Wednesday, October 10, 2007

CLEVELAND — Exhibition? Excruciating was more fitting.

It’s a good thing the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards have a few more weeks to work out the kinks.

Antonio Daniels scored 12 points, Gilbert Arenas had nine in his first game back from offseason knee surgery and the Wizards beat the Cavaliers 81-62 last night in an NBA preseason matchup of playoff teams from last season.

Superstar LeBron James scored only three points on 1-for-5 shooting and played just 15 minutes for the Cavaliers, who swept the Wizards 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs on their way to an Eastern Conference title.

Daniel Gibson started at point guard for Cleveland and had 13 points. The Cavaliers shot just 31 percent from the floor and had 27 turnovers, a stat certain to infuriate coach Mike Brown.



As the Cavaliers fired brick after brick in the third quarter, one paying customer voiced his frustration toward Brown.

“Hey, Mike, do you have them take any shots at practice?” he yelled.

It didn’t look like it.

Arenas was relegated to the role of cheerleader during last season’s playoffs against Cleveland after tearing up his knee late in the regular season. A summer spent in grueling rehab seems to have paid off as the All-Star moved without hindrance.

It’s his touch that was off; Agent Zero went 2-for-11 from the floor.

About the only highlight in a first half of airballs, turnovers and playground-style hoops was a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Arenas that put the Wizards ahead 45-29 at the break.

Washington outscored Cleveland 29-14 in the second quarter.

Before the game, James, who caused a stir last week when he showed up at a home Indians playoff game wearing a New York Yankees cap, predicted Cleveland would win the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.

The Indians eliminated the Yankees in the first round Monday.

“I think Cleveland is going to win,” he said. “Like I’ve said before, if there was going to be a team who beat the Yankees, I wanted it to be the Indians. I think Cleveland will do the same thing it did in New York.”

The Cavaliers played without two key contributors from last season’s team: guard Sasha Pavlovic and forward Anderson Varejao. The two restricted free agents recently turned down one-year qualifying offers, and their agents are holding them out for long-term deals they may never get.

Cleveland appears intent on moving on without the pair, who could end up playing in Europe.

The Cavaliers, who will leave on an eight-day trip to China following Friday’s game against Seattle, also were without guard Eric Snow, who underwent knee surgery last week and is expected to miss the entire preseason.

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