- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2006

In Tuesday’s Game 2, the Washington Wizards knocked LeBron James down — well, almost — and James got right back up.

But he wasn’t the same after Wizards’ center Brendan Haywood hammered James with 3:47 left in the first quarter of the Wizards’ 89-84 victory over Cleveland to tie the first-round best-of-seven series at 1-1.

James, who had a triple-double in Game 1, still managed to score 26 points, but he needed 25 shots to do it. He also had 10 turnovers and missed a reverse dunk.

And right after Haywood’s hard foul, the Wizards — who trailed by 15 points — went on an 18-0 run that hushed the 20,562 Cleveland partisans. James’ teammates never got on track either. The Cavaliers shot just 36 percent and looked out of sorts.

The Wizards sound as if they are going to be as physical as possible with the 21-year-old without moving beyond what is fair and permitted.

“It’s the playoffs,” said Haywood, who held James up after the foul. “What do you think we are going to do, escort him down the lane? At the end of the day, it wasn’t a dirty play. I was just trying to make sure he didn’t get the easy layup, and he didn’t.”

That mind-set never seemed to enter Haywood’s head, or any of his teammates’, in Game 1 when James totaled 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Cavaliers shoved the Wizards around in a 97-86 victory.

After Game 2, James, who has the body of an NFL tight end, sounded as if he’s ready for the physicality of the playoffs, but only time will tell.

“It’s a dogfight now,” James said. “We didn’t think it was over after we went up a game. It’s not over now that they have won a game. It’s a seven-game series.”

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, who at halftime had to be restrained by assistants after a fan yelled a racial epithet at him, said the Wizards must play physical basketball. And as long as it doesn’t get dirty — the way it sometimes did in Detroit with the Bad Boys of the late 1980s and early ‘90s and their treatment of Michael Jordan — Jordan won’t do anything to curb it.

“We’re going to hug him and kiss him and show him the way to the basket. He’s a terrific guy and we love him,” Jordan joked after Game 2. “No, we’re not going to do anything flagrant. It won’t be anything like that. We’re not the toughest team in the NBA, we’re not very physical. But we’re going to be good, show sportsmanship and hard fouls — no layups.”

Wizards forward Antawn Jamison was criticized after Game 1, when he only contributed only 11 points and was part of a Wizards’ defense that let James do as he pleased.

Between Games 1 and 2, Jamison said he watched highlights of James dribbling past the Wizards over and over and talked with Haywood and Caron Butler about the team’s defense.

“In the first game it was like, ole,” Jamison said of the Wizards’ matador defense. “One dribble and he was at the rim. He was penetrating and finding the open guy.

“We’re not out here to hurt anyone, but c’mon, we’re in the playoffs now. If a guy comes in here and keeps coming inside at some point you have to put the wood to him. We just have to bring the entire package. No one is going to go out there and try to hurt him. But the last thing you can do is just let him tip-toe across the middle and not be aggressive with him.”

Notes — Haywood sat out yesterday afternoon’s practice at Verizon Center with a bruised left knee. However, he is expected to be available for Game 3 tomorrow night. … Tickets are still available for Game’s 3 and 4, which will be played Sunday.

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