Washington’s first 10 points and finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
The Cavaliers could get some help defending Haywood if Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao can play. Varejao missed Sunday’s game with a bruised right wrist and is day-to-day. Wallace hasn’t played since Feb. 26 because of a broken right leg but could return against Washington.
“(The leg) feels pretty good,” Wallace told the Cavaliers’ official Web site after Monday’s practice. “I’ve got most of my strength back and that was one of the biggest things. And I feel like I got most of that back.”