Wizards 108, Cavs 72
--The Cavs that you watched for six months didn't just disappear, which you perhaps might have thought after Game 2. They are still very capable of losing their minds on offense and playing extremely passive on the road. Considering the two steps forward, one step back nature of the regular season it was perfect irony that the Cavs backed up their largest playoff win in franchise history with their most lopsided loss. Par for the course. --I don't think you can take too many trends out of this game. The Wizards double teamed LeBron James far from the basket and neither he nor his teammates nor Mike Brown reacted well at all to it. It's not like he hasn't seen that defense before, so why they kept giving him the ball on the outside to let the Wizards execute their plan was a little beyond me. Again, though, we've seen it before. Who needs hard fouls, when LeBron doesn't get anywhere near the basket? The Wizards fed off all the resulting turnovers and long jumpers for easy baskets and that combined with almost all of their players getting going shooting the ball for a blowout. I expected this series to go seven games and I expect there to be more momentum swings like this. Mike Brown did a great job with changes in Game 2, Eddie Jordan came back and one-upped him in Game 3 so now let's see who is better on Sunday. --It was a fun night for the Wizards fans and for DeShawn Stevenson, who finally hit a few shots. To make the story better, it happened with Soulja Boy sitting in the front row. By the way, what a demonstration of pop culture. LeBron made a joking comment about Stevenson last month and mentioned Soulja Boy, who apparently couldn't even name you all the NBA teams, and he can't pass up the marketing chances to show up and get involved. And it was, fun. But don't look at it as anything more than just a sidelight. Let me just say one thing, the Soulja kid was the only one I saw wearing a Stevenson jersey other than Stevenson himself tonight. But the Wizards fans should boo LeBron and chant "overrated," too, it makes the rivalry more intense. --The Wizards said Gilbert Arenas has a pinched nerve in his knee, but that he should play Sunday. I'm not sure how much longer Gil is going to keep pounding that knee, which obviously is not close to being right. We'll see what happens there. --It seems like Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels went back and watched film on how they have torched the Cavs in the past. They did it with aggressive drives, which the Cavs have struggled to defend. Expect to see more of that from both the rest of the way. --Remember how the trade guys were so great in Game 2. Well, Delonte West had five points and four turnovers, Ben Wallace played just 16 minutes, Joe Smith fouled out in 16 minutes, and Wally Szczerbiak was 3-of-9 and got eaten up by Butler. Check back next game for further progress. --The Wizards do this cool thing where they honor injured troops from Iraq who are recovering at nearby Walter Reed hospital. But while they were on the scoreboard tonight, one of the soldiers took off his prosthetic leg, poured beer into it and started drinking out of it. Um, it was quite disturbing to me.
Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Wiz: Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood
Officials Jim Clark, Eddie F. Rush, Sean Corbin. Of the three, Corbin has the quickest trigger finger, he is not liked in Detroit for all the techs he's called on Rasheed Wallace over the years.
--Eddie Jordan is playing some games, he said that Antonio Daniels would start at point guard but it appears he submitted a lineup with Arenas in there. The Cavs actually suspected this for the las t couple days, the Wiz are looking for momentum and this is a way to shake things up. It will be interesting to see if Jordan extends Gilbert's minutes now that he'll probably be starting both halves. I expect LeBron to be on him much of the time. --Caron Butler is vowing to have a better game on Szczerbiak and the Wizards are vowing to move the ball better on offense, which indeed would help against how the Cavs play. They are due to hit some shots, but the Cavs are preaching poise on the road. --We'll see if the Cavs can continue to take care of the ball. They have just 19 turnovers in the first two games and it has kept Washington out of fastbreaks. There will be extra pressure tonight and they will be out of their comfort level, so this will be a test. Especially for West and Daniel Gibson. --Supposedly this game is not sold out, but I still expected a good crowd. It was reasonably lame in the playoffs the last two years but when I was here a month ago the crowd was very much into the game. The Cavs have not played well on the road since the trade, but they played very well in Philly last week. --David Stern is at the game and he met with the media a few minutes ago. He said he watched a bunch of replays on the Haywood foul on LeBron, he thought it was the right call to eject him and he didn't have a problem with him not being suspended. This is no surprise, of course he is going to back up his office's decisions. --How many time will we hear the Soulja Boy song tonight? My guess is quite a few.
Halftime -- Wizards 49, Cavs 33 --As would be expected to a degree, the tables have turned a little so far. The Wizards are playing with a lot of energy and the Cavs are playing tentative. When the Cavs have had the ball, the Wizards have tried to extend their defense a little and force pressure on the outside and the Cavs have not handled it well, especially Delonte West and Daniel Gibson. They already have 15 turnovers and actually I think the stats crew may have missed one or two. It has only cost them 18 points, which is actually remarkable because it could be worse. When the Cavs have gotten into their offense they've gotten good shots, but it hasn't happened that much. They had just four points in the paint in the second quarter and LeBron had just one basket, a fadeaway jumper. The Wizards, meanwhile had 30 points in the paint. Obviously, they will need to get some poise back to have any chance. --The Cavs played some pretty decent defense early on, they contested some shots and forced the Wizards outside. But as is their custom, without much offensive mojo they let down on the defensive end. That and the Wiz were due to make some shots. They are going to have a game or two or maybe more in this series when their offense is clicking and this is looking like it is going to be one of them. --Caron Butler is attacking more off the dribble, which is what he probably should've been doing all along against Wally Szczerbiak. The defenders are therefore giving him more space and he's going to his pull-up game. He's an excellent player and he's showing it tonight. I expect LeBron to be on him in the second half for stretches. The reason is because we may have seen the last of Arenas for tonight. He was limping badly on that bad knee and it is obvious that he isn't right and maybe shouldn't be playing at all. --The Wizards' second unit, especially Antonio Daniels, Roger Mason and Andray Blatche, outplayed the Cavs reserves. Again, it felt like an energy issue. Devin Brown and Anderson Varejao played out of control. Daniels has been effective with dribble penetration especially.
Stars Caron Butler, 14 points, four assists Roger Mason, 18 points DeShawn Stevenson, 19 points LeBron, 22 points, seven rebounds
Quotes Mike Brown: " "They were the aggressors, they came out with the right mindset. You have to take care of the ball on the road if you want to win in a hostile environment." LeBron: "They caught us off guard at times and made some adjustments that we weren't ready for. We have to better prepare ourselves mentally." Jordan: "We read them the riot act after Game 2 in Cleveland and the next two days we told them out great they were. It is risky this late in the season, but you have to lay it on the table."
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