Cavs 105, Wizards 88 --Perhaps the most complete game played by the Cavs since the trade and quite a stepping stone as they move onto the next round. If losing Game 5 because their offense shut down was the catalyst to get the offense to move the ball like this then it was more than worth it. Watching the Cavs operate with the ball tonight was like watching the Lakers and the Spurs and I am being dead serious there. But it was combined with some excellent defense, which I will discuss in a moment. This is the type of confidence the Cavs had on the road in the playoffs last year. We'll see if it lasts. --This was LeBron's best game of the postseason. Not only was he leading the way in getting the ball moving -- he took just two shots in the first quarter -- but he was the emotional leader too. After he was hit in the face and the groin in the end of the third quarter, he looked like a general in the timeout before the fourth. He was marching up and down while Mike Brown was huddled with the coaches and he was yelling at his teammates to keep up the defense and finish the Wizards off. He was upset that Antonio Daniels was allowed to get the dunk at the end of the third. Then you consider his stat line: 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists with two steals and a blocks and, ahem, one turnover. A superior effort. To see him lead and play like this, you just understand where it all comes from. The Nike money, the other teams dreaming of 2010, all the praise. To watch him grow from when he was an 18 year old just figuring this out to the sort of all around performance he gave in this game has been special for Cavs fans. --Wally Szczerbiak has been due to have this sort of game for about a month. He said tonight this was the worst shooting slump of his career. Who knows if it will last, but it did remind all of Donyell Marshall's performance in Game 6 at New Jersey last year. What was impressive about him and Daniel Gibson tonight is they often didn't settle for the 3-pointer, the drove the ball a great deal too. That's how the Cavs ended up with 29 assists and just seven turnovers. Gibson was tremendous in handling the ball and Delonte West, in case anyone didn't notice, had 15 assists in the last two games. Both of them shot 50 percent from 3-point range in the series, which was huge. Last Sunday I wrote a piece about how the Cavs had to really watch West and Gibson in these playoffs to decide how large of a commitment they needed to make in the offseason as both are free agents. This was after Game 2, when they'd been awful. Play no attention to the headline, it doesn't convey the story's real topic. Both have made a strong case in the four games since. --Mike Brown and the coaching staff get points tonight for making some fixes in the offense, especially with where the 3-point shooters were positioned. Washington had a hard time finding them after really doing a good job in Game 5 of protecting the corners because they knew Gibson and West would always be there. --The Cavs defense in this series may have been overlooked a bit since there were three blowouts. They ended up giving up just 92 points a game, four times holding the Wizards to 88 points or less, and just 43 percent shooting. Tonight after the first quarter they really cut down the Wizards' drive-and-kicks. By using crisper rotations, the Cavs forced lots of late shot clock shots and many were low percentage. Also, double teams on Caron Butler were effective. --Also maybe overlooked in the series was Joe Smith, who is moving on to the second round for the first time in his 13-year career. Or as LeBron said: "When he got to the league, I was like nine years old and I had just started playing basketball." Smith had eight points and five rebounds and he averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in the series. His mid-range jumper has been off for the last few weeks, but he sure did come up with a lot of loose balls. --After all the talk about the officiating in the series, the Cavs were called for 139 fouls, the Wizards 137. The Cavs shot 175 free throws, the Wizards shot 174.
Cavs: Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, LeBron James, Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Wizards: Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood
Officials Steve Javie, Ken Mauer, Tom Washington....Javie and Mauer both are known for taking over games and are not afraid to dole out punishment. Mauer does not mind the camera on him and Javie is known for having a short fuse. Washington is a total pro, lower key. All three are lead officials during the regular season.
LeBron on the Darius Songaila suspension: "It was something that wasn't basketball related. They asked me if I thought it was intentional or if I had anything with Songaila in the past. Was it intentional by him? I don't know if it was intentional or not. (Will suspension clean things up?) I'm not sure if that was their intentional, we're going to play basketball. It's going to be physical, it should be physical. But at the same time you have to draw a line what's physical and what's not, what's not basketball-related plays."
Eddie Jordan: "Darius was very important to us, his numbers may not speak volumes but his play does. I stood my ground and said what I had to say and I'm not going to fight the league or the officials."
NBA Vice President Stu Jackson: "Following the game, the next day we conducted an investigation that included interviewing both of the players involved and also taking input from the officials on the floor. After that, we reviewed the video and then ultimately gathered all of the information and made a decision...In viewing this many times, we do feel that this was intentional contact."
--Jordan said Andray Blatche will get extended minutes. He has been inconsistent in this series but at times has played very well. --Expect the Cavs to make some adjustments with their offensive sets, they may move Daniel Gibson and Delonte West around so it is harder for the Wizards to stay attached to them. --Sasha Pavlovic probably will play. You have to expect some rust. --Caron Butler played great in Game 5, but a big reason was because his jumper was going. He actuall started feeling it at the end of game 4. He was just 1-of-9 on 3-pointers in the series and he hit 4-of-8 and Game 5. I expect the Cavs to double team him closer to the basket, but they will live with him shooting outside shots. With double teams on him, though, Antawn Jamison may get open looks. --The Cavs have had some success in the last few games with LeBron catching the ball on the move after it reaches the halfcourt in transition, usually though a dribble hand off at the top of the key. This is actually a Wizards-style play. I wouldn't be surprised to see more of it. --Look for Zydrunas Ilgauskas to get the ball early to apply pressure on Brendan Haywood.
Halftime -- Cavs 56, Wizards 48
--This game is being played at the Wizards pace, but the Cavs are executing better on offense. They have 17 assists on 23 baskets, which is remarkable for them. Daniel Gibson and Wally Szczerbiak's ability to hit the outside shot has had a major impact on the game. LeBron is also distributing very well, he has seven assists with six rebounds and 10 points. --The reason the Cavs were able to surge into the lead, though, was they finally got some stops on defense. The Wizards missed some shots, like the Cavs surely will in the second half, but the jumpers were more contested and they repeatedly made them wait until late in the shot clock. The Cavs gave up just 17 points in the second quarter after 31 in the first. --It seemed to me like Gibson may have tweaked his right ankle on the last play of the half. We'll have to see if that affects him at all, he is just now getting back a rhythm after that right high ankle sprain. --The Cavs have changed up on Butler, using LeBron on him a lot more and lots of double teams. He's only got five points. Jamison has gotten some looks as a result and he had 16 points, whic is good, but he's also taken 14 shots. The Cavs will live with some of that, they have decided. --It's obvious the officials are giving no leeway tonight. Already two very quick technicals, including the one on LeBron. All parties will have to keep their cool in what promises to be a tight second half. You have to figure this is going to come right down to it again.
Postgame Stars LeBron, 27 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists Gibson, 22 points Szczerbiak, 26 points Jamison, 23 points, 15 rebounds
Quotes Mike Brown: "Terrific, terrific, terrific, terrific, terrific performance by our guy, LeBron. Our guys had a close it out mentality." LeBron: "Cleveland is advancing. That speaks louder than me saying anything about the fans here or DeShawn Stevenson. It was a gruesome series, there were a lot of things going on in this series besides basketball and it was fun." Eddie Jordan: ""He's a load, man. He puts so much pressure on your defense if you got support people to make shots."