CLEVELAND (AFP) – John Wall tallied 37 points as the Washington Wizards defeated LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115, tightening the race atop the Eastern Conference standings on Saturday night.
The Wizards now trail the Boston Celtics by two games and the defending NBA champion Cavaliers by 2 1/2 for first place. Also, Cleveland’s lead over Boston is now just a half-game.
Wall delivered 18 of his 37 points in the first quarter shooting eight-of-eight from the field.
“You don’t wanta to go into the playoffs knowing you have to face those guys and you never won against them in the regular season,’’ Wall said. “To come here and win in a tough place, it’s definitely a boost.’’
Bradley Beal added 27 points for the Wizards, who are now 19-7 when all five starters score in double figures.
Superstar James shook off the eye injury suffered Friday night to score 24 points, grab 11 rebounds, and hand out eight assists.
“I haven’t been in too much light the last 24 hours, I mean all day since I got home last night and today I stayed away from it because it was bothering me a little bit too much,’’ said James, who suffered a corneal abrasion to his right eye.
“But I kind of warmed up to it, so that’s a good sign.’’
James started Saturday’s contest wearing plastic goggles but took them off with about three minutes left in the first quarter.
James needed seven assists to pass Maurice Cheeks (7,392) for 12th place in NBA history, which he reached with his first assist in the fourth quarter.
Elsewhere, Jamal Crawford came off the bench to score a game-high 28 points and power the Los Angeles Clippers over Utah 108-95.
The Clippers improved to 44-30, moving within one-half game of the Jazz (44-29) for fourth place in the Western Conference and clinching a playoff berth for the sixth season in a row.
The teams would be first-round playoff foes if they keep their spots with the superior record conveying a home-court edge in the series.
French center Rudy Gobert scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Jazz, who lost to the Clippers for the third time in four meetings so far this season and the 18th time in the team’s past 20 meetings.
Gobert also stretched his streak of games with at least one blocked shot to 41.
Blake Griffin had 15 points, Chris Paul added 14 and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 15 rebounds for the Clippers. Joe Johnson came off the bench to score 17 for the Jazz.