WASHINGTON — Just in case there were any questions about Eastern Conference supremacy, LeBron James poured in 57 points — the second-highest total of his career and an NBA-best this season — to help the Cleveland Cavaliers end a four-game losing skid by beating the Washington Wizards, 130-122, Friday night.
James hadn’t scored this much since getting a career-high 61 for the Miami Heat on March 3, 2014, against the Charlotte Hornets. And the four-time league MVP did it efficiently Friday, making 23 of 34 field-goal tries and all nine free throws, while adding 11 rebounds and seven assists.
James did it with style, too. He hurdled over a seated Bradley Beal while dribbling, swatted a shot by John Wall off the backboard, and looked for a camera to wag both index fingers in the midst of a three-point play.
James didn’t need much help, but teammates Derrick Rose (20 points) and Jae Crowder (17) each managed to top their season highs before the third quarter was done. Cleveland finally looked like a team that has been to the NBA Finals three consecutive years, thanks in large part to James.
James scored eight of 10 points for Cleveland during one early stretch and closed the first quarter with 15 points and 6-for-7 shooting. Rose also went 6-for-7 in the period, scoring 13, as the visitors went up 42-36. There was All-Star Game-caliber defense — which is to say, none whatsoever — by both teams in that period. The Cavs shot 77.3 percent, the Wizards 66.7. This was more of the same old problem for Washington, which had allowed 107 points over the final three quarters of its previous outing, when it wasted a 22-point lead and lost to the Phoenix Suns. By halftime, Cleveland’s lead was 74-66 on 66 percent shooting.
James already was at 24 points, with Rose at 18. It was 102-93 heading into the fourth.