At This Stage, Wizards Need More

DeShawn Stevenson, Antonio Daniels
The Wizards need guards Antonio Daniels, right, and DeShawn Stevenson to step up after they fizzled in Game 1. (The Post)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

DeShawn Stevenson watched helplessly as three-point attempts rimmed in and out of stingy baskets and Antonio Daniels consistently found lanes to the basket clogged by big bodies in the Wizards' 97-82 Game 1 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.

Outside of Antawn Jamison (28 points and 14 rebounds) and Jarvis Hayes (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting), scoring was scarce for the Washington Wizards, who shot 36.7 percent as a team.

Getting more production out of other players will be crucial if the Wizards are going to pull off an upset when the teams meet tonight in Cleveland for Game 2.

Daniels, who finished with a career playoff-high 11 assists to go along with nine points in Game 1, made 3 of 7 shot attempts while trying to work his way through and around a Cavaliers defense that was determined to prevent him from penetrating and getting to the basket.

Daniels excels at running pick-and-rolls with Jamison, Darius Songaila and the team's centers. But Cleveland's big men aggressively jumped out at Daniels when he dribbled around screens before sliding back to their assigned men. The tactic often forced Daniels to pick up his dribble and consider taking a long jump shot or passing off.

"Obviously, I have to be a little more aggressive in attacking," said Daniels, who missed both of his three-point attempts after shooting 30.2 percent from long range during the regular season. "But, yes, they hard showed on pick-and-rolls. Very, very hard showed on pick-and-rolls. But the playoffs are about adjustments, both individually and collectively, so there are some things I know I can do better and some things I can improve to make our team run a little better."

It would help Daniels and take some pressure off Jamison if Stevenson can regain the shooting touch he displayed for most of the season, when he shot 46.1 percent overall while making a career-high 74 three-pointers. Stevenson was 3 of 12 Sunday and finished with nine points. He added one assist with two turnovers and only earned one trip to the free throw line, where he made 1 of 2 attempts.

Stevenson had at least two three-point attempts rim in and out and he came away with neither two points nor a foul call on several drives to the basket. It's safe to say that with Arenas and Butler sitting on the bench in suits, Stevenson has to be more productive if the Wizards are going to turn the series into something other than a warmup for the Cavaliers.

"I was getting the same shots I've been getting but it was a tough night with balls going in and out on me," said Stevenson, who like Hayes, was making the first playoff start of his career. "Sometimes it's like that in the first game of a series. You look around and you see a lot of guys who didn't play well in the first game. I had a lot of energy going so I have to sit back, be calm and just do the things I was doing during the regular season."

Cleveland's approach to defending Jamison was to cover him with Drew Gooden, Anderson Varejao or Ira Newble and not use a second defender to help. Jamison was aggressive from the first possession of the game, when he scored on a short jump hook, and wound up making 10 of 27 shots. However, he was 1 of 6 from three-point range and made 1 of 7 shots in the fourth quarter, when Cleveland pulled away.

"Antawn's a scorer but at the same time, he can't do it by himself," center Brendan Haywood said. "We have to go out there and give him some help, and we can't wear him down by just force-feeding him every play. We have to find a way to get effectiveness out of other guys."

Haywood, who played only five minutes in Game 1, may get a chance to be one of those "other guys" tonight. Four Wizards centers totaled two points on Sunday.

Etan Thomas scored two points and grabbed five rebounds in 21 minutes. He gives up around four inches in his matchup with Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who posted 16 points and 8 rebounds on Sunday but has been defended well by Haywood in the past.

Jordan said playing Haywood more against Ilgauskas will be an option but he didn't exactly sound enthused by the idea.

"Brendan has been the first big off the bench," Jordan said. "We want him to play with a lot of energy and intelligence and you know, we'll see what happens. You make your own minutes."

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