Cavs Try to Bounce Back
After the Cleveland Cavaliers' worst playoff loss ever, coach Mike Brown got a text message from his junior college coach.
``One hiccup does not mean indigestion,'' said Brown, recalling the note from Tom Bennett of Mesa Community College in Arizona. ``I got a nice little laugh out of him. It's the truth. It's up to us to come out and play better in Game 4.''
That is Sunday at Washington, and the Wizards expect to have Gilbert Arenas in the starting lineup. The guard left with a bruised left knee after logging 10 minutes in Game 3, but practiced Saturday and will start, coach Eddie Jordan said.
``I was trying to slow him down so he could save his legs, but he looked good and he looks like he's ready to go,'' Jordan said.
The Cavaliers have a 2-1 lead in the first-round series, but are eager to move past their 108-72 loss in Game 3. LeBron James scored 22 points, but the Wizards double-teamed him and kept him from roaming the lane. He was just 2-for-4 from the free throw line.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Washington -4 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 190 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland +4 (View NBA Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
``They did a good job of shrinking the floor,'' James said. ``We need to make more outside jumpers. We shot 2-for-16 from the 3-point line, which is going to allow them to sit in the paint more and not allow me to get into the paint.''
The Wizards' scheme worked, cutting James' production after he scored 32 and 30 points in the first two games.
``He didn't have full steam riding down the lane and getting to the basket and getting fouls,'' said DeShawn Stevenson, who led the Wizards with 19 points while continuing a bit of a feud with James. ``We just tried to take the ball out of his hands.''
Reserve Devin Brown, with 10 points, was the only other player in double figures for Cleveland. Joe Smith said the Cavs need more balance in Game 4.
``They did what they could to get the ball out of LeBron's hands, of course, but at the same time everybody else has got to be able to step up and knock down shots,'' Smith said.
As for the Wizards, the largest margin of victory in a playoff game in franchise history was just what they needed after being handed their Game 2 lashing. They appeared to be on track for another swift playoff exit at the hands of the Cavaliers when they were humiliated in a 116-86 loss at Quicken Loans Arena in Game 2. It was their eighth straight postseason defeat to Cleveland.
But with more than 20,000 fans packing the Verizon Center for a ``white out'' - among them former Secretary of State Colin Powell and rapper Soulja Boy - Washington followed up its lackluster showing with an about-face.
Antonio Daniels said it was the loudest he had ever heard the arena in three years in Washington.
``When you walk in there and that crowd is going crazy like that, you feel like as a team, as a group, that you can accomplish anything,'' he said.
The Wizards say they are more organized and focused now than they were to start the series, which had chippy beginnings. Last month, Stevenson called James overrated. And in Game 2, Brendan Haywood was ejected for a flagrant foul against the Cavaliers' star.
But Washington settled down in its last game. The Wizards forced Cleveland into 23 turnovers - more than it had in the first two games combined - and held James in check.
``We realized we were more making excuses than just going out there and playing the game,'' forward Antawn Jamison said. ``We did a lot of blaming the referees and things like that. But once you look at the tape, it was a lot of things we weren't doing correctly that put us in that position.''
Jordan said the Wizards were effective against James because Caron Butler was able to fight through screens and stick to his defensive assignment most of the game. This spared Stevenson energy on defense and helped him spark the Wizards' offense.
Cleveland is just 3-10 on the road since trading for Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Ben Wallace. Two of those wins were against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats and New York Knicks. The only playoff team the Cavs beat was the Philadelphia 76ers, and that came in a controversial one-point win.
Brown said mistakes catch up with the Cavaliers when they're away from home, and the last game was no exception.
``We haven't done a good job focusing in on the defensive end of the floor,'' he said. ``The biggest thing is that we've turned the ball over. When we turn the ball over, it's led to easy points for the other team.''
The Wizards were braced for a different Cleveland team on Sunday. After all, they are quite familiar with how it feels a game after being on the receiving end of a blowout.
``We have to come out with that same energy, that same enthusiasm, because we know the way we felt after we got blown out,'' Daniels said.