Wizards Top Cavs, Clinch Playoff Berth
Washington 104, Cleveland 92
WASHINGTON, April 16 (Ticker) -- Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards reserved their postseason invitation.
Arenas scored 35 points as the Wizards stopped a five-game losing streak and clinched a playoff berth with a 104-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"This was a relief," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "We left here almost three and a half weeks ago in the fifth spot with all of the trials and tribulations. We came back in the fifth spot so we are happy."
"I think we relieved but not satisfied," Wizards center Brendan Haywood said. "We know that just because we are in doesn't mean that we can go out and tank these last two games. We want to finish fifth. We want to finish strong and go into the playoffs on a good note."
Washington has made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1988.
Whoever finishes fifth will face the fourth-seeded Cavaliers (48-32) in the first round of the playoffs.
The Wizards snapped their longest losing streak of the season in impressive fashion, trailing for fewer than two minutes at the outset before taking the lead for good.
Arenas scored 16 points and Antawn Jamison 14 of his 16 in the first half that ended with the Wizards holding a 53-41 lead.
In the third quarter, Antonio Daniels scored 10 of his 17 points and Butler nine as the Wizards extended the advantage to 88-62 entering the final period.
"The arena was electric and the fans were really into the game," Butler said. "My teammates found me in rhythm and got me warmed up. It was a fun day to play."
The Wizards struggled to start the fourth quarter, going scoreless for more than five minutes as the Cavaliers reeled off a 15-0 run. Cleveland got as close as nine points.
"Not taking anything away from Washington, that is a very good basketball team down there, but it looked like our guys thought they were coming out of the game after the first three minutes," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.
After missing his first game of the season with a left ankle sprain, superstar LeBron James returned to the lineup and scored 17 points in 29 minutes for the Cavaliers, who committed 17 turnovers.
"His ankle is fine," Brown said. "Whether we were up big, down big, he wasn't playing down the stretch."