(SportsNetwork.com) - LeBron James leads the Cleveland Cavaliers into the nation's capital Friday night for a matchup against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center.
This is a matchup of two of the Eastern Conference's best teams, although Cleveland is having a hard time proving that.
The Cavs' record fell to .500 on Wednesday thanks to a 92-90 home setback to the defending NBA champion, San Antonio Spurs. That's the same Spurs' group who beat James and the Miami Heat soundly for the title in June.
James had a chance to be the hero on Wednesday, but things didn't work out.
San Antonio's Manu Ginobili split a pair of free throws to stake the Spurs to a 92-90 lead with 9.1 seconds left. Anderson Varejao rebounded Ginobili's miss and James dribbled behind his back as Ginobili lunged for the ball, but James lost it off his left hand as he attempted a crossover.
Ginobili then threw the ball into the air from the left corner of the 3-point line to bleed off the remaining time.
"I went behind the back and just lost it," James said. "That's how the ball rolls sometimes, not too upset about it."
James tallied just four points on 2-of-7 shooting in the second half with four turnovers. He finished with 15 points, nine assists and six boards for Cleveland, which has dropped consecutive games on the heels of a four-game winning streak.
Varejao provided 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Kyrie Irving netted 20 points in defeat. Kevin Love posted a double-double, although a meager one of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wizards had a three-game winning streak halted Wednesday night with a 105-102 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Bradley Beal, playing in his first game this season after missing time with a broken left wrist, paced the Wizards with 21 points in a reserve role. It is unknown if head coach Randy Wittman will insert him into the starting lineup Friday.
"Nothing's changed, it was a good day," Beal said after practice on Thursday. "We had some good lineups and good things going before I even came back, so what coach is doing, I have no problem with it at all."
Paul Pierce and Marcin Gortat each netted 17 points for the Wizards, who lost for the first time in Washington DC this season. Washington is still off to its best start since the 1974-75 season, both overall and at home.
John Wall finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double- double of the season. He leads Eastern Conference guards with that number.
This game has the subplot of the backcourts. Beal famously pronounced that he and Wall were the best backcourt in the NBA during the preseason, but Cleveland's Dion Waiters disagreed, selecting himself and Irving.
The two sides split four meetings last season, but the visitor prevailed in four instances. The Cavs have won four straight in Washington.