- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

CLEVELAND. — LeBron James skipped down the floor like a little baby after incurring a player-control foul late in the first half of Game 5 last night.

This is the face of the NBA?

This is not a face anyone should have to see.

The only item missing from this sad, sorry spectacle was a stuffed animal.

As wimpy as this display was, there were others.

And these shallow bursts of immaturity seemed to work on the decision-making abilities of referees Bernie Fryer, Mark Wunderlich and Joe Forte in the early going.

The trio indulged every whimper of the Cleveland Crybabies.

It is a wonder the referees did not hold the Crybabies close to their bosoms.

James was the Most Valuable Crybaby, as he employed a wide variety of tormented faces.

He probably would have squirted tears if he thought it was necessary to persuade the referees to see things his way.

James ran over Jared Jeffries just before halftime, and the referees awarded James with a blocking call.

Although this was an atrocious call, it at least did not decide the game.

The referees did not require James to dribble the ball in Game 3, as he covered a vast amount of territory before hitting the game-winning shot.

The Crybabies led the Wizards by one point at halftime because of their never-ending appeals to the referees that led to a startling free throw discrepancy. The Crybabies had 25 free throw attempts to the Wizards’ eight after 24 minutes.

Their capacity to find issue with the seemingly innocuous was rich.

James missed a shot at the end of the first quarter and promptly raced to Wunderlich to say how all kinds of physical harm had been done to him.

Referees try not to let these acts of absurdity persuade them. But they are human. Put them in front of a raucous crowd that roars its disapproval after each call it finds objectionable and the referees are apt to succumb to the tide of emotion.

Officiating has come to be one of the dominating themes in this series, perhaps predictably, because of the competitiveness of both teams.

The most significant play in the series remains the non-call on James’ traveling violation that decided Game 3.

Make the correct call there and the Wizards would be up 3-2 in the series instead of down by the same.

It would not be surprising to see the referees return the favor in Game 6 on Fun Street tomorrow night.

Even with the shaky officiating, the Wizards found themselves in an unthinkable position with 6:53 left in the third quarter — down one point and James headed to the bench with his fourth foul.

James sat out the rest of the quarter, and instead of grabbing the moment, the Wizards allowed Flip Murray to be James and reverted to their schoolyard tendencies.

The Cavaliers scored 22 points, 10 by Murray, in the last 6:53 to take an 85-81 lead.

That 6:53 lapse contributed to the demise of the Wizards.

The inability of the Wizards to act with extreme prejudice around a wounded opponent overshadowed the quality shooting performances of Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.

Arenas scored only two points in the fourth quarter after the Cavaliers made the adjustment to double him at the top of the circle. Arenas attempted only two shots in the quarter.

Yet the Wizards managed to overcome a seven-point deficit with 1:18 left in regulation.

Antonio Daniels converted a 3-point play, Caron Butler had a put-back and layup, while James threw the ball away and missed a 20-footer at the buzzer.

Butler, who struggled in the first three quarters, eventually found his stride before fouling out in overtime.

Arenas first stole the ball from Larry Hughes and converted a layup and then hit two free throws with 3.6 seconds left in overtime to put the Wizards up by one.

But it was James who had the final say.

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