- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

LeBron James called Damon Jones “the self-proclaimed best shooter in the universe.”

Jones disagreed. “Not the universe,” he said. “The world.”

That might be debatable, but Jones, if not the best shooter in Verizon Center last night, was the most accurate when it counted. In a second consecutive overtime game, Jones, a seven-year reserve guard who had spent all but the last 14 seconds on the bench, hit the shot that sent the Cleveland Cavaliers into the next round of the playoffs against the Detroit Pistons and sent the Wizards home for the summer.

Jones, stationed just inside the 3-point line near the corner, was on the receiving end of a pass from Larry Hughes, the former Wizards guard. The Cavaliers were down by a point and facing a Game 7 at home Sunday when Jones hit the basket with 4.8 seconds left in the extra period for a 114-113 victory.

“He hit a dagger,” said James, who scored 32 points but, for the first time in this series, and most of the season, played second fiddle to a teammate.

Asked how he could come off the bench cold and hit such a shot, Jones, who played but four seconds in Cleveland’s overtime win against the Wizards in Game 5 and just 23 minutes in the series, said, “I don’t know. I guess being a good shooter. I was just hoping to get an opportunity to do what I do best, and that is, shoot the basketball. I just thank God I was able to make it.”

“I never came off the bench like that and had just one possession to make a shot.”

James, the league’s leading scorer in the playoffs, was double-teamed constantly throughout the fourth quarter and overtime, leaving Jones as the best available option.

“He [Jones] was the open guy,” Hughes said.

James, along with the Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, dominated the series. But James was fairly quiet after halftime, except when Arenas, whose 30-foot 3-point basket sent the game into overtime, was at the foul line with 15.1 seconds left and a chance to give the Wizards a three-point lead.

Arenas, who played all 53 minutes and had 36 points, missed both free throws. As Arenas stood at the free line throw before shooting, James walked up to him, put his arm on Arenas’ left shoulder and whispered something.

“I told him if he missed both these free throws, the game is over,” James said. “I said, miss these free throws, you’re all going home.”

Early in the fourth quarter, James was fouled by Brendan Haywood. He knelt on one knee and came out of the game. Was he hurt? Was he dazed or confused?

None of that, he said.

“I wasn’t affected,” James said. “I maybe wanted them to think I was affected by it. I’ve been hit harder than that in football practice.”

The conventional wisdom is that no one player, not even a superstar as gifted as James can win a game by himself.

The point was arguable, given that James was averaging 36.4 points a game in the series before Game 6, and overall was thoroughly spectacular.

Not in this game. James played well, but seemed close to merely mortal. But forward Donyell Marshall, an 11-year veteran who turns 33 in 12 days, came off the bench to score a season-high 28 points and grab eight rebounds.

Another reserve, guard Flip Murray, had 21 points.

“I had a good first game and they did a good job of taking me out of the next four,” said Marshall, who had 19 points in Game 1 but combined for 17 points thereafter until Game 6. “They had to make adjustments to stop LeBron. Like I keep saying with this team, you pick your poison.”

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