|James expects foul play from Wizards|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 20 April 2008 11:41|
One day later, James wasn't sore. But the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder said he was a lot shorter and lighter.
``I'm about 6-4, 215 today,'' he joked.
James endured a physical pounding in Cleveland's 93-86 win in the series opener, an intense game that at times resembled a rugged version of two-handed backyard touch football. Beginning with a shot across the face from Andray Blatche - a blow he later retaliated by throwing an elbow into the forward's chin - James was a marked man.
The Wizards hacked and whacked him.
The NBA's scoring champion still managed to score 32 points, and made the game's two biggest baskets in the final 1:37 as the Cavaliers won their seventh straight postseason game over the Wizards, their first-round opponent three years running.
James expected the Wizards to come after him, and he knows they're not about to stop.
``I have no problem getting hit,'' said James, who went to the free-throw line 14 times. ``But there's a difference between a foul and a LeBron foul. If that's what their game plan is, I have to be able to get back up and continue to let my game speak for itself.''
Sunday was spent working on adjustments as the teams prepared for Monday's Game 2.
Before hitting the practice floor, the Wizards lamented missing open shots down the stretch. They carried a four-point lead into the fourth quarter but then went 4-of-20 in the period and misfired on 10 straight shots in the final 4:38.
``We had our fair share of opportunities,'' Caron Butler said. ``We just didn't capitalize on them. You've got to finish a team like that when you've got them down because they have a superstar who in the fourth quarter can really score some points.''
Despite losing their eighth straight Game 1, the Wizards, who came in talking a big game, were encouraged by their performance. Gilbert Arenas scored 24 points and showed signs of becoming the pre-knee surgery Agent Zero; they controlled the tempo for much of the game, and the Wizards were still leading 84-82 before lapsing into an offensive drought.
Antawn Jamison went 0-for-5 in the fourth and missed three straight shots - two of them 3s - that could have changed the outcome.
``I had some open shots,'' he said. ``I took four or five that I should have thought about, and a couple of 3s where I could have drove and created shots for other people. But I got some decent shots out there. I'm not beating myself upside the head for taking them.''
Arenas didn't practice Sunday because of a sprained right wrist, but he's expected to play in Game 2.
Besides the untimely shooting woes, the Wizards' biggest mistake may have been giving James the chance to put them away.
He always has.
First, he made two free throws to tie it 84-all before driving through traffic for a go-ahead layup. Then, he blasted past nemesis DeShawn Stevenson, who had called him ``overrated'' a few weeks back, and dropped a runner to put the Cavs in control.
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, who called James ``the best player this side of the Rocky Mountains,'' was pleased with the way his players handled No. 23. He wants them to make James earn everything he gets, even if that means they have to bang him around.
``I was happy that we gave solid, hard contests in the paint,'' he said. ``They weren't flagrant, but they were meant to protect the rim. And as long as they're not flagrant, I think they are professional plays.''
Jordan knows he can't allow James to get into a rhythm. As he showed in last year's conference finals against Detroit, James single handedly can win a series.
``How many times have you seen LeBron get charges?'' Jordan said. ``He's so good with the body control. He's so good at avoiding charges that flat out right now, we are not taking charges on LeBron. Maybe Delonte West. Maybe Damon Jones.
``But we ain't taking charges on LeBron James. So it's out there and it's done and so be it.''
After watching his star player get bounced around Saturday, Cavs coach Mike Brown said James ``could have played for the Browns.''
James gets his share of preferential whistles that go to the game's biggest stars. And Brown is accustomed to seeing James take hard hits, but wonders why his star doesn't get more calls.
``If you watch him on drives, he's trying to avoid guys to the point where we tell him, 'stay strong,''' Brown said. ``He knows he's going to get hit, and unless he gets absolutely clobbered, they're not going to call the foul.''
James understands that calls won't always go his way. He knows what's coming in Game 2, and Game 3 and Game 4 and as long as the series lasts - more punishment.
``I'm not going to try and retaliate if something happens,'' he said. ``I don't think anybody is trying to hurt me. They do want to commit hard fouls. I see that. But I've got to protect myself.''