It's All Gooden! Cavaliers Take 2-0 Lead Over WizardsDrew Gooden tied his playoff career-high with 24 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Washington Wizards 109-102 at Quicken Loans Arena in game two of their first round series. He scored 15 points in the second quarter alone, including 11 in the final 3:36 of the period. Gooden also had 14 rebounds, spearheading Cleveland's 56-38 advantage on the glass; the 56 rebounds tied a franchise playoff high. LeBron James, playing despite a grade two ankle sprain that he suffered in game one, contributed 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He was noticeably more aggressive in the second half, an excellent sign for the Cavaliers as the series shifts to Washington for the next two games. Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 31 points and 10 rebounds but he received little help from the other four Washington starters. Strong efforts off of the bench by Brendan Haywood (13 points, 5-6 shooting), Darius Songaila (13 points) and Roger Mason (10 points) kept the Wizards in the game; Washington's reserves outscored Cleveland's 38-14.
Cleveland started the game very sluggishly and soon fell behind 11-7. James appeared to be very tentative and passive; he did not have a point, rebound or assist for the first 7:55 and finished the quarter with just five points and one assist on 2-6 shooting (the last miss was a half court fling at the buzzer). Even with James struggling the Cavaliers managed to even the score at 23, largely on the strength of seven offensive rebounds.
Washington built a seven point second quarter lead before Gooden took over and rescued the struggling Cavaliers. He shot 6-6 from the field, scoring 15 points and grabbing four rebounds, almost singlehandedly pushing Cleveland in front, 53-48, by halftime. Gooden had 19 points and seven rebounds in the first half, compensating for a quiet nine points, three assists and one rebound from James, who seemed hesitant to jump for most of the first half; his only rebound basically fell into his lap. James began the third quarter much more aggressively, getting some rebounds and driving to the hoop but he only made one of his five shots in the period. Still, the Cavaliers built a 75-63 lead by the end of the quarter with a balanced attack, as each of the starters scored between three and six points; meanwhile, the Wizards shot an abysmal 6-24 (.250) from the field, a total that would have been much worse without Haywood's 3-3 effort. Although James did not shoot well, he made the signature play of the game at the 2:48 mark when he caught Songaila from behind and blocked his layup attempt. That was the first real indication that James felt confident about running and jumping. The play was reminiscent of similar efforts by Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Tayshaun Prince and Kobe Bryant, the four greatest players I have seen at coming up from behind and denying seemingly easy fast break layups.
James had 13 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers maintained a comfortable lead for most of the period. They were ahead 101-92 with :51.8 left. Antonio Daniels made two free throws for the Wizards and then Eric Snow made a terrible inbounds pass that Jarvis Hayes picked off. That resulted in a Jamison three pointer and suddenly Cleveland was only up 101-97 with :39.5 left. What should have been a routine win became a little dicey, but the Cavaliers made enough free throws down the stretch to prevail. After the game, James said of Snow's pass, "We got careless. It was a careless play between me and E. Snow, so we take the credit for that. Instead of just getting the ball in we went for the home run, which is careless, and those guys made us pay for it with a three pointer. We're a better team than that but at the end of the day we are up 2-0." Later in his postgame remarks, James declared, "We are not overconfident now," insisting that the team is not thinking about getting a sweep but is just focusing on playing well one game at a time.
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said, "Our guys played well tonight," but noted that his team's downfall was their inability to make shots. He hopes and expects that his players will shoot better during the next two games in Washington.
Notes From Courtside:
In his pregame standup, Cleveland Coach Mike Brown mentioned two points of emphasis that he stressed to his team in the wake of their game one victory: "We weren't always sharp with our pick and roll coverage...and we have to make sure that we keep moving the ball and keep moving bodies (on offense)." He also stated that Cleveland's medical staff had not placed any restrictions on the amount of minutes that James could play; that turned out to be an understatement, as James played a game-high 45 minutes.
James spoke to the media before the game in the locker room after receiving treatment for his ankle. He admitted that the ankle still hurt and said that he would use an elastic band at halftime and whenever he sat on the bench in order to keep the ankle loose (since he only sat out three minutes, that did not prove to be a big factor).
You could assemble a pretty good vintage 70s roster from the people in the arena for game two, starting with Austin Carr (currently a Cavs broadcaster), Phil Chenier (currently a Wizards broadcaster) and Phil Hubbard (currently a Wizards assistant coach). Dr. Jack Ramsay, Coach of the 1977 NBA Champion Portland TrailBlazers, was on hand as well, covering the game for NBA TV.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:59 AM