Wizards aim for defensive improvement against Cavaliers

The Washington Wizards will look to tighten up their defense when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

The Wizards have lost four of their past five games while giving up 121 points or more in each of the losses. The lone victory in that stretch was a 115-99 home win over the Detroit Pistons.

On Wednesday, the Wizards dropped a 121-106 decision in Indiana. Washington trailed by just five points early in the third quarter before the Pacers went on a 24-4 run that effectively sealed the win.

"There was a point where we couldn't get stops," guard Bradley Beal said. "The whole second quarter and part of the third quarter hurt, too. We've got to defend better than what we did tonight."

The Wizards (2-5) are allowing 118.1 points per game, sixth worst in the NBA entering Thursday.

Beal's third 30-point performance of the season and Thomas Bryant's second 20-point, 10-rebound game of the campaign led Washington. C.J. Miles added 15 points.

The Wizards started hot, shooting 6 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening quarter, but a third-quarter cold streak was too much to overcome as they dropped their second straight road game.

"When we don't shoot the ball well, we get down on ourselves," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "We're not a team that doesn't play with effort, but we're a team that we have to play with that maximum effort no matter what. If you make a shot or miss a shot, you've got to get back and lock in and guard your man."

The young Cavaliers open a three-game road trip in Washington having lost three straight games.

Their latest defeat came after they threw a scare into the Boston Celtics, rallying from down 12 with 4:25 to play to within three with 1:33 left before Boston held on for a 119-113 win.

Six Cavaliers scored in double-figures on Tuesday -- led by Collin Sexton's 21-point effort, as he went 6-of-15 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from long-range.

Tristan Thompson added his sixth double-double in seven outings -- finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and a block. Kevin Love barely missed a sixth double-double of the year, adding 17 points, nine boards and two blocks. Cedi Osman and Jordan Clarkson tallied 12 points apiece.

"I love the fact that we're competing and we're in every game," Cavs general manger Koby Altman told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I want it to be that way. I want to go out there to compete and try to win as many games as we can with this group because those are meaningful reps for our young guys."

Thompson is averaging 16.9 points and 11.6 rebounds through seven games and is shooting 53.6 percent from the field.

One area coach John Beilein would like Cavaliers to work on coming off the loss to Boston is ball movement and making the right reads. They managed just seven assists in the first half versus Boston and rank 23rd in the NBA with 21.9 per game entering Thursday.

"I think the word would be an awareness that 'somebody is more open than I am, and then if I just pass it to him, maybe there's a closeout, we can drive or there's another guy open,'" Beilein said.

--Field Level Media