For Wizards, No James, No Problem
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The Cleveland Cavaliers came to Verizon Center -- a place where they have eliminated the Washington Wizards from the playoffs the last two seasons -- without a healthy LeBron James and Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan made it clear that he wanted his team to take advantage.
"They've been bullying us when we've been down so we have to have a no-mercy attitude and return the favor," Jordan said before last night's game. "It's almost a mirror image of what happened to us. We're still a little short but we've been playing pretty good with this group so let's get the bully when he's down. I say that affectionately but that's the attitude we should have."
Jordan's team, which has played without three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas since Nov. 17, paid attention and the result was a smooth 105-86 victory.
With James missing his fourth straight game with a sprained left index finger and with former Wizard Larry Hughes out because of a leg injury, the Cavaliers were no match for the Wizards, who took control with a 31-point second quarter and held off a late Cleveland push to win their second straight game.
Arenas, who attended his first game since undergoing left knee surgery on Nov. 21, wore a smile throughout and appeared to particularly appreciate seeing his teammates roll to a 28-point lead on a Caron Butler jump shot with 8 minutes 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
Butler finished with a game-high 27 points on 13-of-23 shooting, Antawn Jamison posted his 12th double-double of the season (17 points, 12 rebounds) and rookie reserve Nick Young added 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Cleveland showed some energy in the second half and cut the deficit to 86-77 on a Devin Brown three-pointer with 7:31 to play, but the Wizards used a 10-4 run to put the game away.
In a key five-minute span of the fourth, Young made a pair of fadeaway jump shots, drove and passed to Jamison for a layup and threw down a spectacular one-handed dunk.
"It seemed like we got a little relaxed out there," said Young, who is building a case to be invited to the annual Rookie-Sophomore game that takes place during NBA All-Star Weekend. "I know I didn't see any LeBron out there and that's kind of different. I saw him on the bench, but I wanted to play against him. We just had to pick it up a little bit and we did that."
The Wizards are 6-4 without Arenas. They snapped a five-game losing skid to Cleveland that included the playoff sweep and generated some momentum going into tomorrow night's game against the Phoenix Suns.
The loss dropped the Cavaliers to 0-4 without James, who continues to be listed as day-to-day. James was particularly missed on a night when the Wizards shot 53 percent, held a 45-29 edge in rebounding and allowed no Cleveland player to score more than 13 points.
"We came out as a team and we didn't compete like we are capable of," Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown said. "I thought in the second half as a team, we tried to compete."
Wizards center Brendan Haywood was particularly strong early as he scored 10 of his 17 points while grabbing four of his 10 rebounds in the first quarter. It was Haywood's seventh double-double of the season and he added five blocks, getting the best of his matchup with Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (12 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block).
"I really wanted to come out with a lot of energy," Haywood said. "I think last game, I only had two points and I was disappointed with that. I wanted to play better and work on being consistent and I was able to bounce back."
Wizards Notes: The teams will meet three more times this season, Jan. 23 and Feb. 22 in Cleveland and March 13 at Verizon Center. . . .
Ticket holders who could not attend last night's game because of the inclement weather can exchange their unused tickets for the Dec. 15 game against the Sacramento Kings. Ticket holders are asked to bring their unused tickets, with stub intact, to the Verizon Center box office beginning today at 10 a.m.