- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

CLEVELAND.

The Cavaliers exposed the Wizards’ lack of playoff pedigree in Game 2 tonight.

In a contest fraught with hard fouls, high emotions and playoff-intensity defense, the Cavaliers overwhelmed the weak-minded, Charmin-soft Wizards 116-86.

The Cavaliers advanced to the NBA Finals last June, and that experience seemed to come through in this contentious first-round meeting.

The Cavaliers smothered the Wizards on defense, bumping them out of their sets and comfortable spots on the floor.

It helped the Cavaliers that Gilbert Arenas has not adjusted to being a glorified spot-up shooter after undergoing two surgeries to his left knee. He wants to be the Arenas of old - his competitive instincts demand it - but he lacks the explosion and lift to be that person.

He wants to take LeBron James off the dribble but can’t. So he tries a 3-pointer with James in his face. Air ball. Arenas missed six shots in the first half, and not a one was a high-percentage shot.

The Wizards left this city with a 2-0 deficit and as chumps. They did not meet the force of the Cavaliers. They did not fight. They became frustrated. They abandoned their offense. At one point in the third quarter, stuck with a double-digit deficit, the Wizards seemed to think they could mount a comeback behind the 3-point shooting of Antonio Daniels and DeShawn Stevenson.

Not a chance.

When Stevenson could not feel his face after hitting a 3-pointer that cut his team’s deficit to 16 points early in the third quarter, the crowd mocked his hand-waving facial gesture.

Brendan Haywood was ejected with 6:59 left in the third quarter after fouling James and not making a play on the ball.

The was moments after Delonte West had slammed Daniels to the floor without making an attempt at blocking the ball.

This was after mop-topped Anderson Varejao had done likewise on Andray Blatche in the first half and stayed in the game.

Of course, Blatche and Daniels are not the face of the NBA. They are nobodies and can be sacrificed to injury.

Not that this double-standard had anything to do with the outcome of the game.

The Cavaliers smacked the Wizards in every fashion possible, and the Wizards responded feebly.

James dominated the Wizards yet again, finishing with 30 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.

The Cavaliers led by 23 points after three quarters, and what was a playoff game deteriorated into a preseason game of trading baskets to get the game concluded.

It was nothing like the Wizards-Cavaliers Game 2 in Cleveland two years ago.

“We kept the tempo in that game and had a couple of scoring sprees, along with the defense being pretty good,” Eddie Jordan said of that win before the game.

The Wizards appeared at ease 90 minutes before the start of Game 2. A tape of Game 1 was being shown on a television set in the locker room. Blatche was ribbing Dominic McGuire about being soft because of his easygoing actions in a 2-on-2 game with his teammates. Stevenson was sitting in front of his locker, listening to music. The Wizards hardly appeared to be a team on edge.

Yet the Wizards soon seemed frazzled enough.

Arenas incurred a technical foul moments after entering the game in the first quarter. It was prompted after he was left to defend Wally Szczerbiak in the post. Arenas pushed Szczerbiak in the back in disgust after being called for a foul.

This helped ignite the fury of the Cavaliers. They closed the first quarter on a 20-7 run to take a three-point lead.

Emotions were running high, as was the physicality between the teams.

The Wizards initially tried to heed Jordan’s pre-game instructions not to give up easy lay-ups. This resulted in Haywood, Blatche and Arenas each incurring two fouls in the first quarter. It also resulted in the Wizards backing away, if only subconsciously.

When James drove from one end of the court to the other late in the first quarter, he was flagged to the basket by the Wizards before concluding the sequence with a thunderous dunk.

For the Wizards, it was a hint of the ugly things to come.


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