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LeBron goes West, Cavs go home up 3-1

By admin Published: April 27, 2008

Cavs 100, Wizards 97 --By my count, this game was the sixth time LeBron James has beaten the Wizards with a pass or a shot in the final minute of a playoff game. His short jumper in Game 3 in 2006, his baseline layup past Antawn Jamison in Game 5 the same year, his pass out of the double team to Larry Hughes, who passed to Damon Jones for the winner in Game 6 (hockey assist). Last year in Game 3 he hit Sasha Pavlovic out of a trap for a 3-point to clinch Game 3 here at the Verizon Center. Then this year his two shots in Game 1 and the pass to Delonte West today. Wizards are sick of this stuff. --In Game 3, Cavs were 2-of-16 from 3-point range, which made their handling of the double teams on LeBron seem weak. Today they were 13-of-28 (though that is a lot of 3s, man) with Delonte West and Daniel Gibson going 9-of-15. Major, major difference. --After the game, LeBron said DeShawn Stevenson hit him with a closed fist on the flagrant foul in the first half. I have since seen some photos that support that but it was not clear. Also, he seemed to go for the ball. I suspect the Cavs will push hard to have him to have the foul upgraded but it probably won't happen. Here is the thing, people who know DeShawn have told me they think he's crazy enough to attempt to go head hunting for LeBron in Game 5 if he thinks it is over just because of how personal this has all gotten. We'll see. --Seemed to be three emotions coming from folks at Verizon Center. One, they were frustrated they'd just lost another close game to the Cavs, who they are still sure they are better than. Two, they think LeBron is a cry baby for complaining about the fouls. Three, this series is over. --I am not sure Gilbert Arenas taking the final shot was the best move for the Wiz and Eddie Jordan said as much after the game. He thought he should've maybe used him as a decoy considering he has not made a 3-pointer since Game 1. Plus Caron Butler was hot at the moment. But I guess you've got to give the ball to the superstar in that spot and ask to make a play. That's what the Cavs did with LeBron and he passed. --A factor down the stretch was that LeBron had five fouls. That is why he pulled up for a 15-footer on the second to last possession because he was concerned about an offensive foul. The officials had already called him for two in the game. He was more prone to shoot jumpers, which is why he was not as effective in scoring in the fourth. Especially in the last three minutes after he got the fifth. --Earlier this season Daniel Gibson told me he'd never had a technical foul called on him in his life. Now, he's got two including one today after he shoved Brendan Haywood in the, ahem, man area. Boobie said that Haywood was hanging on the rim and sort of in his face if you know what I mean so he pushed them away. I've seen the replay and he's right. Haywood has had some good games in this series, but he's also been, um, staying over people in a disrespectful manner to quote LeBron. --A huge factor in this game was Joe Smith, who had more rebounds himself (8) than the entire Wizards bench. Plus he threw a great pick on Antawn Jamison to make sure Delonte West had shooting room on the final shot.
Pregame
Starting lineups
Cavs: Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Wizards: Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood
Officials Joey Crawford, Bill Spooner, Michael Smith. Joey Crawford, enough said.
--Arenas will start because he said he felt better in practice yesterday. That left knee of his is messed up but he's rested it a lot over the last five or six days. So he may be able to play just 10 minutes or he may be able to shoot well like he did in Game 1. Nobody knows, not even him. The Cavs said they are preparing themselves like he's going to play his 25 minutes. --The Cavs have vowed to be more ready for the Wizards' pressure today. Some of it just comes down to decision-making and some of it is aggressiveness. Frankly, they Cavs were not ready mentally to come in and play here in Game 3. Most playoff games here have not featured such an intense crowd or the vigor from the Wizards. So they'll probably have their difficulties at times, but there they promise a better mindset. --A key in this game will be the benches, I think. In Game 2, the Cavs was excellent and in Game 3 the Wizards were great. Antonio Daniels and Andray Blatche played their best games of the series while Daniel Gibson was a turnover machine, Joe Smith was a foul machine and Anderson Varejao didn't do much. The contribution from those guys is something to watch. --Before the game, LeBron seemed to be pretty focused to me. I think he's tired of hearing about Game 3, and he is surely tired about DeShawn Stevenson. He said everything has become way too commercial. Pat McManamon wrote about it in his blog if you want it. Frankly, I am just tired of the junk. It was fun, we in the media had fun with it, but this series is entering is guts and it is time to focus on basketball and not trash talk and rappers. LeBron sounded as if he was and I am sure DeShawn and the Wizards feel the same way. --The Cavs have decided to put away their blue uniforms, which have been a playoff standard for three years, and go with the wine. For whatever that is worth. LeBron said they hadn't played well in the blues all year. I guess he keeps track of that stuff.
Halftime -- Cavs 54, Wizards 44
--This is the reason the Cavs got themselves Ben Wallace, he had a large hand in changing the game in the second quarter. He has proven he can't do it every night anymore, but he can do it at times. When the Wizards were up by eight, both Wallace and Delonte West got very aggressive defensively and it flopped the momentum. The Cavs had eight fastbreak points in their 23-4 run and Wallace had seven rebounds. Also, the Wizards starting missing some shots. They were just 4-of-21 in the second quarter after shooting 80 percent in the first quarter...and only leading by four. --LeBron James' got fired up after Stevenson hit him with a flagrant foul. His energy level increased and the Cavs came with him. It is at these times when he takes over games that he becomes the transcendent player. In the Washington Post today, Stevenson said LeBron isn't the kind of player who keeps you up at night like Kobe. If LeBron has another second half like the first, I predict DeShawn won't sleep well tonight. He spent a lot on the outside in the early going but started driving in transition after the foul. --The Wizards were playing zone and keeping the ball from Zydrunas Ilgauskas early in the second quarter. They were doing an excellent job and the offense was stalling out. Mike Brown then went with a small lineup with Wallace at center and James at power forward and it started the turnaround. Brendan Haywood was unable to take advantage of Wallace and the Cavs defense picked up. Joe Smith later came in to balance it out more. --I refresh my idea about fining Anderson Varejao for each dribble. But I suspect he'll have an impactful play or two at the defensive end in this game. --The Cavs have 12 second-chance points, a huge factor in the game. They scored 54 points and only shot 43 percent in the first half. --The Cavs had 11 turnovers in the first half, which is still a lot. But it only cost them eight points, they were lucky it was not worse. On of the reasons is because the Cavs have stolen the ball right back about three times, at least twice by West. --Expect the Wizards to get hot from the floor again, but we'll see if the Cavs' defense keeps up. That is where the Cavs are winning the game right now.
Postgame
Stars LeBron, 34 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists West, 21 points, five assists Jamison, 23 points, 11 rebounds Butler, 19 points
Quotes Mike Brown: "Not only can he score, not only can he rebound, but he's got the ultimate trust in his teammates. That's why he's going to go down as the best player in this game." LeBron: If we were in the park where I grew up, something definitely would've happened (on the flagrant). I guess they want to hurt LeBron James this series. It isn't working.... Do I think they can (make a comeback)? No." Jamison: " "That's why he is LeBron James. It's just unfortunate for us."

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