WASHINGTON — LeBron James could not replicate the 57 points he scored earlier this season against the Washington Wizards.
The Cleveland Cavaliers star had no issue coming up with a winning formula, however. The scariest part for upcoming opponents? The four-time Most Valuable Player does not see a dip in his level of play coming anytime soon.
James registered his fourth triple-double in five games with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists as the streaking Cavaliers beat the Wizards 106-99 on Sunday night.
Cleveland (23-9) has won 18 of 19 games, including each of the past five.
James claimed this outing was not particularly impressive. Those watching him pick apart Washington’s defense might think otherwise. Cleveland shot 14 of 34 from beyond the arc.
He also scored when needed. His dazzling spin layup and subsequent free throw for a three-point play gave Cleveland its largest lead at 103-94 with 3:02 remaining.
“The game is just very, very slow to me right now,” James said. “I’m playing the game at a snail’s pace and I’m able to see everything and see things happen before they happen. Put the ball on time, on target. ... To have teammates that complement my passing is the ultimate dream for a guy like myself.”
Kevin Love led the Cavaliers with 25 points, while Jeff Green had 15.
In Cleveland’s 130-122 win at Washington on Nov. 3, James dazzled with 57 points, the second-most he has scored in any game during his 15-year NBA career.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks joked pregame that holding James to 56 was the goal. James didn’t come close to that total while shooting 8-for-23, but he certainly controlled the action.
“We missed some shots, but they made some big shots, some timely shots off LeBron’s passes. You’re going to somehow live with that,” Brooks said. “Last game we forced him to make tough shots. He did that. This game we forced him to make some passes and they made shots for him.”
Bradley Beal scored 27 points and John Wall had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who had won two in a row. Washington (16-14) made 12 3-pointers but only scored 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Little separated the Eastern Conference contenders for much of the game as the teams were tied at the end of the second and third quarters. James’ 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter put the Cavaliers in front for good and sparked an 8-0 run. Green’s three-point play capped the surge as Cleveland led 95-89 with 6:55 remaining.
“It was a crazy game, you know, back and forth,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “The real thing, I’m really happy about is our defense in the second half, holding them to 39 points in the second half is really good; 16 in the fourth.”
Mike Scott had 19 points off the bench for the Wizards. He opened the third quarter with the starters in place of Markieff Morris, who had an X-ray after being hit in the neck during the first half. Morris returned and finished with 10 points.
Wizards starting forward Otto Porter Jr. did not play after injuring his hip in Friday’s 100-91 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Kelly Oubre Jr. replaced Porter and had 11 points.
With the Wizards short-handed on the perimeter, Beal played the opening 20 minutes in the first half and 43 overall. Washington’s leading scorer scored nine in the second quarter and 10 in the third as the teams entered the final period tied at 83. He had two points in the fourth on 1 of 6 shooting as the Wizards’ offense dried up late.
“Shots just didn’t go in,” Beal said. “I feel like there were a lot of good looks, a lot of open 3s, a lot of easy ones at the rim. A few turnovers that hurt us. All in all, we feel like we had good shots, they just didn’t drop.”
NOTES: Cleveland guard Dwyane Wade (rest) did not play. ... With the Cavaliers playing steps away from the White House, F LeBron James chose to wear mismatched basketball shoes during the game. One black, one white and each with the word “equality” stitched on the back of the shoe. “Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men, as women, black or white or Hispanic. It doesn’t matter your race or whatever the case may be. This is a beautiful country. We’re never going to let one person dictate how beautiful and how powerful we are.” ... Wizards PG John Wall passed Phil Chenier (9,778 from 1971-80) to move into sixth place on Washington’s all-time scoring list. ... Cleveland plays at Milwaukee on Tuesday. The Cavaliers are 2-0 against the Bucks this season, including a 124-119 win on Nov. 7. ... Washington closes outs its four-game homestand Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans.