- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CLEVELAND.

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

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 and abandoned their offense.

Eddie Jordan did not try to hide his disappointment.

“They played with a lot more intensity and discipline,” the Wizards’ coach said. “They beat us. We beat ourselves. Their coach kept his team disciplined. This coach could not keep his team disciplined enough to stay competitive.”

Jordan took the hit for his team.

“I did a horrible job of trying to keep our guys organized on the floor,” he said.

It was a one-sided fiasco.

When DeShawn 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. It was ruled a Flagrant 2 foul and could warrant a one-game suspension.

“It’s an official’s call, and I will leave it at that,” Jordan said. “I’m not going to say what I think. It doesn’t matter.”

Said James: “It was not a basketball play. Somebody could have been seriously injured.”

Yet Delonte West stayed in the game after slamming Antonio Daniels to the floor without making an attempt at blocking the ball.

Mop-topped Anderson Varejao stayed in the game after he took out Andray Blatche in the first quarter without going for the ball.

Not that the ongoing double-standard protecting James 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.

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown did his customary fawning of James afterward, as he apparently is paid to do.

“We all know LeBron James is amazing,” Brown said. “He is absolutely amazing.”

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.

As Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said, “For us to look like we don’t know what we’re doing, it’s disappointing. We were undisciplined. We played too much one-on-one basketball. We were taking five dribbles and keeping the ball to one side of the floor.”

Soon after the opening tip, the Wizards succumbed to a frazzled state.

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.

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

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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