- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

Antawn Jamison ripped off his jersey in disgust as the Wizards made their way to the locker room at halftime last night.

His gesture reflected the sour mood on Fun Street, where the Wizards were forgetting the fundamental principle of getting back on defense.

This unexplainable omission on the part of the Wizards allowed Sasha Pavlovic to dunk the ball just before the halftime buzzer sounded.

It would not have been so bad if it were not Pavlovic’s second dunk in the last 25 seconds of the second quarter.

It would not have been so bad if it did not put the Wizards down by 17 points and signal their impending demise.

But Pavlovic’s dunk just before halftime revealed the lifelessness of the Wizards.

This was corrected at halftime, after which the Wizards showed their competitive grit before falling to the Cavaliers 98-92 in Game 3.

The Wizards fashioned a 21-4 scoring run to tie the game midway through the third quarter and fought the Cavaliers the rest of the way.

The run was not unexpected, LeBron James said.

“We knew they would go on a run on their home court,” he said. “We didn’t expect that big of a run. But as big as it was, they never took the lead.”

The Wizards could not finish the fight in a positive manner, of course, for they lack the finishing power of Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.

The issue of the team’s competitive spirit was embodied by the slothful form of Brendan Haywood, who finished with a stunning stat line: one foul and a collection of zeroes in 10 minutes.

Do you realize how difficult it is to be on a basketball floor for 10 minutes and essentially have no statistical evidence of it?

You could wheel a coffin onto the floor and position it 20-25 feet from the basket, and the corpse in the coffin probably would have one rebound in 10 minutes, if only because a long bounce from a missed shot would drop into the coffin.

This was Haywood at his most invisible: Zydrunas Ilgauskas missed a baseline jumper in the second quarter, which Drew Gooden rebounded. Ilgauskas then broke to the basket, Gooden found him with a pass, and Ilgauskas finished the play with a dunk.

Haywood was believed to be in the vicinity of all those events, although Wizards coach Eddie Jordan could have been excused for asking, “Where’s Brendan?”

Jordan did not have to say much to the players at halftime, mostly because of the presence of Jamison and Antonio Daniels in the locker room.

“We thought they [the Cavaliers] had outworked us in the first half,” Jordan said. “We got that turned around in the third quarter. We just didn’t make plays again [at the end].”

Jamison, the antithesis of Haywood, was irritated by the feeble goings-on.

“It was frustrating to be out there and not have guys communicating when getting back on defense,” Jamison said. “We just didn’t have the fire and energy in the first half. We should have been giving a better effort than what we did.”

Jamison did all he could in finishing with 38 points and 11 rebounds.

His 17-point outburst in the third quarter lifted the Wizards out of the fetal position and gave them a measure of dignity.

It could not give the Wizards the victory they so desperately wanted.

“Once again, another frustrating loss,” Jamison said. “We didn’t give up. We made a game out of it. But that doesn’t really matter.”

As Jamison knows only too well, playing the opposition close until the final minutes of a game is one of the distinguishing qualities of lottery teams.

He wants to break that habit.

“We should try to give our fans something to feel good about [in Game 4 tomorrow night],” Jamison said. “Get a win and go back to Cleveland.”

The offseason is just up ahead for the Wizards, whether in one game or two.

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