James: Cavs Not Aggressive Enough

Caron Butler and the Wizards shot 52 percent in Game 3 against Cleveland, which turned the ball over 23 times in its worst playoff loss ever.
Caron Butler and the Wizards shot 52 percent in Game 3 against Cleveland, which turned the ball over 23 times in its worst playoff loss ever. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 26, 2008

LeBron James doesn't think the Cleveland Cavaliers will have to do anything special to get a win in Washington during this series. He won't have to invite his good friend, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, so that it will inspire his teammates the way the presence of one-hit wonder Soulja Boy seemed to fire up the Washington Wizards during the Cavaliers' 108-72 loss on Thursday night.

James feels that his teammates simply have to recognize when the Wizards are double-teaming him -- which opposing teams have been doing for about three or four years now -- and make some open shots. The Cavaliers also have to protect the basketball.

"We turned the ball over 23 times on the road, and that ain't going to cut it," James said yesterday afternoon, less than 24 hours after his team suffered the worst playoff loss in franchise history.

"Anytime you get blown out, you know you haven't played well. But at the end of the day, it's just one loss. We can't play that way on the road and try to win a game. We have to be more conscious of the task on the road. We have to be able to counter some of the attacks that the home team does to us, be more aggressive."

But that has been easier said than done for the Cavaliers since making a trade deadline deal for Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith and Delonte West. The Cavaliers are 17-14, including the playoffs, since the trade, but there is a huge discrepancy between how the team plays at home and on the road. The Cavaliers are 14-4 at Quicken Loans Arena but just 3-10 away from home.

Cleveland's three road wins came against the New York Knicks, Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers -- three teams that finished the season with losing records, with New York and Charlotte both in the NBA lottery. The Cavaliers needed James to erupt for 50 points to beat the Knicks and their win against Philadelphia was marred by a controversial foul call that led to two Devin Brown free throws with 0.2 of a second remaining.

The Cavaliers could do no wrong on Monday night in Cleveland, where Wallace dunked and did pull-ups on the rim, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas had his way inside and out, Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson shot the lights out, and seldom-used reserve Damon Jones hit a late three-pointer and rubbed it in by mimicking DeShawn Stevenson's hand-wave gesture. On Thursday, James was the only player who didn't seem to be overwhelmed by the "white out" conditions.

Reserve guard Brown was the only other Cavalier other than James (22 points) to score in double figures -- and he needed a three-pointer in the final seconds to reach 10 points. Brown also was the only Cavalier to make a three-pointer on Thursday, as the team finished 2 for 16 from beyond the three-point line. Primary ball-handlers James, West and Gibson also combined for 12 turnovers, which was one more than the Wizards had as a team.

And, after holding the Wizards to 39-percent shooting in the first two games, they let Washington shoot 52 percent from floor and hit eight three-pointers -- Washington had nine combined in Cleveland -- in Game 3.

"It was night and day," Szczerbiak said. "It was night and day."

Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown said he watched film of the game afterward and it didn't look any better or worse than when he saw the game live.

"It looks the same -- bad," Brown said. "We have to bring our energy, focus and our aggressiveness to a higher level," Brown said. "The most aggressive team will win. If we make mistakes being aggressive, we will live with that."

James absorbed his share of heckling at Verizon Center, with fans twice taunting him with chants of "overrated" near the end of the third period and with 7 minutes 11 seconds left in the fourth period. He laughed the first time he heard the chant while on the free-throw line, but he said he has dealt with more hostile road environments.

"Detroit is definitely -- I don't say worst, because it's not that bad -- but Detroit is pretty bad," James said. "All the fans, they know how I approach the game every night and how I play the game. It is like a love-hate thing, it's cool. When opposing fans know that you can do something and do something very well, they can vibe with you. They wouldn't say something to somebody they don't feel threatened by."

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