Once again, LeBron James (right) let his play do the talking. And now he can crow all year about another playoff series win over the Wizards. James had a triple double (27 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists), as Cleveland won at Washington to claim a 4-2 series victory and eliminate the Wizards for the third straight year. "We're starting to come together," said James, whose Cavs indeed seem to be developing some chemistry after that big midseason trade. As for the Wizards, they should have known better than to talk smack if they couldn't back it up.
LeBron got a huge lift in Game 6 from his supporting cast. Wally Szczerbiak (playoff career-high 26 points), Daniel Gibson (22) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (12) all came up big offensively. Even Joe Smith and Ben Wallace made some key plays. LeBron would never say it, but he had to have been thinking to himself, "It's about time!"
After a heroic performance in Game 5, Caron Butler crashed back to earth Friday night. Crowded by James and facing a more focused Cavs team defense, the Wizards forward finished with 18 points -- with most coming in garbage time. Butler is an All-Star who's capable of great performances, but he's not yet able to do it night in and night out, like LeBron does.
The Wizards face a somewhat uncertain offseason. Antawn Jamison is an unrestricted free agent, and Gilbert Arenas can opt out of his contract and join Jamison on the open market. Washington has to decide if it's going to tie up all its money on the current Big Three (Butler is already signed to a big deal), or whether this group has run its course after three straight first-round playoff ousters. Even if Arenas comes back healthy, the Wizards still need more inside help to become a true Finals contender. It might be time to break off a piece or two and try a somewhat different approach.
The big reason (besides LeBron) that Cleveland can feel optimistic about the next round? The Cavs' defense was back in form against the Wizards, holding their opponent to under 90 points in four of six games. That's how Cleveland got to the Finals a year ago.
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