Well how’s that for a little revenge? The last time the Washington Wizards played the Cavaliers, the Wizards jumped out to a 18-point first-half lead despite not having their All-Star power forward, Antawn Jamison, and then proceeded to blow that lead and lose 102-90.
This time it was the Cavaliers who were without their power forward (although not an All-Star) Anderson Varejao (who is out with a hip contusion) and Shaq (out with what the team is calling a strained shoulder). And it didn’t look like they missed Shaq at all early on as Zydrunas Ilgauskas torched Brendan Haywood for eight first-quarter points on 4-for-5 shooting.
This time it was Cleveland that raced out to a double-digit lead (17) and then couldn’t sustain it.
Antawn Jamison said that he would make sure some of the things he saw while suit-clad and bench-bound would not happen. But early on it looked as if he was the only player that cared as he scored 13 of Washington’s 22 first quarter points.
“Sometimes you don’t realize the little things,” Jamison said. “One thing I’ve noticed lately is our energy level has been down, whether we miss a couple of shots or make a run, guys run to the huddle with their heads down and that’s something that I knew that I could come in and change that and just move that ball form one end to the other, another added weapon for them to really key in on. I’ve been sitting down for what seems like forever, so I had a lot of energy. I knew it was going to be different from what we’ve been doing.”
Jamison kept shooting, and kept barking at his teammates and eventually Mike Miller responded with back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter.
The Wizards fought back to within seven (51-44) at halftime, and amazingly it was despite shooting 31 percent from the field in the first quarter and despite a 1-for-9 shooting performance out of Gilbert Arenas. Yes, 1-for-9. That’s definitely not going to get you any extra twitter followers, there.
But, fortunately for the Wizards, they finally had all their pieces together so they were able to weather an ice-cold performance out of Arenas.
“That was the good part,” Arenas said. “I’m 0-fer [in the first quarter] but I got four assists, so it looks a little better, balances itself out. I just can’t get two halves to match right now. I’ve just got to get it together.
“We did struggle, but just like we figured in preseason, we’ve got a lot of weapons,” Arenas said. “Each quarter it showed. Each quarter we had someone different step up. Mike Miller, second quarter, started making shots, freed up Antawn, and from there we just built off someone else getting hot, someone else getting hot. The talent showed itself.”
Arenas scored in the third quarter, but needed 13 shots to do it, and still didn’t look good. But as Flip Saunders said, “it’s going to be a process,” for Arenas to fully get back to where he was, and he even said “a lot of times it takes guys as long as they were out to get back to where they were. So if a guy hasn’t played in 12 months, it some times takes 12 months of playing for you to see them get back to where they were before.” The process that Arenas is going through, the guard says, is getting his mind and body on the same page.
“I see myself getting to the rim whenever I want to, I need to just say, ‘I’m just going to.’ [and not think about it],” Arenas explained. “Just little things mentally I was faster in the game. In my mind, I know Delonte West jumps every time he shoots the ball. In my mind I know that! I’ve watched too much gamefilm not to know that. But in the game, I see him coming, and I’m not using the pump-fake, and as soon as it gets blocked, I’m like [crap], I already knew what he was going to do. It’s just getting that timing back.”
Arenas also is aware that his shot selection is pretty bad. Only problem is, he doesn’t realize it until after the shot’s taken.
“That’s been my problem. I’m just not getting in there easy,” Gil said. “These halves when I go through these droughts, I don’t know if I’m settling for the jump shot, or what. I’ve been watching a lot of highlight tapes. Coach gave me a long 45-minute one of me just getting buckets, so I’m just trying to look at the game again to see what I used to do.”
One thing Arenas has no hesitation about, however, is the thrill of having Antawn Jamison back.
“It was great having him back out there, especially for me because they can’t kill on me as much because most of my pick and rolls come off Antawn and he came out stroking it,” Arenas said.
He later added.
“I’ve never been used to playing two [traditional] post players,” Arenas said. “I always had Antawn. When I made the comment that If he didn’t sign back, I was leaving, and that was the reason. I know when I’m in the pick-and-roll with him it’s going to free both of us up.”
Caron Butler also raved about having Jamison back, and credited the Captain’s encouragements for Butler’s big fourth quarter.
“If I go up and down the floor a couple trips without being Caron Butler, he’s going to say something, like ‘Caron! It’s your time, baby! Come on!’ So just heraing him out there in my ear, it helped a lot. That’s why we’ve had successful tonight and that’s why we’ve had good years together here in Washington.”
Other tid-bits: Lost in Jamison’s comeback, Miller’s second quarter, Arenas’ semi-electric third quarter, and Butler and Boykins taking over the fourth quarter, was a strong game from Brendan Haywood, who although he had only six points, cleaned up on the boards with 13 rebounds and had three blocked shots. ….
At one point in the game, Jamison had to defend a shot by Ilgauskas, but this time, he used his left hand as to avoid a replay of his preseason injury. Jamison said that he never thought about his right shoulder tonight … except for then.
“When I see him, that’s when I think about it. I’m going to use that left hadn as much as possible,” Jamison said with a pretty harty laugh. “It was hard to deal with because it was just a fluke play. those are the tings that are hard to explain. That’s about the only tiem I was conscious and said, let me use this left instead of that right” ….
Lastly, DeShawn Stevenson rattled LeBron James thoroughly in the fourth quarter, limiting him to six points on 3-for-7 shooting. James had had a hot third quarter knocking down three straight three-pointers “from the parking lot,” as Caron Butler called it. But when Flip stuck Stevenson on him in the fourth, that all ended. D-Steve poked the ball away from James, forcing a shot-clock violation, he forced him into tough shots. And with about 3-1/2 minutes to play, he stuffed LeBron’s soaring take to the hoop and the man who thinks he can be a great football player got so upset that a foul wasn’t called that he received a tech. LeBron tried to make the Wizards play with back-to-back break-away thunder dunks. But he ended up paying for it, hurting his left wrist on the rim on one of those dunks. And so what? It got some OOOOH’s out of the Cleveland fans in the building, but DeShawn came out on top in this matchup. Aaaah, how fitting that it was also on the night that they handed out DeShawn Stevenson Bobble-hand dolls tonight?