- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

CLEVELAND — After weeks of falling victim to injury after injury, it seemed for a moment the Washington Wizards finally had caught a break yesterday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After scoring on an off-balance runner early in the third quarter, the Cavaliers’ LeBron James landed awkwardly on Etan Thomas’ foot, twisting his left ankle and falling to the Quicken Loans Arena floor.

But James got back to his feet to complete a three-point play, and Cleveland cruised to a 97-82 victory in Game 1 of this best-of-seven first-round series.

The Wizards’ 82 points mark the team’s lowest playoff total in three appearances under coach Eddie Jordan. Washington was last limited to so few points in the playoffs May 8, 1988, when the Detroit Pistons defeated the Washington Bullets 99-78.

Despite missing All-Stars Gilbert Arenas (knee) and Caron Butler (hand), the Wizards played the Cavaliers close for most of the game. The Wizards didn’t let the Cavaliers pound them on the boards — something that has happened in past meetings — and generally played an effective style of basketball.

The one glaring problem the Wizards had, however, was an inability to put the basketball in the basket.

Despite a big game from Antawn Jamison, who finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds, Washington made only 36.7 percent of its field goals.

“Our effort was great. The intent was great. We just didn’t make shots,” Jordan said. “I thought we missed some open shots and that we were working hard to get open shots. They just weren’t falling when we needed them to.”

James, who tortured the Wizards in last season’s playoffs, said he knows the ankle will be a problem when he wakes up today and indicated he was thankful the teams don’t play again until Wednesday in Cleveland.

Guarded by Jarvis Hayes (18 points), James scored 23 points and added nine rebounds and seven assists.

The real problem for Washington, though, was former Wizards guard Larry Hughes. Hughes led the Cavaliers in scoring with 27 points on 9-for-17 shooting and also grabbed seven rebounds.

While Jamison and Hayes were the only two Wizards to score in double figures, the Cavaliers also got 16 points out of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas and 10 from Drew Gooden.

Hughes — who played three seasons in Washington — came up big offensively, but his defense proved even more of a factor.

“Larry is calling out some of our sets before we even get into them,” Hayes said. “We have to deal with that in practice tomorrow. We have to find some counters because he’s calling [the plays] out every time we come down. Every time.”

After scoring the first field goal of the game, the Wizards never led again. Down 10 points early in the second quarter, the Wizards cut the lead to 45-41 with 32.7 left in the first half.

However, they lost momentum at the end of the half when Hayes missed a 3-pointer in the final six seconds and Hughes made one as time expired to give Cleveland a 48-41 lead.

The Wizards trailed 54-52 just before James sprained his ankle. However, James never left the game, and the Cavaliers responded by going on an 11-2 run.

While the Wizards were able to pull within six with 10 minutes left, four free throws in a row — two from Ilgauskas and two from Hughes — restored Cleveland’s lead to 80-70 with 9:01 to play. The Wizards failed to get the lead to single digits the rest of the way.

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