Conventional wisdom says that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will once again march unencumbered to the NBA Finals. But after watching Washington push Cleveland to the limit Monday night – before ultimately losing 140-135 in overtime – couldn’t the Wizards (31-21) challenge the Cavs (36-15) in the East?
“If they get into a seven-game series with them in the Eastern Conference Finals, no, I don’t think they can beat them,” Washington’s WJFK afternoon host Chad Dukes said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “When Kyrie Irving and LeBron James are taking things seriously, especially with the way Kevin Love played in that game against the Wizards, no. I think they can push them. I think they can make them fear for their lives. If you looked at the way John Wall and Bradley Beal matched that team shot-for-shot down the stretch, (it was impressive).”
Indeed, Beal scored a game-high 41 points, while Wall had 22 points and 12 assists, and Otto Porter chipped in with 25 points. Cleveland’s Big Three, however, was better. Love had 39 points and 12 rebounds, James had 32 points and 17 assists, and Irving had 23 points and five assists.
“Look, LeBron and the Cavs came in not playing their best basketball and put an end to a 17-game winning streak at the Verizon Center,” Dukes said. “But Otto Porter Jr., this kid, we thought he wasn’t going to be a professional basketball player two seasons ago. Now they’re talking about giving him a max contract here in Washington D.C. The only thing that makes me nervous (is) the minutes these starters are playing. It’s disrespectful to their knees and their hips and their ankles. Kelly Oubre Jr. was in there tonight because Markieff Morris couldn’t go. He was awful.”
Oubre had zero points on 0-of-5 shooting from the floor, but the Wizards still beat the Nets 114-110 in overtime.
“He needs to come off the bench and develop,” Dukes said. “I think he’s going to be a great sixth man moving forward, but the problem is that Scotty Brooks has been so amazing hiding how inadequate this bench has been for the entire season with all these interesting little bench roles and changes and lineup roles that he’s been implementing. It’s great. It’s wonderful to see. These guys are competitive and they’re fast and they’re athletic and they’re fun, and I think they can push the Cavs.
“This is not their year, though,” Dukes continued. “I think in two years when LeBron has slowed down a step, that will be the Wizards’ time, especially if they could add a couple pieces.”