- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009

The sun rose from the west, the world decided to give peace a chance and referee Bill Spooner called LeBron James for a traveling violation with 2.3 seconds left Sunday.

Spooner’s was an unexpected display of backbone, an area of the skeletal frame that is usually found lacking in referees in the waning seconds of a tight game involving James.

His hops, skips and jumps to the basket are usually ignored out of deference to his hallowed place in the NBA.

Spooner’s decision to enforce a rule as it applies to everyone else allowed the Wizards to defeat the Cavaliers 80-77 after they desperately tried to relinquish the game.

“It called itself,” Spooner said of the blatantly obvious violation.

Yet the Wizards know from past experiences that all too many referees in the NBA have a tendency to ignore the blatantly obvious with James.

That, too, is possibly in the rule book, written in secret code.

Hard feelings between the two teams persist partly because of the favoritism extended to James and his tendency to whine whenever he does not get his way.

DeShawn Stevenson and James sniped at each another throughout the game, although the injured Stevenson was consigned to the bench in street clothes.

Both teams endured plenty of frustration.

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was chased from the game with 6:33 left after he completed a nearly 94-foot dash down the sideline to make what was an undoubtedly eloquent objection to an offensive foul assessed to the anointed one.

There is no telling how Brown would have responded if he had been courtside in the final seconds. He possibly would have raced around the arena floor and done somersaults to demonstrate his disgust with Spooner.

Not that the Wizards were a paragon of calm during the run they knew the Cavaliers would make.

The Wizards led by 16 points after Caron Butler converted two free throws with 10:51 left. The Wizards, in being the Wizards, could not let this prosperity stand.

They pieced together an abysmal fourth quarter, punctuated by rim-damaging shots, ill-advised shots, poor decisions and unforced turnovers. It was enough to make the long-suffering fans of the team say, “Not again.”

The Wizards could not complete the simplest pass after calling a timeout on two occasions late in the game. It can be assumed that interim coach Ed Tapscott did not instruct Dominic McGuire and Mike James to throw the ball out of bounds on successive possessions.

It also can be assumed that Tapscott felt compelled to call a timeout on each occasion after James let two shots fly after forgetting to get the ball to either Antawn Jamison or Butler, the team’s two principal scorers.

Tapscott called yet another timeout with 20.6 seconds left, and this time the Wizards were able to follow instructions. It is funny how that works. Jamison received a pass on the left baseline and sank a 17-footer to put the Wizards up 79-77 with 10.5 seconds left.

What followed was a deviation from NBA business as usual.

“I had no expectations [on the Spooner call],” Tapscott said. “If it was the correct call, it was the correct call. I don’t evaluate the officials.”

The correct call nullified a basket that would have tied the score and possibly sucked the last bit of fight out of the fragile Wizards.

Jamison could be excused his displeasure after the Wizards fashioned yet another wobbly fourth quarter.

“You get frustrated, not because a team makes a run on you but because of the way you lose the lead,” he said.

His frustration was alleviated in part after Spooner broke free from the herd that protects James.

“I’m not surprised by the correct call,” Jamison said. “Now I’ve been surprised by some of the calls the last few seasons.”

So a call went the Wizards’ way.

It was one of the few things that has gone their way this season.