Down by 12 points entering the final dozen minutes, the comeback-seeking Wizards stuck with one center during the entire fourth quarter. For the identity of the mystery big man, one must look way down Washington's roster.
Look way past starter Emeka Okafor, one of only two Wizards to reach double-digit scoring in the team's regular season opener. Past 6-foot-11 Jan Vesely, who played center in spots against Cleveland, but not this particular one. Seeing as Nene's foot injury remains troublesome and Kevin Seraphin did not even make the trip, look past the international big men as well.
Here's another hint: look up. Earl Barron, a 7-foot journeyman and the tallest member on Washington's roster, played throughout the entire fourth quarter while others sat. No, Wizards coach Randy Wittman was not throwing in the towel nor did he lose a bet (not that I know of anyway) by using the training camp long shot down the stretch.
The answer is simple: there was no reason for Wittman to turn elsewhere. Along with forwards Martell Webster and Chris Singleton, Barron helped key a 14-0 run that gave the Wizards a brief lead with eight minutes remaining before succumbing late in a 94-84 loss.
Barron's final line of eight points and eight rebounds in nearly 17 minutes is not the stuff of legends, but his effort and production during the fourth quarter - plus plenty of Twitter love - hinted at folk hero in the making. His spirited final quarter included three offensive boards, displaying a quality mid-range jumper and simply being a presence inside. For a team with only two active players 6-foot-10 or taller, that final trait is a worthy one indeed.
Not sure if there was anything more to Okafor sitting; he scored 10 points and led Washington with four blocked shots though the starters struggled offensively and the Anderson Varejao-led Cavs dominated the boards in the first half. Barron, who also made 4 of 6 shots from the field, certainly justified his minutes and surprise inclusion on the opening roster. After a solid preseason and helped by a walking wounded frontcourt, Barron outlasted Brian Cook and Shelvin Mack for the team's final roster spot.
History suggests it's unwise to expect this kind of production on a consistent basis from a 31-year-old making his NBA return after not being in the league the previous two seasons. Barron's NBA debut came during the 2005-06 season and yet Tuesday's contest was only game 113 on his personal resume, one that includes career averages of 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds.
Then again, until Nene and Seraphin return from their injuries, we can imagine Wittman not looking past Barron the next time a big man off the bench is required.
The answer is simple: there was no reason for Wittman to turn elsewhere. Along with forwards Martell Webster and Chris Singleton, Barron helped key a 14-0 run that gave the Wizards a brief lead with eight minutes remaining before falling to the Cavaliers 94-84.