Familiarity Breeds Hope for Wizards

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2007

Cleveland forward Drew Gooden was so hot in the second quarter of the Cavaliers' 109-102 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, he said the basket "looked like an ocean." For the Wizards' Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson and Jarvis Hayes, it must have resembled a shot glass. The three starters combined to make only 9 of 35 shots and 1 of 9 three-pointers.

The undermanned Wizards turned over the ball only five times and trimmed a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to three with 18 seconds remaining, but they missed open shots that might have allowed them to get out of Cleveland with a victory. Instead, the Cavaliers lead the best-of-seven series 2-0.

Game 3 is tomorrow night at Verizon Center, where the Wizards hope that familiar rims and friendly fans will get some of their key players going, especially because the Cavaliers will likely load up against Antawn Jamison, who scored 28 points in Game 1 and 31 in Game 2.

"Man, we're fine, we're fine," said Daniels, who has 22 assists in the first two games while making 7 of 17 shots. "It will be good to go home, be in the confines of the Verizon Center, get our fans behind us and get back on the horse. We've been in both of these games, and [Game 2], we had an opportunity to steal it. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we could have."

After shooting 36.7 percent from the field and going 6 for 19 from three-point range in a 97-82 loss in Game 1, the Wizards shot 42.2 percent and made 6 of 22 three-pointers Wednesday night.

The frustrating thing for Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan and his staff has to be that many of the shots have been of the open variety and came within the flow of the offense. "Some of them were good and some were forced but that's what the playoffs are about," Jordan said. "The defense picks up and sometimes it comes down to making contested shots."

Hayes, who has guarded LeBron James well in one-on-one situations in both games and scored 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting in Game 1, missed his first attempt -- a pull-up jumper from around nine feet out -- and never got going.

He missed his first 10 shots, including two three-point attempts, and didn't get in the scoring column until he rebounded a missed three-point attempt by Jamison and laid it back in with just under eight minutes to play.

"It was frustrating, but games likes these happen," said Hayes, who shot 45.9 percent and averaged 12.1 points during the month of April, when injuries to Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler elevated him into the starting lineup and created more playing time. "It's unfortunate that it happened now in the playoffs, but that's life in the NBA. We've got another one this weekend."

While Hayes's shooting stroke came and went throughout the regular season, Stevenson was consistent nearly all the way through and even dubbed himself "Mr. 50" at one point because his shooting percentage inched over 50 percent.

However, after shooting 46.1 percent overall and 40.4 percent from three-point range during the regular season, his accuracy has fallen off since Butler and Arenas went out of the lineup. In the month of April, Stevenson shot 36 percent overall and 39.3 percent from long range.

One of the toughest sequences Wednesday involved Stevenson, who missed a wide-open dunk attempt and fell onto his back as the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena let him have it.

Stevenson put some extra shooting time in following yesterday's practice at Verizon Center and said he can't identify anything in his form that needs correction.

"I just say keep shooting," Stevenson said. "When you're missing shots, a lot of people say you're leaning left or you're leaning right, but I always fall back on my shot anyway so I think it's a mental thing. I can knock down shots. I just need to get comfortable out there."

When asked about Stevenson's suddenly missing touch, Jordan cracked a joke. "We're going to send him to the Gilbert Arenas shooting camp this summer," Jordan said. "No, hopefully he'll recapture it. He's been in a slump."

Stevenson's recent struggles have not been lost on the Cavaliers. At one point late in the third quarter Wednesday night, Stevenson was spotted up behind the three-point line in front of the Cleveland bench, where James, Larry Hughes and other Cavaliers were standing.

"Oh, I was hearing it," Stevenson said. "They were saying I didn't want the shot, I was going to miss the shot. They were talking crazy. I guess I'll have to shut 'em up on Saturday."

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