CLEVELAND - LeBron James had already proven he could play in the NBA. Now he has proof he can win.
Cleveland's rookie star got his first win as a pro Saturday night and the Cavaliers snapped a five-game losing streak to open the season with a 111-98 win over the Washington Wizards.
"It feels good," said James, who had 17 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 45 minutes. "We came together as a team. That's what we need every night."
Darius Miles and Ricky Davis scored 26 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who started the season 0-5.
Davis scored 23 in the second half for Cleveland, which used a 13-2 burst midway through the fourth quarter to separate from Washington and then did just enough down the stretch to hold off the Wizards.
"It's a load off everybody's shoulders, the players, the organization, everybody," Cavs coach Paul Silas said. "I didn't think we'd got 0-for-82 but to get the first win is pretty gratifying."
After losing by one point at Indiana on Friday, the Cavs looked like a different team, executing their halfcourt offense and playing with intensity on defense - something that had been missing in their first five games.
"It's a big first step for us," said Carlos Boozer, a Juneau-Douglas High School alumnus who had 19 points and eight rebounds. "Now we got it."
For the second straight night, backup center DeSagana Diop came up big for Cleveland. The 7-footer had four rebounds and five blocks in 18 minutes, forcing Cavs coach Paul Silas to leave starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the bench for all but four minutes of the second half.
"We had to win this game," said Diop, an overweight benchwarmer in his first two seasons with Cleveland.
Rookie Jarvis Hayes and Gilbert Arenas had 22 points each and Larry Hughes had 20 to pace the Wizards, who were within 81-78 with 9:00 remaining.
But that's when Miles, who played his best all-around game since joining Cleveland before last season, took over. The 22-year-old scored eight straight points as the Cavaliers opened a 94-80 lead with 5:13 left on a putback by James.
"He wasn't going to let us lose," Silas said. "I've never seem him play like that."
On Friday night, Miles made a defensive lapse - double-teaming Jermaine O'Neal when he was told not to - in the final minute that helped cost the Cavaliers a win.
He made up for it by matching his career-high in points and adding seven assists and six rebounds.
"I messed up last night," Miles said. "I didn't do what Coach Silas said."
Hayes hit a 3-pointer with 2:06 left as the Wizards pulled within 99-92, but James sealed Cleveland's first win this season with a steal and monster slam with 1:01 left.
"I tried to take off from the free-throw line," James said. "But I think I would have walked."
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