Cavs 93, Wizards 86 --This was the type of game the Cavs like to play and often win. It was close most of the way and in the fourth quarter it was largely a halfcourt game with lots of bumping and bruising. This is not how every game will go, but some will. Ultimately, the Cavs won because they were at home and they had the best player on the floor. You know, like thousands of playoff games over the years. --The two baskets LeBron made in the stretch run that basically decided the game were very impressive for a couple of reasons. One, they were started by Daniel Gibson with LeBron coming off a weakside curl screen set by Zydrunas Ilgauskas. By putting LeBron way away from the ball, it makes double teaming and tilting harder. I was all set to give Mike Brown credit for this when after the game he said it was Eric Snow's idea. Snow, who is already starting his coaching career, brought it up in a coaches meeting earlier this week. At least, that is what we are told. Anyway, it worked. LeBron was just tremendous in that spot, it is a reminder of what all this hype is about. He has proved he can deliver in these times and that value is beyond limits as was proven today. --Delonte West did an excellent job on Gilbert Arenas late in the game. He really bodied him up, making sure he wanted to drive instead of shoot. Normally this is bad for the Cavs, but because Gilbert's knee isn't right it seemed to be an advantage today. Gilbert also said after the game that he was tired late and it did show. The Wizards tried to post him up a few times on West and the Cavs brought double teams, so they were effective defensively. --Antawn Jamison was tremendous today on the glass with 19 rebounds and really gave it to Ben Wallace, who didn't play much in the second half. He also had 23 points. But he took and missed lots of open shots, especially in the fourth quarter. The Cavs are going to have to evaluate that matchup, as I said I might try LeBron, because he is getting free on the outside too easy and he will not miss forever. I also thought Caron Butler didn't look right to me today, he is banged up. Figure both to play better in this series, especially now that the Wizards know the Cavs will be using Wally Szczerbiak on him. --I said all I needed to say at halftime about LeBron's antics. The Wizards admitted after the game they were trying to rough him up and it is understood that he'll want to go back at them. As for the talking -- and he did that DeShawn Stevenson hand/face thing or whatever -- that is not needed. But he did play tough and there is something to be said for that. --Zydrunas Ilgauskas was tremendous, especially early in the fourth quarter when LeBron was resting and he led an 8-1 run to get the lead. As for Anderson Varejao, though, someone must speak to him. He rebounded great today and had some good defensive plays, what he is supposed to do. But stop trying to make moves on offense. If he has an open jumper, then fine. If Mike Brown would've gone through with my idea from a month ago to fine him for each dribble he takes then you may have driven this out of him by now. --After the game, both Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson kept their mouths shut. Do not expect that to continue but do expect this to be a very long series with lots of ups and downs for both sides.
Starting lineups Wizards: Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood Cavs: Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Bob Delaney, Scott Foster, David Jones -- This is a very, very strong crew. All three of them act at chiefs during regular season games. Foster and Delaney are no nonsense and are not afraid to set a tone and hit guys with technicals
--LeBron James reaction before the game on his back: "I am ready to play." --It is so appropriate that the Cavs are going to use a brand new starting lineup for this game, really sums up the season. It is No. 22 in 83 games and the fifth different lineup they have shown the Wizards. My guess is Wally will get plenty of chances early but if he doesn't play well he won't t see time in the second half. --Mike Brown said several players will rotate on Gilbert Arenas, I think it will be more interesting on who defends Jamison. I believe the Cavs would do very well in this series playing LeBron for stretches at power forward, which would force some match advantages for the Cavs. --Z is a key play on offense for the Cavs. Haywood has improved, especially on defense. But the Cavs play much better when Z is an option. --Wallace has brought out the 'fro for the first time as a Cav. LeBron said the plan all along was to save it for the playoffs. --Eddie Jordan said the plan is for Arenas to get 25 minutes or so, but if it is close I don't see him sitting much. Also, Butler has been bothered by a knee injury so we'll see how effective he is. Knowing them both, I expect them to play hard and play well. --All the trash talk is a great story line for the media and I have enjoyed writing about it. But we have known these two teams don't like each other for years, the talk is nothing new. I expect this series to be a long series and the talk will be long forgotten 10 days from now when Games 5 and 6 roll around.
Halftime -- Cavs 46, Wizards 46 --Playoff basketball has started. The Cavs and Wizards have been at each other's throats the entire half. In my opinion, LeBron has been way too involved. He needs to cool down, he is the guy who says he doesn't need trash talk but he's been more active than anyone. After getting whacked twice in a row by Andray Blatche, LeBron hit him with an elbow after a foul in a play that I think may be turned into a flagrant foul by the NBA after this game. Then at the end of the half he got a technical foul for jumping up and into Brendan Haywood after he stood over him after an offensive foul. At the end of the half, LeBron also said something to DeShawn Stevenson as he walking off the floor. I believe Antawn Jamison and Z got into it as well. My point is, I just mentioned LeBron way too many times. He is the leader, but he's got to preach control, that is the way the Cavs play. --I was watching closely during the scrap at the end of the half, both coaching staffs built walls so that no one came off the bench, which is an automatic suspension. Also, you'll notice that Ben Wallace was the first guy to come to LeBron's side during the tussle, other than Mike Brown. I believe you will see more of this in this series. --As for the half, Gilbert Arenas made a giant impact on the game. He hit four 3-pointers and the Wiz went on an 18-4 run when he came in the game. But overall, the Wiz ran hot and cold on offense. They were at their best when they were running plays to get shots inside for Jamison and Haywood. Otherwise, they took lots of jumpers and they are going to run hot and cold on that front, sometimes they look great and other times they'll let a team come back from 11 down, as they did. --For the most part, I thought the Cavs offense was terrible early on. Way too much LeBron on the outside and they shot just 20 percent and had just four points in the paint in the first quarter. They were much better in the second, running some plays for Z (14 points) and for LeBron to get to the hoop. Also, they only have three turnovers, which has been huge to keep the Wizards out of fastbreaks. Still, they have shot just 36 percent and the game is tied. --Wallace is playing hard and he's made some good plays, but Jamison is swallowing him up on the glass. He beat him numerous times, also Wallace has not ventured out much to cover him on 3-pointers. This has got to be tightened up. --Wally Szczerbiak had a strong half, he missed a few open shots but he battled Caron Butler at the defensive end and he made a few baskets and drove strong to the hoop. --The rebounding was even in the half, that could be huge in the second, especially at the defensive end. --Haywood, Jamison, and LeBron all have technicals, one more and they'll be one. May be some baiting going on from both sides. Especially watch Haywood and Z. --Oh, and buckle up for this finish...and this series.
Stars LeBron, 32 points Z, 22 points, 11 rebounds Arenas, 24 points Jamison, 23 points, 19 rebounds
Quotes LeBron: "I didn't get rattled, emotions ran over just a little bit. My play speaks louder than me going out there and pushing somebody and talking trash...We're not the type of team that talks, but we're not going to back down either...I was built for this, I am not 6-9, 260 pounds to shoot jumpers all night. I go to the hole, I create contact. Don't ever think I'm the only one what feels that contact." Mike Brown: "He can't go in there and get hit across the face and not protect himself. He's got to go in there with attitude...I thought our guys did a nice job of keeping their composure and poise.It was a tough, physical game." Arenas: "With a play like LeBron made, he's hard to stop. There's really no answer for him. It's still Game 1 and you have to feel out your opponent." Stevenson: "I said what I said. There's no reason for us to keep talking. The series has already started. They won the first game, we still feel confident and we have to go out there and prove it."
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