In Battle for Paint, Haywood Has Ilgauskas Looking Blue
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Following Washington's win in Game 2 Tuesday night, most of the attention centered on the struggles of Cleveland's LeBron James, as well as the scoring of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. But one huge factor in the series has been Washington's ability to shut down Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Ilgauskas was Cleveland's second-leading scorer during the regular season (15.6 points per game) while shooting 50.6 percent, but in the first two games of the series he's been a non-factor. He scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting with six rebounds in Game 1 and had nine points and seven rebounds on 3-of-13 shooting in Game 2.
Ilgauskas, who averaged 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in four games against the Wizards during the regular season, has been neutralized by Brendan Haywood, whose length and energy seem to throw Ilgauskas off of his game.
Haywood has taken away one of Ilgauskas's favorite maneuvers -- setting up on the right block and spinning into the paint, where he releases a right-handed jump hook -- by aggressively attacking as Ilgauskas begins the move.
Also, Ilgauskas, one of the better jump-shooting centers in the league, has missed several open mid-range shots in the first two games, including two that were set up by nice passes from James Tuesday night.
Two of his three baskets in Game 2 came on tip-ins when Haywood was forced to leave Ilgauskas to help a teammate who had been beaten on a drive. Haywood is so confident in his ability to handle Ilgauskas by himself, he scolded Butler during the third quarter Tuesday night for doubling down when Ilgauskas caught a pass in the post.
"Don't help," Haywood yelled. "I got him."
Jeffries in Charge
The Wizards came into the series with a goal of pushing James to his left-hand side whenever he drives to the basket. They failed miserably in Game 1, as James repeatedly dribbled right and reached the rim.
The strategy was better executed in Game 2, particularly during the third quarter when James picked up two fouls on charging calls against Jared Jeffries. On both plays, Jeffries sat on James's right hand, enticing James to drive left, and then shuffled in front of James to take the charge once James dipped his shoulder.
"I thought Jared did a great, great job again defensively," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said.
Hughes Still Struggling
Perhaps returning to the familiar setting of Washington will help former Wizard Larry Hughes, who has made 6 of 25 shots (24 percent) and averaged 9 points and 2 assists in the first two games. Hughes has missed several wide open jump shots in the first two games and also missed at least six shots in the painted area during Game 2.
Hughes is still feeling the effects of a broken finger on his right (shooting) hand that forced him to miss 45 games during the regular season.
"You've got to put the ball on your finger tips and let the ball roll off," Hughes said. "That's pretty much the struggle right now. I've had a hard time getting my feel back. Right now, I'm still in the bag trying to find something that works."
Should Hughes continue to struggle, Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown may turn more to reserve guard Damon Jones, who played just over three minutes in Game 1 and nearly seven minutes in Game 2. Hughes averaged 20.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 10 playoff games with the Wizards last spring. . . .
Tickets are still available for Friday's game at Verizon Center.