After rough weekend, Wizards try to cool off Cavs

Frustration is setting in for the Washington Wizards, who carry a two-game skid into Monday’s matchup against the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Wizards have lost last two games in agonizing fashion. One night after blowing a 20-point lead in a 124-116 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Washington relinquished a 23-point lead in a 125-123 loss to the short-handed Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

The Wizards are the first NBA team in the last 25 seasons to lose on consecutive days after being up by 20 or more points in each.

Saturday’s loss was even more perplexing because Brooklyn played without injured starters Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons.

“What can I say?” Washington forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “It’s very similar games (with Friday’s loss), right? (The Nets) played together, stayed together throughout everything. And not that we didn’t give our all, not that we didn’t play hard — just some stupid mistakes maybe. And, again, it slipped out of our hands.”

Washington will look to regroup against Cleveland, which is seeking its first three-game winning streak since early January. The Cavaliers, who have won four of their last six games, are playing the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Indiana Pacers 122-103 on Sunday.

All of Cleveland’s starters – Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen – scored in double figures in the victory.

Okoro had a season-high 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including three 3-pointers. The third-year pro has averaged 16 points over the past two games.

“We know you can depend on him and his work ethic,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We know that he’s going to do whatever he can to help the team every single night. Now you’re seeing the confidence and belief in himself.”

Cleveland has won its last two meetings against Washington, including a 117-107 overtime victory on Oct. 23.

Reserve point guard Ricky Rubio missed the early-season contest due to a left knee injury, but he’s now serving a key role on the Cavaliers’ second unit.

Rubio, who has missed a total of 44 games this season while recovering from ACL surgery, tallied seven points and nine assists in Sunday’s win over Indiana.

“Ricky’s the engine to that second unit,” Cleveland point guard Darius Garland said. “I’m happy to have him back out there.”

Cleveland could be facing a short-handed Washington team if star Bradley Beal is unable to play. Beal was held out of Saturday’s loss to Brooklyn due to left foot soreness and is listed as questionable for Monday’s contest.

Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma has already been ruled out for the matchup with a sprained left ankle. Kuzma, averaging 21.3 points and 7.6 rebounds, played just 11 minutes against Brooklyn before leaving in the second quarter.

Kuzma’s absence will likely result in more playing time for third-year pro Deni Avdija, who is averaging 8.8 points and 6.2 rebounds over his last five games.

Avdija is eager to get back on the floor following the past two losses. The 6-foot-9 forward was one of the last players to leave the court after Saturday’s loss to Brooklyn.

“Tonight I’m going to think about this a lot,” Avdija said. “I don’t like losing games like that. It cannot happen. It cannot happen again.”


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