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The Other Side: Cleveland Cavaliers

I love you, man. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Washington Wizards played well enough to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day, but some questionable calls - the refs did not seriously call Caron Butler for a foul when LeBron James shot that three-pointer, did they? - and some poor late-game execution contributing to one of the many disappointing losses this seasons. Ten days later, the Wizards welcome the Cavaliers to Verizon Center for the first time since Cleveland closed out the season in Game 6 of one the most entertaining and physical first-round playoff series. It also included what The D.C. Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg called "the absolute unbeatable D.C. Sports Moment of 2008."

The Cavaliers have won two of three since beating the Wizards, the only stumble coming in Miami on Dec. 30, when James turned 24. They still have NBA's second-best record after defeating the Chicago Bulls, 117-92, on Friday as James had a triple-double with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Fortunately for the Wizards, the Cavaliers come to town after a win. The Cavaliers have been crushing opponents all season, but they mash down extra hard after defeats. Cleveland has followed up its five losses this season with victories by an average of 19.6 points. Here is what you should know about the Cavaliers heading into today's matinee:

1. Zydrunas Ilgauskas Is Out
Cavaliers Center Zydrunas Ilgauskas missed three games in December for what was thought to be a sprained ankle. He returned on Dec. 19 in Denver, scored 19 points and everything seemed fine - until he kept playing. Over his next five games, Ilgauskas averaged just 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds and finally had his foot check out on Friday. Turns out, the 7-foot-3 Ilguaskas had chipped bone in the back of his ankle and could be out for up to a month. It might not be a problem if Anderson Varejao keeps playing like he did against Chicago, when he scored a career-high 26 points.

2. LeBron James Is Finally Older Than His Jersey Number
In case you missed the NBA-TV praise-fest on Dec. 30, James turned 24 last week. listed the top 24 LeBron James moments and Art Garcia wrote a pretty nice story about him. James celebrated with a huge bash on South Beach following a loss to his good friend, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat. At least his teammates got to party with him that night. The night before, James had a separate gathering for friends and family - and that apparently includes Wade but no members of his team. That seemed to upset this guy.

3. The Cavaliers Are Making Believers
Cleveland has known heartache for several years. It's been almost 45 years since the city won a championship in any sport. But with the Cavaliers off to an impressive 26-4 start, some people are finally starting to believe that James might be putting those hardships in the rearview. Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski has this entertaining take on the team he grew up rooting for; a team he believes is overdue. Steve "Snapper" Jones also thinks Cleveland can win it all.

By Michael Lee  |  January 4, 2009; 8:48 AM ET
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Next: Cavaliers (27-5) at Wizards (6-25)


Priority #1: rehab McGee's confidence

Priority #2: let the youngsters play some serious minutes

Priority #3: entertain the fans with a solid 10 minutes of Crit, Young, Mac, Blatche and McGee on the floor together

Posted by: Izman | January 4, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

First - the only way this game is entertaining is if we play run and gun. Slow down is Cleveland's style and we don't have the muscle to do that. But we can run if allowed. May not win but it will be fun to watch.

Posted by: h20law2000 | January 4, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Cleveland didn't look like a serious champ contender on Xmas day -- in fact, they looked like a first or second round exit. And that was with the big Ilgauskas. Their fans have to hope that was the aberration.

Play the kids for experience? I hope not. They should go all out to win this one. Save the experience points for road games.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 4, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

By the way, how many seven-footers have been derailed because of foot problems? Aside from Bill Walton, of course. Seems really common in the NBA.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 4, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Cleveland didn't look like a serious champ contender on Xmas day -- in fact, they looked like a first or second round exit. And that was with the big Ilgauskas. Their fans have to hope that was the aberration.

Posted by: Samson151 | January 4, 2009 11:25 AM

Perhaps you haven't watched any of their other 26 wins?

Posted by: jones-y | January 4, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Hey Mike and Ivan,

Any chance you can get the starting lineups posted with more than 2 minutes before tip off? I know you're not going to get those in hours before tip off since some guys are game time decisions. But it would be nice if you got those posted at least a little earlier, otherwise what's the point of posting them?

Posted by: Barno1 | January 4, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

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