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Wizards Need to Raise Board Scores

To Solve Rebounding Problems, Washington Must 'Want It More'

Anderson Varejao, left, Joe Smith and the Cavaliers have outrebounded Antawn Jamison's Wizards by an average of 10 per game.
Anderson Varejao, left, Joe Smith and the Cavaliers have outrebounded Antawn Jamison's Wizards by an average of 10 per game. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 30, 2008; Page E09

If the Washington Wizards don't do a better job of rebounding tonight when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series, the season will be over.

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It's that simple.

All-star forward Antawn Jamison is Washington's best rebounder, but too often during this series he and his teammates have been unable to keep the Cavaliers from swarming the paint for rebounds, tip-ins or simple swats at the ball that wind up leading to a long possession and extra shots.

"It's nothing you have to write an essay on and nothing you have to study," said Jamison, who is averaging a team-high 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the series. "You know that when certain guys come into the game, that is what they bring to the table."

Cavaliers such as Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and Anderson Varejao really brought it during Cleveland's 100-97 victory in Game 4 on Sunday, a win that put the Wizards in a 3-1 hole and created a sense of desperation for tonight's game in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers held a 51-31 rebounding advantage and a 20-6 edge in second-chance points on Sunday. Domination in those areas plus 13 made three-pointers were the biggest factors in the win.

During one break in the action Sunday, Jamison, who wore a microphone for ABC-TV's broadcast of the game, exhorted his teammates: "Hey, we all have to rebound! That is where they are killing us right now!"

He was right.

For the series, the Cavaliers are outrebounding the Wizards by an average of 46-36. That isn't a shocking development given the fact that Cleveland was the best rebounding team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season and has three players in Wallace, Smith and Varejao who are limited offensively but excel in defense, hustle and their instinct for knowing how to read a basketball as it comes off of the rim.

Wallace didn't attempt a shot or score in just under 33 minutes of action Sunday but he finished with 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks, and the Cavaliers outscored the Wizards by 12 points when he was on the floor.

"They have three of the best, and we have a guy in Antawn who is one of the best," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "Those guys just have a knack for rebounding, so we've got to fight those guys for rebounds. We have to get ourselves in position and we have to drive people out. Some of that is a knack, but part of that knack is you have to want it more and you have a skill to get it more than everybody else."

Rebounding has particularly been an issue when Jordan has turned to a smaller lineup, as he did toward the end of the third quarter Sunday when the 6-foot-9 Jamison was paired in the front court with the 6-9 Darius Songaila.

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