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Advantage, LeBron

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The Washington Post's Michael Lee reports on Cleveland's impressive 116-86 dumping of the Wizards in Game 2 Monday night.Audio: Michael Lee/The Washington PostPhotos: Preston Keres/The Washington PostEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com

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By Michael Wilbon
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CLEVELAND

The Washington Wizards were reminded, rather rudely Monday night, of the enormous difference between an all-star and a superstar.

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The Wizards have three all-stars but put together they don't come close to equaling the one transcendent iconic player Cleveland has in LeBron James. Yes, in NBA math three can be less than one.

The Wizards left Cleveland with barely a whimper on Monday night, looking like chumps, like a lottery team instead of one with playoff aspirations. Nothing that transpired in Cleveland's humiliating 30-point Game 2 victory suggests that a change in venue, to Verizon Center for Thursday's Game 3, will make an enormous difference in the outcome of this series.

Antawn Jamison had a bad night. Caron Butler had a worse night. Gilbert Arenas had the worst night of all. He did absolutely nothing besides throw up a bunch of worthless jump shots. At least Brendan Haywood went out battling, though that may be costly beyond this night. When Washington's Andray Blatche was smashed in the head, the referees called a flagrant foul but the offending Cavalier, Anderson Varejao, stayed in the game. When Haywood threw a body block that knocked an airborne LeBron into photographer's row in the third quarter, Haywood was sent to the showers.

TNT's Reggie Miller, during the national telecast, asked rhetorically if the refs would have tossed Haywood had he fouled any other member of the Cavaliers. Indeed, it's the superstar double standard that has always ruled the NBA, especially in the playoffs. LeBron is 1,000 times more important in the world basketball order than Haywood. But before anybody gets carried away with talking about how the calls favor the biggest star, LeBron also proved for the second straight game that it's also true he's better than Butler, Jamison and Arenas combined. LeBron attacked the Wizards physically, played smarter and harder, and led his team to a 23-point bulge after three quarters that made the rest of the game useless.

Get this: LeBron, all by himself, outscored Washington's three all-stars 30-28. None of the three scored as many points as Wally Szczerbiak. None scored as many as Daniel Gibson. The Wizards ought to be ashamed of themselves to get into the playoffs and come up this small.

As great as LeBron is, the Cavaliers should never dominate the Wizards to such an extent in a playoff game. The Cavs aren't the Celtics or Lakers; they're not even as good as they were last year. Not close. Plus, the Wizards are supposed to be better than they were a year ago. Yet, last year's team, short Arenas and Butler, who were hurt, gave a much greater effort in all four of those games than they did in Game 2.

How dumb of me to have presumed on the eve of the series that three all-stars could eclipse one LeBron. Okay, the series isn't over yet, what with the Wizards getting the next two games at home. But they have to do a 180-degree spin-o-rama to change the momentum Cleveland has built, and nothing the Wizards did Monday night even hints at such a dramatic turnaround.

LeBron, even if he hadn't had 30 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds, would have been effective because he drove his team with his force of personality and basketball intellect. Arenas, even when he's on fire shooting the ball, has no such personality in these playoff games.

Okay, his wrist was bothering him. Superstars have diversity in their games, and Arenas hasn't evolved to that point as a postseason player.

If this is the team he wanted, then why not play like it? Why not lead them like he wants a piece of them?


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