By Tom Withers
Saturday, February 23, 2008
CLEVELAND, Feb. 22 -- LeBron James made two free throws with 7.8 seconds left as the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers, playing with just eight players, had enough to beat the Washington Wizards, 90-89, on Friday night.
James had 33 points with 15 rebounds and eight assists in 45 minutes for the Cavaliers, who added four players in an 11-player blockbuster deal on Thursday but couldn't dress Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith or Delonte West.
Darius Songalia scored a season-high 19 points in only 20 minutes and DeShawn Stevenson added 18 to lead the Wizards, who had five players score in double figures but lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
After James made his free throws, Washington went to Stevenson for the final shot. He drove the right side and lofted a high layup that bounced off the top of the backboard and then the front of the rim.
James grabbed the ball and fired it into the scoreboard in celebration.
"It's frustrating to lose to anybody, whether you're short-handed or not," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "But they have a great player. He's a monster. He creates for everyone else."
Antawn Jamison had 16 points and nine rebounds and Andray Blatche contributed 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks for Washington.
Brendan Haywood scored 13 points but pulled down only three rebounds for the Wizards, who were outrebounded, 43-31.
Damon Jones scored a season-high 27 points for Cleveland, which signed Billy Thomas and Kaniel Dickens from the NBA Development League to 10-day contracts just so it would have enough players to meet the league's required eight players for a game.
The Cavaliers went up 88-85 on Devin Brown's dunk with 1 minute 42 seconds to play, but Zydrunas Ilgauskas fouled Haywood, who made two foul shots to bring the Wizards within one. After a Cleveland turnover, Ilgauskas was whistled for another foul and Stevenson's two free throws put the Wizards up 89-88.
James missed a tough three-pointer from the corner, but the Wizards couldn't convert and gave Cleveland's all-star another chance. He was fouled on a drive in the lane and calmly made both free throws.
Wizards guard Antonio Daniels took a nasty spill while dunking in the final second of the first half. As he went up, he was brushed by a hustling Ilgauskas and fell hard on the floor. Daniels remained motionless for several seconds before being helped to his feet. His basket initially was called good but was waved off after the officials looked at TV replays.
Dressed in sport coats, the four newest Cavaliers watched from a luxury suite. They were introduced to the crowd in the first quarter and received a thundering ovation as "Welcome to the Family" was flashed on the video scoreboard.
As the Cavaliers prepared to take the floor before the game, Wallace, Smith and West walked into the hallway outside Cleveland's locker room and were immediately pulled into the team's prayer huddle.
"It's great to walk into an arena where you used to be a rival, the enemy and be welcomed," Wallace said at halftime.
The quartet will make their debut Sunday against Memphis.