- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2008

CLEVELAND — Well, score one for the Cavaliers.

Despite suffering scoring droughts in the late stretches of all four quarters, the Cavaliers pulled off an 93-84 victory over the Washington Wizards to take Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup Saturday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena.

After watching the Wizards erase a five-point third quarter deficit and take an 84-82 lead with 4:24 to play, and despite suffering through an 0-for-5 shooting stretch, the Cavaliers prevailed when LeBron James put his team on his back and scored six unanswered points — two at the foul line, and four more on consecutive drives to the basket — for the victory.

James finished with 32 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the victory.

The Wizards appeared to have a shot at the victory, when they put together a 9-2 spurt to take the lead. But just as quickly as they reclaimed the momentum, it vanished.

Washington didn’t score in the final 4:24 of play while the Cavaliers went on an 11-0 run.

After missing his first five 3-point attempts — and eight field goal attempts for the entire game — it seemed as if Washington guard DeShawn Stevenson — the man who has stoked the Wizards-Cavaliers rivalry by calling Cleveland star LeBron James overrated — finally had come through.

With his team down, 82-79 and needing a spark with only five minutes late in the game, Stevenson drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 82-82.

Teammate Gilbert Arenas, who led the Wizards with 24 points, including four 3-pointers, gave Washington it’s fifth lead of the game with a reverse layup and the Cavaliers went on to miss four straight shots. But then came the drought.

The Wizards, who shot 39.5 percent from the field on the day, will face the Cavaliers in Game 2 on Monday night at 7 p.m., also in Cleveland.

For the first six minutes of the first quarter, the only thing clicking for the Wizards was Brendan Haywood. The center scored 10 of his team’s first 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

With 3:42 left in the first quarter and his team down 17-12, Arenas took the court for his first playoff game in two seasons. He received a thunderous boo from the home crowd because of his statement that the Cavaliers couldn’t beat the Wizards in the playoffs three straight seasons. He airballed his first shot, a 19-foot turn-around jumper. But swished home a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 17-15 with just over two minutes left in the first.

Then with time running out, Arenas drilled a 35-footer that was so clean the net barely moved. The first quarter ended with the Wizards up 24-19.

Helping the Wizards’ efforts were the Cavaliers’ shooting woes, which featured a 5-for-20 shooting performance in the opening period.

Washington extended its lead to 30-19 on two more 3-pointers by Arenas to open the second quarter before Cleveland got back in the game with a 13-6 run that forced Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to call timeout with his team clinging to a 36-32 lead with 5:05 left in the half.

With time winding down in the second quarter, Haywood set a pick the floored James and drew a foul and then took a step over the fallen Cavalier. James got up and swung an elbow at Haywood’s face. Haywood made a move at James, who was quickly backed by Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Antawn Jamison rushed up and had to be pulled back from the skirmish.

Haywood, Jamison and James all received technical fouls and Wally Szczerbiak hit the technical foul shot to tie the game at 46-46. James launched a 3-pointer at the horn, but it glanced off the rim for a miss.

James took out his frustration on the Wizards at the start of the third quarter, scoring 11 of his team’s first 13 points. Cleveland led 59-54, but then went cold, missing their next seven field goal attempts.

The Wizards took advantage, closing out the quarter on a 15-5 surge to lead 69-64 heading into the fourth quarter.

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