- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2006

Washington Wizards center Etan Thomas didn’t see any action in the first half of yesterday’s loss in Game1. Nursing a bad back that kept him out of the final three games of the regular season, Thomas checked into the game for the first time with 3 minutes, 12 seconds to play in the third quarter.

After the game Thomas, who scored just two points in seven minutes, said he is capable of playing more than he did last night.

“You got to ask the coach that question,” Thomas said when asked if he could have played a bigger role.

Thomas supplanted Brendan Haywood as the team’s starting center 69 games into the season, and the Wizards were happy with the way he played in that role.

Thomas spent the first half and most of the third quarter working with strength and conditioning coach Drew Cleary.

“I’m ready to play,” Thomas said. “I have to stretch like that in order to be loose. It’s just what you have to do. I’ll be OK to play.”

Donyell’s decision

Cleveland forward Donyell Marshall could have been on the other side of this playoff series. The 12-year veteran’s final choice as a free agent last summer was between the Wizards and Cavaliers.

The 6-foot-9 forward chose to play alongside LeBron James and yesterday it looked like a wise choice. Marshall was the perfect complement, finishing as the team’s second-leading scorer with 19 points — including three 3-pointers on seven attempts — and getting seven rebounds off the bench.

“When I came in I just wanted to hit my first shot,” said Marshall, who hit a 3-pointer off a James assist with 32 seconds left in the first quarter to give Cleveland a 12-point lead. “After I hit that first shot it relaxed me a little bit and LeBron did a great job finding me out beyond the 3-point line.”

Marshall did his damage while playing only 23 minutes.

Missing Larry

Former Wizard Larry Hughes was abysmal from the floor in his first playoff game with the Cavaliers. The guard missed his first eight shots and finished with two points by making his final field goal attempt, which bounded off the rim before going in.

“I was just missing shots,” said Hughes, who played only 26 minutes. “I got one shot in the second half. Missing shots doesn’t bother me because I feel I can get going at anytime. Tonight I didn’t have to.”

Hughes, who helped shut down Gilbert Arenas on defense, had his right hand in a bucket of ice water in the locker room following the game. Hughes said it is his normal post-game procedure. He missed 45 games this season with a fractured finger.

Balloon moment

With 5:45 left in the first quarter play was stopped by referee Derrick Stafford. The reason? A balloon was falling from the rafters and making its way to the Quicken Loans Arena floor.

With the balloon about seven feet from the floor, James reached up and palmed it so play could quickly resume. That triggered chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” throughout the arena.

And as if on key, James scored on the next possession, swishing home a jumper from just inside the 3-point line.

Playoff experience

Antonio Daniels has been in more playoff games than anyone else on the Wizards’ roster. Going into yesterday’s game he had 59 of the team’s cumulative 145 playoff appearances.

Although the Cavaliers had not been in the postseason since 1998, Cleveland’s players have more playoff experience (177 games, including 71 from Eric Snow).

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