CLEVELAND – Rookie John Wall missed his first nine shots before showing the skills that made him the top overall pick in this year's NBA draft, pacing the Washington Wizards to a 97-83 preseason win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.
For most of three quarters, Wall looked like your average first-year pro.
After scoring 21 in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Dallas, Wall didn't get his first basket until there was just 3:15 left in the third quarter. He hit a driving layup off a fast break, something he's certain to do hundreds of times this season.
From there on, he hardly missed.
Wall scored 12 points in a span of 8:26, and finished with nine assists in 37 minutes before coach Flip Saunders pulled him with 6:49 to play and the Wizards comfortably ahead.
Yi Jianlian scored 16 points and Gilbert Arenas 13 for Washington.
J.J. Hickson scored 16, Daniel "Boobie" Gibson 10 and Ryan Hollins had 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers, still finding their way without superstar LeBron James and in new coach Byron Scott's uptempo offense. Cleveland had 26 turnovers and shot only 35 percent.
Wall displayed some of the jaw-dropping speed that convinced the Wizards he can be the face of their franchise and the one to bring them back following an embarrassing 26-56 season marked by Arenas' 50-game suspension for a felony gun conviction.
With the third quarter winding down, Wall took the inbounds pass, darted past several Cavaliers and streaked down the lane for a layup in the final second. In the fourth, Wall converted a three-point play underneath that helped the Wizards, who led 61-53 after three, open a 74-57 lead.
The Cavs were again without starting point guard Mo Williams, who has been out since the beginning of training camp with a groin injury. Scott also decided to rest forward Antawn Jamison so he could get a look at some of his other big men.
Wall's offensive repertoire tends to overshadow what he can do defensively. However, he had four steals in his first game at Dallas and Saunders has been impressed with the point guard's relentless attitude on defense.
"He gets after it," Saunders said. "It's not for lack of effort. He's got great length. He's not him yet, but he has the size of Gary Payton. He's got the wing span and the quickness to be like Gary was, to be able to pressure and go after you defensively.
"We're hoping that's something he can build on."
Saunders has also been impressed by Wall's composure and poise at such a tender age. He has been everything the Wizards hoped.
"I don't think anyone expected his leadership ability," Saunders said. "He's a great leader and he has a very high basketball intelligence of understanding what we want to do. He understands our offense as well or better than anybody."
NOTES: Cavaliers F Anderson Varejao returned after being excused following his grandfather's death in Brazil. Varejao is still slowed by a sprained ankle suffered this summer while preparing for the world championship and will be sidelined for another week. ... Cleveland plays its next two preseason games on the road in Houston and Dallas. ... Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers attended the game.