- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Wizards handed Game 3 to the Cavaliers last night; just handed the game to the limited bunch from Cleveland.

Gilbert Arenas scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter but missed a 3-point attempt that could have won the contest with one second left.

But the Wizards did not deserve to win this game, not after they let a big lead slip away and forgot what earned them a victory in Game 2.

They should have been cursing themselves as they pulled out of the arena on Fun Street.

They should have been rebuking themselves for allowing the Cavaliers to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Wizards reverted to who they are on defense.

They escorted LeBron James to the cylinder whenever it was convenient. They delivered no hard fouls on him, as they did in Game 2. They did nothing to make James shy away from the driving lanes.

Brendan Haywood made a valid point after Game 2. You cannot foul James like an ordinary player. He is too strong for that. He is undeterred by a touch foul.

So what did Jared Jeffries try on James in the second quarter? He tried to stop one of James’ layup attempts by reaching for the ball. James converted the shot and Jeffries appeared shocked by the call, just shocked, as if he does not know that the benefit of the doubt always go to the star in the NBA.

This is not open for discussion. This is merely the way it is in the NBA.

Jeffries has a million reasons to be playing with conviction in this postseason. He will be a restricted free agent in the summer, which means he will be looking for a sucker to award him the kind of silly money that was awarded to the Poet two years ago.

The Bucks extended a ridiculously charitable contract to the Poet, and the Wizards believed they had no choice but to match it. The Poet ended up with a six-year, $36.6 million deal from the Wizards.

Jeffries is looking for that sort of generosity this summer, and perhaps it will happen for him. This summer’s free-agent class is hardly stuffed with leading prospects, which can help players of Jeffries’ ilk.

Jeffries certainly has increased his help-side activity in the playoffs. He wiped the glass with one of James’ layup attempts.

Mostly, though, the Wizards stayed out of the path of James and let him drive to the basket whenever he felt inclined.

The Wizards seemed to forget that these are the playoffs. They lost all interest in playing defense after they pushed their lead to 14 points in the second quarter. They appeared to think they could trade baskets the rest of the way and treat the exercise like a regular-season game.

It was no surprise to see the Cavaliers cut into the lead and eventually pull even at 67-67 late in the third quarter, when James made a two-handed, backhand pass to the Amish-looking center that resulted in an easy basket.

James gave his ugly-face pose at this point, so you knew he was feeling fairly comfortable.

James has a thing about making ugly faces, for whatever reasons, which is not really a transcendent quality.

If you are determined to be one of Nike’s leading shoe salesman, you should know the ugly face might discourage a number of potential buyers. Who likes dealing with a clerk making an ugly face?

The Wizards were left to wonder what might have been, as they were unable to hold off the Cavaliers in the waning minutes.

The Wizards could have been up by 20 points if they had not found the trading of baskets to be so agreeable.

At times, they seemed to be in such a hurry to play offense that they allowed a procession of dunks, layups and put-backs.

It was not about who won. It was about who wanted to lose the most.

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