Wizards on Brink Of Being Eliminated
Antawn Jamison stalked through the tunnel leading from the court to the locker room at halftime, peeled off his jersey in frustration and exhorted his teammates to do better.
That image, more than any other, captured the mood at Verizon Center last night as Jamison and the undermanned Washington Wizards were defiant but ultimately overwhelmed by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who won 98-92 to take a 3-0 series lead.
As he has all series, Jamison carried the Wizards with 38 points and 11 rebounds, and he sparked a third-quarter run that erased a 17point halftime deficit. After scoring 17 points in the third period, Jamison drew the Wizards to within 93-
89 with just under two minutes to play in the game by making three free throws after drawing a foul on Sasha Pavlovic.
After the teams traded misses, Wizards center Etan Thomas cut the deficit to three by making 1 of 2 free throws with 38 seconds left. That’s when LeBron James made the key play of the game for the Cavaliers.
James, who did most of his damage in the first half, when he scored 20 of his series-high 30 points, started to drive from the top of the key and was persuasive enough to draw Wizards guard Antonio Daniels away from Pavlovic. Seeing Daniels coming over to close off the lane, James passed out to Pavlovic, who calmly drained a threepointer to give Cleveland a 96-90 lead with 26 seconds left. “I had a good look at it, but Sasha had a better look,” James said of his pass to Pavlovic. “It’s all about making the better play and that was the better play. I’ve done it time and time and time again. I asked Coach [Mike Brown] can we run that specific play. If that guy [Daniels] doesn’t help, I’ve got a scot-free layup and if he does, I’ve got an easy three-point shot for Sasha. It’s about trusting your teammates.”
Roger Mason missed a threepoint attempt on the next Washington possession and after Darius Songaila grabbed the offensive rebound, Pavlovic blocked his attempt at a putback layup.
The Cavaliers will have an opportunity to close out the Wizards at Verizon Center for the second straight season tomorrow night in Game 4. No team has overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven NBA playoff series.
If Jamison has a say, the Wizards won’t go down easily.
In a frustrated locker room at halftime, Jamison and Daniels, who finished with a career playoffhigh 13 assists, implored their teammates to come out with more energy and smarter play in the second half.
The Cavaliers had taken control by outscoring the Wizards 31-16 in second quarter and they ended the half by getting three easy fast-break baskets from Pavlovic, who found openings by simply outhustling the Wizards downcourt.
“It was pretty much an embarrassment,” Jamison said of the second quarter. “This is the playoffs, you’re down 0-2 and you are on your home court. It wasn’t just frustration over being down, it was the way we got down. Not getting back on defense. They got some easy fast-break opportunities. We’ve to learn from our mistakes and I just felt that we didn’t have the fire and the energy that we needed.”
The Wizards responded with a third-quarter push that was sparked by Jamison, who channeled his halftime feelings into making shots. Jamison, who scored 28 points in Game 1 and 31 in Game 2, got rolling by sinking a 20foot jump shot off a pass from Daniels and followed that shot with a three-pointer and a 22-foot jumper.
Jamison, who made 7 of 9 shots and scored 17 points in the quarter, celebrated several baskets by clicking his heels together before pumping his fists and encouraging the crowd.
Feeding off Jamison’s energy, the Wizards picked up their defen- sive intensity while some of Jamison’s teammates started knocking down shots themselves. Jarvis Hayes made a three-pointer, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 10 and later, DeShawn Stevenson, whose shot has been off all series, drained a three-pointer, cutting it to three.
Still, Cleveland took a 77-75 lead into the fourth when Zydrunas Ilgauskas made all three of his shots and scored six of his 24 points while James assisted on five of his team’s seven field goals.
The Wizards are 2-11 since allstar Caron Butler went out of the lineup with a broken bone in his right hand, and they sorely miss the fourth-quarter playmaking of all-star guard Gilbert Arenas, who tried to inspire his teammates by waving a towel from his seat behind the bench.
“It’s been the same story,” Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. “We just didn’t make the plays we needed to make, again.”
Antonio Daniels can’t cover up the fact that the Wizards are down 3-0. No NBA team has ever overcome that playoff deficit.
Antawn Jamison (38 points) shoots over the Cavaliers’ Sasha Pavlovic. Jamison called the second quarter “an embarrassment.”
Cleveland’s LeBron James puts it in reverse for two of his 20 first-half points. James finished with 30 as five Cavaliers scored in double figures in Game 3.