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Varejao's career night sparks Cavs past Wizards

The SportsXchange

CLEVELAND -- There might come a day when the Cleveland Cavaliers deal center Anderson Varejao.

They figure when the youngsters on the team get ready to compete, the veteran, who is now 30, is going to be too old.

However, whenever they think about trading Varejao, they should pop in a videotape of Tuesday's game, in which the Cavs defeated the Washington Wizards 94-84 in the season opener for both teams.

The 6-foot-11, 260-pound Varejao established career highs in rebounds (23) and assists (nine), as he took advantage of Washington's porous defense.

The Wizards, however, were without two of their top big men. Nene has a foot injury, while Kevin Seraphin has a calf ailment.

Varejao finished with nine points, hitting three of seven shots. His rebound total was two shy of the franchise record that Rick Roberson set at Houston on March 4, 1972.

"He's so valuable to us on both ends of the floor," Cavs coach Byron Scott said.

Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 29 points and added six rebounds and three assists. He shot 3-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Late in the game, Scott seemed a bit anxious on the sideline. Irving touched him on the leg and said, "Don't worry about it, Coach. I got it."

Irving's new backcourt mate, rookie Dion Waiters, finished with 17 points in his NBA debut.

Waiters created an indelible moment early in the third quarter, when he stole the ball from Wizards guard Bradley Beal and drove for a dunk.

Beal wound up with eight points, three rebounds and three assists. He was the third overall pick in the draft, and Waiters was selected fourth overall.

"I wasn't worrying about that," Waiters said. "It's a learning experience. I'm more comfortable now."

Washington reserve guards Jordan Crawford and Jannero Pargo and backup center Earl Barron fueled a 16-0 run that began late in the third quarter and extended into the fourth quarter, giving the Wizards a 76-74 lead.

That forced Scott to go back to his starters, and unfortunately for the Wizards, that included Irving. He had several key baskets down the stretch for the Cavs, who outscored the Wizards 20-8 in the last seven minutes.

Washington coach Randy Wittman was disappointed with the way his team competed.

"That wasn't the team I've seen the last four weeks," he said. "I watched them do things tonight that I didn't ever see these guys do. (The Cavaliers) dictated the tempo, which I thought was key."

The Cavs outrebounded the Wizards, 54-39.

"We can't get beat up on the boards like we did or shoot free throws like we did and give yourself a realistic chance to win," Wittman said.

Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson ended with 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Crawford had a team-high 11 points for Washington, while center Emeka Okafor added 10. Seven other Wizards scored between seven and nine points.

NOTES: The Wizards played without starting guard John Wall (knee). ... When the Miami Heat upended the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals last June, the Heat's rivalry with the Cavaliers was altered. "When they won, it was the end of the end of the end of the end of the whole thing," Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said. "In a way, it was a little bit of a relief." When LeBron James left in free agency in the summer of 2010, Gilbert sent the now-infamous letter saying the Cavs would win a title before the Heat. "Looking back, it wasn't the most brilliant thing I've ever done," Gilbert said. ... Gilbert said he talked to new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III recently for 45 minutes on the phone. He said they hope to meet face-to-face in the near future. "He's the right guy for this town," Gilbert said. "He's passionate for this town." ... Some of the Cavs players had trouble making it to the team's shootaround Tuesday morning at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Daniel Gibson said he lost power at his house, but he relied on a generator, at least for a while. "It bounced back at first, but then like 3 or 4 o'clock (in the morning), the whole thing shut down," Gibson said.
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