WASHINGTON (AP)—Etan Thomas was late getting to the arena because of a fender bender on the rainy city streets.
Thomas scored a career-high 18 points and had 10 rebounds, including seven offensive boards, to lead the Washington Wizards to a 106-95 victory Wednesday night.
“They came out with a lot of big dunks and high-flying acts,” said Thomas, who shot 6-of-9. “And we just had to come out and set the tone.”
James did put on a show, scoring a career-high 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting with eight assists and seven rebounds, but Thomas was by far the dominant force in the game.
“He’s the heart and soul of what we do,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. “We’ve kind of taken his personality, his grit and determination and second effort. He’s our leader right now.”
Thomas’ eventful evening also included a double technical in the fourth quarter after an altercation that ended with Ira Newble flinging the ball toward Thomas. Thomas wasn’t fazed; he made four free throws and a fadeaway on the baseline as Washington slowly pulled away.
Newble said he was reacting to Thomas’ physical game.
“If you’re going to be a man, be a man all the time—not just when someone retaliates,” Newble said.
To which Thomas replied: “No problem, no problem. I have respect for him. It’s a game of emotions. I’m an emotional player. It’s not anything personal.”
The Wizards avenged a 111-98 loss at Cleveland on Nov. 8—the Cavaliers’ first victory of the season after starting 0-5.
Chris Mihm had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are 0-7 on the road this season and 0-28 away from home since January of last season.
The Cavaliers played without leading rebounder Carlos Boozer, who did not travel with the team after spraining his right ankle in Tuesday night’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers. DeSagana Diop started for Boozer but got into early foul trouble and didn’t play in the third quarter.
“I give Etan all the credit in the world, but I’m sure Boozer would have been able to handle some of his strength,” Cleveland coach Paul Silas said.
The game was close until midway through the fourth, when Arenas hit a 3-pointer to put the Wizards ahead 89-82. The Thomas-Newble double technical followed, and it seemed to energize the Wizards the rest of the way.
James’ highlights included a perfect alley-oop pass to Ricky Davis and a spectacular reverse dunk on an alley-oop pass from Darius Miles in the first quarter. That basket, however, was followed by a three-minute Cavaliers drought in which the Wizards opened an 11-point lead.
Jared Jeffries rammed home a flying, one-handed dunk to put the Wizards ahead by 19 in the second quarter, but the Cavaliers closed the half with a 22-8 run to pull to 54-49 at halftime.
Arenas made back-to-back 3-pointers to start an otherwise ragged third quarter. Davis’ missed alley-oop dunk was the lowlight, and the Wizards took a75-70 lead into the fourth.
Miles on trash-talking: “I don’t think nobody is bigger than the game like that, except for like Kobe or Shaq. Ain’t nobody bigger than the game to where they can talk noise to us. They ain’t that good, unless they’re Shaq. Unless you’ve got Shaq on your team, you can’t talk to me.” … Bernie Bickerstaff, coach of the expansion of Charlotte Bobcats, was at the game. The Bobcats will be in Washington’s division in the realigned NBA when they join the league next season. … Wizards center Christian Laettner remains sidelined with back spasms and is day-to-day. … Jeffries got a technical foul in thefourth quarter for pulling down on the rim after a dunk.