- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2006

CLEVELAND — Antawn Jamison popped free on the perimeter, buried one of his rainbow 3-pointers and absorbed a foul. The Washington Wizards’ dynamic scorer, who was dormant in Game 1 and the first half of last night, finally arrived in this first-round playoffs series courtesy of a four-point play at Quicken Loans Arena.

“That helped me get into a rhythm,” said Jamison, who had two points on 1-for-4 shooting at halftime.

The play cut the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lead from seven to 57-54 with 3:06 left in the third quarter, but more importantly, it got Jamison going. The other two members of the Big Three — Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler — had been doing their part, but the Wizards would not escape Cleveland with a coveted split if Jamison had stayed in his slump.

Mission accomplished.

Jamison scored 19 points in the second half — and provided the decisive blow while scoring 11 points in the final quarter. The versatile 6-foot-9 forward hit two 3-pointers in the final period, including a contested shot over Drew Gooden with 2:23 left to give Washington a relatively comfortable 82-77 lead with 3:23 left.

He also made the game-sealing free throws with 0.9 seconds left after diving for a loose ball for the 89-84 final score, ensuring the Wizards would come home in control of the series after keeping LeBron James under relative control with a road win. Jamison finishd with 21 points.

“Gilbert told me going into the second half, ‘You can’t do anything if you don’t let it ride,’” said Jamison, who admitted he was trigger-shy in the first half. “He shouldn’t have to tell me that.”

It didn’t take long for Jamison to join the scoring party after that. Arenas finished with 30 points, while Butler added 21 and keyed an 18-0 first and second quarter run which erased a 15-point Cavaliers’ lead.

Jamison actually hit a few shots before his confidence-building 3-pointer. He hit a spinning layup to give the Wizards a 42-41 lead early in the third and one of his classic floaters in the lane to make the lead three.

“We lost him a few times in transition,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “Once he got hot, he knocked down a couple shots and it helped his confidence. Both he and Caron stepped up at the right time to help their team win.”

However, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Jamison made the final difference in lifting the Wizards. The biggest shot came when, with Gooden all over him, Jamison made a baseline 3-pointer. Instead of the Cavaliers having the momentum and the ball down by two, the Wizards held a five-point lead.

“I knew it was good,” said Jamison, who was 3-for-4 from 3-point range. “I had the adrenaline going and I was feeling it. I didn’t hesitate.”

On the night, Jamison shot 7-for-14 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. Jamison also joined Jared Jeffries and Butler in taking turns guarding James with a physical style of play.

“If a guy comes in [the lane] and is doing that, you have to lay wood on him,” Jamison said of James, who finished with 26 points, but went 7-for-25 from the floor.

James abused the Wizards with a triple-double, including 11 assists in Game 1. Last night, he had only two assists along with 10 turnovers.

Jamison’ second half was quite a contrast to the lackluster first six quarters he had in the series. The eight-year veteran went 4-for-13 for 11 points in the opener, and things began the same way last night.

Gooden had a season-high 24 points — including 19 in the first half — and 16 rebounds, largely with Jamison the main the defender. It appeared Jamison would continue his slump before his game, and the Wizards’ playoff outlook, suddenly changed in the second half.

“I was disappointed,” Jamison said. “I let Drew Gooden come in there and have a terrific game. Those are things I can not do. His energy was much higher than mine in the first half. I just had to do a better job in the second half because if I didn’t it was going to be a long night not only for me, but the team.”

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