- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - For the first time all season, the Washington Wizards fielded a starting lineup resembling the one they envisioned when training camp opened last fall.

The result: The team leading the league in losses beat the team leading the league in wins.

In the closest thing they’ll have to a playoff game this year, Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards recovered after blowing a 14-point second-half lead and ended the franchise-record 13-game winning streak of LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers with a 109-101 victory Thursday night.

Arenas, playing his second game of the season in his latest attempt to return from knee surgery, had with 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting and 10 assists and six rebounds in 33 minutes.

Brendan Haywood, making his first start of the season, had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who also received the usual steady contributions from Caron Butler (25 points) and Antawn Jamison (19) and a surprising 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting from Darius Songaila as they snapped a three-game losing streak.

James scored 22 of his 31 points in the second half and finished with six assists and nine rebounds, but _ how’s this for a statistical oddity _ was responsible for all five of his team’s turnovers until Daniel Gibson traveled in the final minute of the third quarter. James finished with six turnovers, and had a 3-pointer stuffed in his face by Butler with in the final half-minute.

The Wizards led by 68-54 midway through the third quarter and 80-70 going into the fourth, but the Cavaliers opened the final period with a 16-6 run with James on the bench. Wally Szczerbiak’s 3-pointer put the teams even at 86-86 with 7:13 remaining.

The Wizards answered with an 11-3 spurt, including a three-point play and a drive to the basket by Songaila and a short jumper from Arenas. Arenas later assisted on back-to-back baskets by Butler and Jamison to get the lead to nine.

James helped trim the lead to four with a 3-pointer and a free throw, but Nick Young’s explosive drive to the basket with 1:05 to play put the Wizards ahead 104-98. The sellout crowd roared as Washington _ a team that has won only 18 games _ wrapped up its second win over Cleveland this season.

Last year at this time, the Wizards and Cavaliers were headed toward a first-round playoff series that would include subplots aplenty, including a back-and-forth between James and Washington guard DeShawn Stevenson that eventually drew rappers Jay-Z and Soulja Boy into the fray. Cleveland won the series in six games, with Arenas missing the last after more trouble with his knee.

Now the Cavaliers are the best team in the East; the Wizards are the worst. James is an MVP candidate; Arenas has spent most of the season during with more knee trouble. Washington did manage to beat Cleveland in January when James was called for traveling _ he claimed it was a legal “crab dribble” _ with 2.3 seconds remaining.

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is happy there won’t be a postseason rematch later this month.

“Jay-Z versus Soulja Boy, the hard fouls, the crab dribble _ I’m not going to miss any of that,” Brown said before the game.

There did seem to be at least one bit of gamesmanship by James in this game, when he stopped play just as Arenas was about to attempt a free throw with 1:47 left. James went to the bench to attend to something. Arenas smiled, but he also missed the free throw when play resumed.

Notes:@ The Wizards fielded their 19th starting lineup of the season. “It’ll be a nice shapshot for our fans, a chance to see pretty much the team that will hope we would be back in October,” interim coach Ed Tapscott said. “Brendan’s injury hurt us as much defensively as missing Gilbert did offensively. Each in their own way added a special element to us.” … Washington G Javaris Crittenton missed the game with back spasms, one night after grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. … James’ appearance on “60 Minutes” on Sunday was the highest rated segment of the CBS newsmagazine. It drew a 10.7 rating (17,354,000 viewers), a rating 26 percent higher than the rest of the show (8.5 rating), according to Nielsen Media Research.

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