How sporting of the Cavs to take a night off and let the Wizards get a little taste of postseason success. That's pretty much what happened Thursday night in Game 3, as Washington romped over comatose Cleveland to snap an eight-game playoff losing streak and pull within 2-1 in its Eastern Conference series.
To say the Cavs were lifeless would be an insult to corpses everywhere. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and the rest of LeBron James' supporting cast came out from the opening tip as if they just wanted to get it over with and skip right to Game 4. Even LeBron (right) didn't seem to have his usual fire.
The Cavs were probably going to lose this game anyways. But the fact they couldn't even make it competitive is not a good sign for a team hoping to get back to the Finals. Now the Cavs are facing a rejuvenated Wizards club with renewed confidence.
The Wizards were much more aggressive defensively in Game 3, pressuring the ball on top and getting into the passing lanes. They racked up nine steals in the first half alone, though some can be attributed to lackadaisical passing by the Cavs. Caron Butler took over the main duties of guarding LeBron, and did a solid job (with help from his teammates).
The loss of Gilbert Arenas early on to a re-aggravation of his knee injury didn't hurt the Wizards. Arenas started the game and made a few nice passes, but finished with just two points in 10 minutes. He left the game in the first quarter with the score tied 10-10, and Washington proceeded to go on an 11-0 run without him to seize command. Wizards coach Eddie Jordan should strongly consider holding Arenas out in Game 4 to rest the knee further, and hope he can get back to being Agent Zero for Game 5.
The Cavs are now 3-10 away from home since the Wallace/Szczerbiak trade (compared to 13-4 at the Q). Two of those road triumphs came at lowly New York and Charlotte. One would think a team with LeBron and so many veterans would be better able to focus and get the job done on enemy courts.
Wizards fans apparently didn't hear what Charles Barkley said about their team's trash-talking. During the fourth quarter, they stupidly serenaded LeBron with chants of "Over-rated!" Look for a much more determined LBJ in Sunday's Game 4, and a much closer contest.
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