Wizards Contain James, Rally Past Cavaliers
Washington 102, Cleveland 94
CLEVELAND, Feb. 24 (Ticker) -- Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards were in danger of falling even further behind the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Then they found a way to contain LeBron James.
Arenas had 26 points and nine assists while Antawn Jamison added 25 and 12 rebounds as the Wizards shut down James in the second half and rallied for a 102-94 triumph over the Cavaliers.
"Four, five, six, seven seed, who knows who's going to play each other?" Arenas said. "It doesn't matter who we play, we're not worried about that right now. We're just trying to come together as a group. Last year we didn't have home-court advantage, and we pulled out a win."
Caron Butler scored 24 points and Antonio Daniels chipped in 10 and seven assists off the bench for the Wizards, who went on a 16-5 run over the final five minutes.
James scored 25 points but struggled down the stretch, going 0-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-12 from the free-throw line after the break. The third-year superstar collected nine assists and seven rebounds but finished just 8-of-19 from the line.
"In the first half, we forgot our game plan and (James) was just getting down the lane," Arenas said. "In the second half, we tried to cut the lane off, and I don't think we gave him a field goal."
"We got them out of the things they wanted to do," added Butler, who defended James for most of the second half. "Obviously they wanted LeBron to have the ball, and we tried to push him and shade him to other directions."
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 23 points and reserve Donyell Marshall added 19 for the Cavs, who managed just 40 points in the second half.
"I'm sure (James) wants to put it on his shoulders, but it wasn't just him," said Marshall, who scored 13 of Cleveland's 22 points in the fourth quarter. "It was the whole team. We are a team, it's all of our faults. We are never going to put the blame on one guy."
Cleveland owned an 89-86 lead when James turned the ball over to Butler, who found Jamison for a one-handed floater in the lane with 5:05 remaining.
Washington took the lead for good 30 seconds later when Daniels stripped Eric Snow and drove for a layup, giving the Wizards a 90-89 advantage.
"Antonio had a terrific fourth quarter at both ends of the floor," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "As a team, we just believed and we fought."
The Cavs turned the ball over on each of their next two possessions, and Jamison hit a short jumper to push the lead to 92-89.
Ilgauskas' dunk cut Cleveland's deficit to 92-91 with 3:20 left, but Arenas drilled a 3-pointer 18 seconds later to give Washington a four-point cushion.
After James missed a pair of free throws with 2:45 remaining, Marshall completed a three-point play a minute later to draw Cleveland within one.
James had a chance to put the Cavs ahead on their following possession, but he missed two more free throws with 1:18 left. Daniels responded by drilling a jumper from the top of the key to push the lead to 97-94 with a minute remaining.
Ilgauskas barely missed a running hook on the ensuing possession, and Arenas found Butler for a wide-open 3-pointer to push the advantage to 100-94 with 23 seconds left.
"That team came in here on a mission to kick our behind, and they did," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "They felt confident, they were focused. We just got beat from Eddie Jordan on down."
James went scoreless in the pivotal fourth quarter, missing four shots from the floor and four more from the line.
"It was a (poor) performance by me," he said. "I put the blame all on myself. I'm in a situation right now, it got to a point where it's kind of mental."
"He struggled from the free-throw line, but I have to look in the mirror myself," Brown added. "I played the guy 48 minutes. It's tough on anybody to play 48 minutes and do what he does for our basketball team."
Arenas, who played alongside James in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, sympathized with the young phenom.
"I remember the time in Orlando when I missed like eight straight (free throws)," Arenas said. You're going to go through one of those days where you're not feeling that confident at the free-throw line. You could tell (James) was just trying to get it up there."