- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

CLEVELAND — Brendan Haywood came out fighting.

The maligned 7-foot center, who played just five minutes in Game 1 of the Wizards’ first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers, made his presence felt in Game 2 at Quicken Loans Arena.

Haywood was a major reason the Wizards built a seven-point lead in the first half and had a chance to win after halftime. The reserve center who has complained about his playing time finished with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting and four rebounds in 19 minutes.

He even showed his seldom-seen feisty side when he was called for technical foul after throwing an elbow into Cleveland center Anderson Varejao and being called for a foul. Haywood continued barking at the Brazilian and even inadvertently butted him in the back of the head to draw the technical.

“He grabbed me and did something dirty,” Haywood said. “I said, ‘Don’t do that.’ We had some profane words and I kind of lost it. I am not going to take that.”

Haywood simply described the difference in production in the two games as “19 minutes compared to five.”

The embattled center said he is growing used to looking over his shoulder if he doesn’t play well as soon as he enters the game.

“I feel like I am under trial by fire,” he said. “If I go out there and make a couple plays early, I have a tendency to stay in. I feel if I don’t play that way early, I am not sure if I am going to play anymore. That’s a tough way to play.”

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan tried something different when he sent Haywood in along with Darius Songaila. The Lithuanian quickly found Haywood for a layup and the big man’s confidence seemed to grow after the early basket.

“He brought some emotion,” said Jordan, who has criticized Haywood’s mentality in the past. “He felt good about himself. Anytime you can score, it helps you. It juices everybody up. I brought Darius and Brendan in at the same time, so there wouldn’t be any pressure on one guy trying to change the game.”

Haywood agreed the positive start paid dividends.

“A couple good things happened for me early,” Haywood said. “Darius found me for a layup. I hit two free throws. I was feeling good about myself. I was just trying to be aggressive.”

And the Wizards feel they might have found someone to help them as they head back to Washington down 2-0 in the series with the next two games at Verizon Center.

“We are going to need him to be a difference maker in this season,” Antawn Jamison said. “He did a good job defending [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas and attacking the boards and gave us something offensively. He is just a guy playing with pride and a chip on his shoulder. He wants to show the coaching staff, we knew what he could do, that he deserves some playing time.”

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