By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 21, 2008
CLEVELAND, April 20 -- The plan entering the first-round playoff series against the Cavaliers was to make LeBron James earn his points. In Saturday's 93-86 loss, the Wizards feel that they accomplished their goal -- for the most part.
James, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting, missed his first four shots and didn't manage a field goal until 7 minutes 42 seconds remained in the first half. When James attacked the basket, he often was greeted with contact.
Andray Blatche delivered one hard foul in the first half and also inadvertently hit James in the face during a second-quarter drive to the basket. No foul was called on the play, despite James holding his hand to his face and rolling around on the floor.
James later earned some payback by delivering an elbow to the side of Blatche's head.
"Yeah, he got me, but I didn't really have a problem with it," said Blatche. "I fouled him twice pretty hard so I expected it. Just basketball."
According to a league source, there are no plans to take disciplinary action over the incident.
In the closing seconds of the first half, James and center Brendan Haywood got tangled up after Haywood was called for a foul while setting a screen on James at midcourt. While Haywood debated the call with referee Bob Delaney, he hovered over James, who reacted by shoving Haywood in the groin area in an attempt to rise off the floor.
The two players traded a couple of half-hearted shoves and were separated by referees and teammates.
"It was nothing really," said Haywood, who is known to get under the skin of opponents. "I set a blind screen and I thought he flopped on it. I went to talk to Delaney about it; James took offense that I was standing over him. At that point in the game, he's not going to get up and do anything. What's he gonna do? Throw a punch? Get thrown out of the game? Shoot, I would've been the MVP like Robert Horry if I got him to do that."
"He should just chill out, play ball. It's going to be a rough-and-tough series. He's going to get fouled if he comes to the basket, but no one's trying to hurt him."
The Wizards plan to continue taking a physical approach to defending James, who made 8 of 14 free throw attempts in Game 1.
"We're going to give good, clean, hard fouls at the rim, when guys get in the paint," said Caron Butler. "We're not trying to give up [three-point plays], you know, make them earn it at the foul line and try to be aggressive at both ends as much as possible."