Washington 105, Cleveland 86

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (AP) -- The Washington Wizards were perfectly happy to miss LeBron James.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers' superstar sidelined for a fourth straight game with a sprained left index finger, the Wizards took advantage to beat the Cavaliers 105-86 on Wednesday night.

Washington's past two playoff runs were ended by Cleveland, including a sweep in the first round last spring when the Wizards were without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.

On Wednesday, the Wizards were again without Arenas, who had an operation on his left knee for the second time in seven months.

But Butler took advantage of James' absence and scored 27 points to send Cleveland to its fifth straight loss - its first five-game skid since Feb. 22-March 1, 2006.

"It felt good to get a win against Cleveland after they swept us in the playoffs,'' Butler said.

The playoffs were an unhappy time for Butler.

"Sitting on the sidelines with (Arenas), going through that depressing stage. Whenever you see them, you're itching to play against them,'' Butler said.

Washington is 6-4 without Arenas, but had lots of contributions from others. Antawn Jamison had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Washington. Brendan Haywood finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds as the Wizards outrebounded the Cavs 45-29.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan contemplated playing the James-less Cavaliers before the game, and remembered last spring's playoffs.

"It's like the bully coming to the fight without the brass knuckles and the baseball bats. They've been bullying us,'' Jordan said. "We want to return the favor.''

After the game, he said he relished the revenge.

"There's a specialness. We were suffering in the playoffs and we had to repay them,'' Jordan said.

Jamison claims to be friendly with James, but was happy to see him wearing a suit instead of a uniform.

"I've seen the guy the last two playoffs. I didn't miss the guy at all,'' Jamison said. "It actually felt pretty good. I'm good friends with him. I wish him a speedy recovery. I'm just kind of glad it wasn't tonight.''

The Wizards had a relatively easy time. Butler's jumper to end the first quarter gave Washington a 22-21 lead, and sparked a 21-4 tear that put the Wizards up 41-25 with 4:52 left in the second half.

Washington led by 28 early in the third quarter, which didn't make Cleveland coach Mike Brown happy. After the Cavaliers were pasted by New Jersey 100-79 on Tuesday, Brown ripped his team. He didn't back off his comments before Wednesday's game and afterward was none too pleased.

"We didn't compete like we are capable of,'' Brown said. "There were times that we just didn't put bodies on bodies.''

Missing James, Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Anderson Varejao, who had sat out this season in a contract disupte resolved Wednesday, the Cavaliers bear little resemblance to last season's Eastern Conference champions.

"We can win games, but obviously we're going to have to get some bodies healthy for us to be able to get back to where we were at the end of last year,'' Brown said.

Cleveland cut the lead 88-79 midway through the fourth quarter. But with James, who didn't talk to the media, sitting on the bench, the Cavaliers couldn't get any closer.

Drew Gooden, Shannon Brown and Daniel Gibson scored 13 points apiece for Cleveland.

"More than anything, as a team offensively we've really been struggling. Our shot selection, our decision-making - it's just not been good,'' Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said.

Notes: Snow fell from morning into the night in the Washington area, so the Wizards told fans they could exchange tickets to Wednesday night's game for seats at a Dec. 15 home game against the Sacramento Kings. ... Gooden is having a beard-growing contest with Washington's DeShawn Stevenson that the two started before the season. The first to shave loses. "What's the stakes? I'm going to keep that to myself,'' Gooden said. "I'm not going to lose.'' They played on the same AAU team, faced each other in high school and were teammates with the Orlando Magic. "We've been together at every level of basketball,'' Gooden said.

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