Cavaliers Edge Pesky Wizards, Take 3-0 LeadDetroit just swept Orlando without looking overly impressive for most of the series--and the Cleveland Cavaliers are three quarters of the way toward matching that feat against the Washington Wizards. LeBron James had 30 points, nine assists and six rebounds as the Cavs beat the Wizards 98-92 in Washington. Antawn Jamison tried to singlehandedly make up for the absence of injured All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler but his 38 points (on 15-27 shooting) and 11 rebounds were not quite enough to stave off defeat. Like the Pistons, Cleveland managed to get double figure scoring performances from each member of the starting lineup.
The Cavaliers cruised to a 61-44 halftime lead but squandered all of their advantage during the third quarter, allowing the Wizards to tie the score at 65. The Wizards outscored the Cavs 31-16 in the third quarter, with Jamison doing most of the damage (17 points). Cleveland built a 77-70 lead late in that period but then fell asleep at the switch again, letting the Wizards tie the score at 81 with 9:06 left in the fourth quarter. Washington Coach Eddie Jordan has apparently decided to sink or swim with his starters: Antonio Daniels (48), Jamison (45) and Jarvis Hayes (40) each played at least 40 minutes, while Darius Songaila (24) was the only Washington reserve who received significant playing time. The Wizards made it a one possession game (93-90 Cleveland) with :37 left, but James drove to the hoop and then passed to Sasha Pavlovic for a huge three pointer to put the Cavs up six. James then added two free throws before Daniels made an inconsequential layup at the buzzer.
It is always difficult to close out a series, particularly on someone else's court. Game four on Monday will be a nice little test of how serious the Cavaliers are about this year's playoffs. Tough battles loom in the upcoming rounds, so the Cavaliers need to dispatch Washington and give James' injured ankle the maximum amount of rest before round two begins.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:38 AM