- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2008

Washington Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson still felt good one day after leading his team to its first victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in their first-round playoff series.

Stevenson scored a team-high 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range. The Wizards routed the Cavaliers 108-72 before a pumped-up Verizon Center crowd and got out of an 2-0 hole in the series.

Not least, Stevenson felt good because he finally was able to back up all the talking he did about the Cavaliers during the regular season. It was Stevenson who ignited the fire between the teams by calling Cavaliers star LeBron James “overrated” and saying he wanted to face Cleveland in the opening round of the playoffs.

Stevenson scored only three points in a 93-86 Game 1 defeat in Cleveland last Saturday. He scored 12 in a Game 2 rout Monday, when the Wizards fell 116-86.

But on Thursday, not only did Stevenson perform well, but the Wizards won by 36 points — the largest margin of victory in a playoff game in franchise history.

“Before the second half, Gilbert [Arenas] told me to let it fly, and Caron [Butler],” Stevenson said after yesterday’s practice. “Behind the 3-point line I felt comfortable, and I was just shooting. They were doubling Caron, LeBron was leaving me. I had wide open shots and those are the shots you’ve got to take.”

Stevenson praised the announced crowd of 20,173 for their support and for heckling James with boos and chants of “overrated.”

“It feels good,” Stevenson said, smiling. “LeBron had his fans [and they] have his back, and I had my fans have my back. That’s what it’s all about: homecourt advantage. I think our fans did a great job, and I know they’ll do a great job again Sunday.”

Stevenson and James continued exchanging barbs Thursday night and again yesterday.

After the game, James was asked if the Wizards‘ victory had increased or put an end to the Stevenson-James “rivalry.”

He said, “There is no DeShawn-LeBron rivalry.”

When asked yesterday about James‘ take, Stevenson said, “Obviously, there is if he’s doing my [celebration] moves in Cleveland. So obviously, he’s worried about us and what we’re doing over here. But all we’re going to do is play basketball.”

Wizards hope for more

The Wizards agreed Thursday night’s showing by the fans — they wore white T-shirts and heckled the Cavaliers relentlessly — was the best they have seen.

“That was the best environment,” guard Gilbert Arenas said. “That was better than when we were down 0-2 to Chicago. It was like college, everybody was excited to come back home. … Better than we expected. We knew once we got back in this building, the energy level would be sky-high.”

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