- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

Delonte West visualized the moment.

The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard already had lived the play in his mind even before LeBron James drew a double-team and flipped the ball to him in the left corner.

West, a product of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, calmly sank a 3-point shot with 5.4 seconds remaining that gave the Cavaliers a 100-97 victory over the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center and a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

“I saw myself hitting the shot before I got my hands on it,” said West, who scored a season-high 21 points by making five of eight 3-pointers. “I prepared myself for the pass and saw it go through the rim. I prepared myself for him to pass it to me. I always envision myself making the perfect shot.”

West, 24, keyed the Cavaliers’ win with his momentum-changing missiles off James’ drives-and-dishes. The slender, 6-foot-3 left-hander was particularly effective in the fourth, hitting three of five 3-pointers and accounting for nine of the Cavaliers’ points in the period.

James, meanwhile, was in foul trouble and scored only three of his 34 points — he missed all three of his shots from the floor — in the final quarter.

“You want the role players to beat you,” said Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who badly missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer while guarded by West. “You don’t want them to have big nights and LeBron to have 34. If they are having career nights, we don’t expect to win.”

Yesterday’s game marked the highlight of a roundabout NBA career for West, who played on the 2003-04 Saint Joseph’s team that went undefeated in the regular season, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and reached the Elite Eight. He left the Hawks after that junior season and was chosen by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the draft with the 24th pick.

West spent three seasons in Boston, the final two as a starter, then was dealt to Seattle in the deal that brought Ray Allen to the Celtics. The stop in the Pacific Northwest was short: West was involved in the blockbuster, deadline-day trade that sent Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak to Cleveland.

“I actually wanted to stay in Seattle with the youth movement,” West said. “I wanted to stay in Seattle with the youth movement with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, but everything worked out.”

It certainly did yesterday.

That well-traveled career — it’s uncertain again this offseason because he is a restricted free agent — yesterday placed West in his hometown on the baseline for a spot-up jumper in a tie game with time running out. West did not hesitate on the shot, which put the Cavaliers on the cusp of the second round of the playoffs and the Wizards on the brink of elimination.

“It always feels good to come back to where I grew up,” said West, who rented a luxury box for his family and friends in Game 3 and provided some 12 tickets to immediate family members yesterday. “I used to play on this floor as a high school player. It feels good to get to this point and do it for my momma and my family.”

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