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Preview: Cavaliers at Wizards

Preview: Cavaliers at Wizards

Preview: Cavaliers at Wizards
Sun, Apr 29, 2007
By Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- LeBron James missed all three of his shots in the fourth quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 3 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Yet there's little doubt from anyone watching that he was the MVP.

James had five assists in the final period, including three passes that essentially buried the Wizards in the final 3 1/2 minutes. He hit Drew Gooden cutting along the baseline for a dunk. He found Zydrunas Ilgauskas for a 21-footer. Then came the fatal blow: After attracting a double-team with a drive to the paint, James dished out to Sasha Pavlovic on the baseline for a 3-pointer that gave Cleveland a six-point lead with 25 seconds to go.

The Cavaliers won Saturday night's game 98-92, putting the team one win from sweeping a series for the first time - and they've done it without a huge scoring game from James, whose output has been a steady 23, 27 and 30 in the first three games.

''I don't have to go out and score 40 or 50 points for my team to win,'' said James, who has 23 assists as well as 23 rebounds in the series. ''I did my job in the first half, and once those guys started doubling me and sometimes tripling me coming off picks and rolls, I was able to find my teammates.''

The Cavaliers appear to be standing in an orderly queue waiting to play second banana to James. Larry Hughes had a breakout 27 points in Game 1. Gooden struck for 24 in Game 2. Ilgauskas got 24 on Saturday. The trend needs to continue when the going gets tougher in the later rounds.

''Last year, especially during the playoffs, if LeBron wasn't getting it done, we weren't getting it done as a team,'' coach Mike Brown said Sunday. ''It takes some of the pressure and the load off of him and our team when other guys are able to step up. The offense is evolving to not just where every play is called for LeBron.''

The Wizards, meanwhile, went through the motions of what might be their final practice of the season Sunday. Antonio Daniels was limited with a sore ankle and DeShawn Stevenson had a sore hip, but both are expected to play.

No NBA team has rallied from an 0-3 hole to win a series.

''We played these games from a young age to even now for the spirit of the game, and that's what our guys gave,'' Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. ''They gave their heart and soul and blood, sweet and tears out there on the floor. Yeah, we're short on some people and some talent, but I applaud my team for what they tried to do.''

The Cavaliers are at far from top form. The Wizards, missing injured All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, have been able to keep the games close. Even a 17-point halftime lead in Game 3 had evaporated before the end of the third quarter.

''We just have to be better, once we get the team down, of staying on them,'' Hughes said. ''We just have to do it for 48 minutes and wait to relax when the game's over.''

The Cavaliers will have plenty of time to relax if they close out the series in Washington on Monday night. Perhaps the biggest motivation for finishing the sweep is the extra rest the team would get before the start of Round 2. Game 5, in necessary, would be Wednesday in Cleveland.

''We're watching the other series, and we understand how the schedule goes, so if we're able to close things out on our part we'll get a chance to rest, get everybody fresh, and do all our research for the next team that we play,'' Hughes said. ''There are teams that are in position to win four games and you want to do it as quickly as possible. You don't want to drag a series on just because you have an opportunity to go home.''

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