Jordan Crawford had a burst of offense midway through the fourth quarter that spurred the Washington Wizards to a 10-point lead.
Then he could only try to keep Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving from erasing it.
Irving led a Cleveland rally in the final minutes but came up just short as Washington held on for a 101-98 win Saturday night.
Crawford finished with 31 points, including 10 during a 14-5 run in the fourth quarter that gave the Wizards a 96-86 lead with 3:45 left.
Irving scored 20, including eight of the Cavaliers' nine points in the final 2½ minutes.
The final stretch was nerve-racking for Crawford, right up until Anthony Parker's 3-point attempt missed at the buzzer and the Wizards' six-game losing streak ended.
"You want to win it so bad," Crawford said. "The time's going slow, they're making runs, making big plays. I just wanted to get it over with."
Antawn Jamison scored 29 in his return to Washington but missed a 3-point attempt to tie the game with 35 seconds to play. It was Jamison's first appearance in the Verizon Center since being traded from the Wizards to Cleveland in February 2010.
"He had a hot hand tonight," Washington forward Trevor Booker said. "I think he wanted to come back and show the crowd that he still had it. He might've been mad that they traded him away or something."
Jamison said his return didn't carry any added emotions. He was more concerned with Cleveland's five-game losing streak.
"I don't see a sense of urgency," Jamison said. "I don't know if its getting tired or whatever, but we really have to play with a sense of urgency to get a win. Can't let this drag out even more."
The game featured the first matchup between the point guards who went No. 1 overall in the last two drafts — the rookie Irving and Washington's John Wall, who had 24 points and five assists.
Both point guards had highlight moments. Wall ended the third quarter by going the length of the court in 3.9 seconds for a buzzer-beating layup to tie the game at 78.
"I was just showing my track speed," Wall said.
In the fourth quarter, the battle turned to Crawford and Irving.
The Wizards held an 82-81 lead with about seven minutes to play before they went on their run — including two 3-pointers from Crawford — and took the 10-point lead.
Irving, who was back in the starting lineup a day after resting with an illness, then took control, and his layup with about a minute left cut Washington's lead to 100-97. Jamison had a chance to tie it on Cleveland's next possession, but his 3-pointer was off target.
Cleveland was still down three when Irving went to the line with 7 seconds left. Irving made the first free throw, but missed the second and McGee came down with the rebound.
After Wall made one of two free throws, Parker missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We definitely need to get back on the right track," Irving said. "It's definitely frustrating going game to game. Going down to the wire and you can't close it out. We just have to figure it out and try to get a win."
Jamison scored 15 points in the first quarter and Cleveland led 33-24 after one. The 33 points were the most Cleveland has scored in any opening quarter this season.
The Cavaliers led by as many as 10 in the second quarter, but Washington came back with a 15-4 run to erase the deficit midway through the quarter, and the teams stayed close the rest of the way.
"This was a game we made harder than we should've, but that's the learning process," Washington coach Randy Wittman said.
NOTES: Washington F Andray Blatche played for the first time since straining his left calf Jan. 28. He had one point, nine rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes. ... G Nick Young was out with a bruised right knee. ... Crawford tied his career high with five 3-pointers. ... Cleveland C Hollins made his first start of the season, and F Alonzo Gee got his fourth start.