- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2005

CLEVELAND — Across the street from Quicken Loans Arena hangs a mammoth mural of LeBron James. Underneath the photo of James swooping toward the basket for a one-handed dunk is the caption, “We are witnesses.”

That would seem arrogant and borderline pompous if James weren’t so good, something the Washington Wizards saw again firsthand last night. James finished with 37 points on 15-for-23 shooting to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Wizards 114-99 for their fifth consecutive victory.

“When they get into a rhythm, especially LeBron, you pretty much put yourself in position where it’s going to be a long night,” the Wizards’ Antawn Jamison said. “He got into a rhythm, and the rest of those guys just fed off of him. When he gets into a rhythm, he demands extra attention, and that gives other guys opportunities to get baskets.”

Said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan: “That’s how most teams are. Their best players rise to another level, and they usually take their team with them. For LeBron, it was very easy for him tonight.”

With James leading the way, the Cavaliers (6-2) scorched the league’s best defensive team from the field, connecting on 49.4 percent of their field goals (42-for-85). The Wizards (5-2) had been holding teams to a league-low 39.1 percent.

Jamison led the Wizards with 26 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. However, it was not a good night for Gilbert Arenas, who was coming off an NBA season-high 43-point effort in the Wizards’ win Saturday over the San Antonio Spurs.

Guarded by former Wizards guard Larry Hughes and wily 10-year veteran Eric Snow, Arenas was just 4-for-17 from the floor for 18 points. And while he finished with eight assists, he also committed six of the Wizards’ nine turnovers.

Hughes, meanwhile, matched his season high with 22 points — 12 of which came in the fourth quarter, when the Cavaliers made 12 of 19 shots — and had a season-high eight assists.

“I know what he likes to do,” Hughes said of Arenas. “At the same time he shoots it from deep, and if he gets hot and starts driving the ball, he’s a tough guy to guard. But I know he likes to go left, so I jumped in front of him a couple of times. I like to play defense, and I like to go out there and play games with Gil.”

While the Wizards and Cavaliers faced off in a preseason game at MCI Center last month, last night’s game marked the first meaningful meeting between the teams since Hughes signed a five-year, $65-70 million deal with Cleveland.

But James’ performance in front of the 17,685 fans was so scintillating that Hughes facing his old mates was reduced to a sidebar.

The Cavaliers fell behind 8-0 in the first quarter, and it looked as if the Wizards, who lost their first road game of the season, might take control of this one early.

However, with the Cavaliers down 26-19 after Jamison sank a 3-pointer, James scored Cleveland’s next three baskets, the final a two-handed alley-oop dunk from Damon Jones that cut the Wizards’ lead to 26-25.

That began a 19-3 Cleveland run that resulted in a 37-29 Cleveland advantage.

The Wizards got as close as 47-46 after halftime but never led again. James scored 14 points in the third quarter, allowing the Cavaliers to take a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The Wizards cut it to 86-77 on Antonio Daniels’ running jumper with 9:07 remaining, but Cleveland put the Wizards away with a 9-0 run that produced its largest lead of the game. The Wizards never got within single digits again.

First-year Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, a Wizards assistant under Bernie Bickerstaff, was delighted to see his team win for the fifth straight time. He also is delighted to be coaching a player as special as James, who scored 21 points in the second half.

“He is amazing,” Brown said. “I mean, 37 points and 10 [rebounds]. I can’t say much more. He makes my job so much easier. He gets 37 and 10, and some people say that’s LeBron. Well, it is him, but he is amazing.”

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