- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Washington Wizards were eliminated from the playoffs, with their two All-Stars forced to watch their only series in street clothes because of injuries.

But the third member of the “Big Three” showed his value perhaps more than ever in the first-round loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who won Game 4 last night 97-90 at Verizon Center.

It will go down as a footnote in the series, but Antawn Jamison — who normally defers offensively to Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler — proved he is capable carrying the load.

Jamison scored 31 points, making three of six 3-pointers. The performance, which included 20 points before halftime, was his third straight game with at least 30 points. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 32.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in the series.

“Antawn Jamison was unbelievable,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “We made him the main focus, and he still found ways to score. That guy scored inside, outside, on the break. We played small on him and played big on him. He’s a terrific basketball player, and not only that, he is a good rebounder.”

Jamison again showed an uncanny ability to make off-balance shots, adding to his array of floaters, jumpers and slashing moves. At one point in the first quarter, he scored 10 straight points for the Wizards: two 3-pointers, a signature jump hook and a midrange jumper.

It was the kind of performance Washington has come to expect from Jamison after losing Arenas (knee) and Butler (hand) to injuries.

“I am the kind of guy that is going to do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s the second option or third option offensively or they need me to rebound a little bit more,” said Jamison, who averaged 19.8 points in the regular season. “This was an opportunity where they really needed my game to flourish offensively, to be a little bit more aggressive. I had fun.”

His performance has been even more impressive considering he received little help from perimeter players. Defenses have been cheating inside with DeShawn Stevenson (0-for-8 last night) and Jarvis Hayes (1-for-5) struggling.

In fact, no other Wizards player scored more than 20 points in any game this series. Meanwhile, Jamison has contributed 28, 31, 38 and 31 points.

“He kind of rediscovered his game,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “He was everywhere. He was in the post. Everybody knew we were going through him. He made shots on the perimeter. He played off the dribble. He went back to his Golden State days. He played in pretty much every dimension you can bring to the table.”

Ultimately, Jamison could not carry his wounded squad to a win. But he raised his game when the team needed it most and at least made the games competitive.

“You definitely have to be mentally prepared to guard Antawn,” Cavaliers forward LeBron James said. “He is definitely one of the premier scorers in the league. He is definitely a guy who is tough to cover because he spreads the floor so much and he can get in the post and make things happen.”

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