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The Other Side: Cleveland Cavaliers

And poof! The rivalry disappears. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

Two games. That's all that separated the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards last season, both in the regular season and the playoffs. But almost eight months later, the teams have almost opposite records, with the 4-22 Wizards plummeting to depths never before seen for a franchise with a history of hard luck and the 24-4 Cavaliers soaring high above every team in the NBA not residing in Boston.

This isn't what the league expected when it scheduled these teams for a Christmas Day rematch. Although, "rematch" isn't the right word to describe tonight's game at Quicken Loans Arena. There is no intensity here; no chance of DeShawn Stevenson verbally challenging LeBron James; no chance of Soulja Boy sitting on the sidelines; and no chance of Jay-Z making a Wizards' diss record.

The differences between the two teams go beyond the 19-game separation in the standings. The Cavaliers improved in the offseason by adding a point guard, they have incredible team chemistry , great overall health and continuity and a superstar who is looking better than ever instead looking on in street clothes. Here is what you should know about the Cavaliers heading into the game tonight:

1. LeBron James Is Not Overrated
While most New Yorkers are focused on where he will play in 2010, James is focused on helping the Cavaliers win right now. James is averaging 27.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists in a career-low 36.1 points per game. He has been so dominant, that he doesn't have to play in the fourth quarter of most games.

According to ESPN's John Hollinger, James is having the best regular season ever. His Player Efficiency Rating is 33.67, which tops the previous record held by none other than Michael Jordan. Things are going so well, that James said he would consider signing an extension next summer instead of hitting free agency. But not everyone is confident that that will happen .

Since he's leaving everyone in the dust, James will debut a new chalk-themed shoe tonight. And don't think he's forgotten about Mr. Stevenson.

2. Mo Williams Is the Right Fit
The Cavaliers acquired Mo Williams from the Milwaukee Bucks last summer and the point guard has put everyone else in the right position. Williams and Delonte West have formed a rather formidable backcourt. Daniel Gibson provides a spark off the bench now, and he recently returned from an ankle injury.

3. The Cavs Are No Longer Boring on Offense
Remember when Cleveland's offense consisted of LeBron James dribbling at the top of the key for about 15 seconds, then deciding whether to drive for a dunk, pull up for jumper or pass? It led to some torturous viewing, but Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown has allowed assistant John Kuester to take control and add some new tweaks. The new approach has resulted in the team ranking sixth in offense at 102.3 points per game.

By Michael Lee  |  December 25, 2008; 9:50 AM ET
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Next: Happy Holidays From Cleveland


The Cavaliers acquired Mo Williams from the Milwaukee Bucks last summer and the point guard has put everyone else in the right position.

Something the Wizards need a true point guard.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 25, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

"And you'll enjoy playing against DeShawn Stevenson, I guess?

[Laughs] He's been real quiet this year. I've had no problems from any other players this year."

DAMN! DeShawn has to save face tonight and have a breakout game and score 12 against LeBron.

Posted by: zxhoya | December 25, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

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