Wizards 109, Cavaliers 101
Here's something you can chew on for a minute. Only three teams have two wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. The defending champion Boston Celtics. The Western Conference-best Los Angeles Lakers. And now ... the worst-in-the-Eastern Conference Washington Wizards. Go figure. And, if not for a few questionable calls on Christmas, the Wizards would be the only team with three wins against Cleveland.
Gilbert Arenas had the funniest explanation for the Wizards' two wins against Cleveland this season, even though he was only on the floor for one of them. "A broke clock's right twice," he said with a laugh.
But seriously, no matter how good the Cavaliers have been this season, there is one bottom-feeding team that is not afraid to go against them. The standings might tell a different story, but the rivalry isn't dead, at least from the Wizards' perspective. Cleveland was likely looking ahead to its game against Orlando on Friday, while this game represented the season, pretty much, for Washington.
The Wizards are all too familiar with LeBron James and the Cavaliers. People unfamiliar with this rivalry probably can't fathom how a team that trails Cleveland by 44 games in the standings can play them so competitively. Well, it's history. As interim Coach Ed Tapscott said afterward, the Wizards get fired up to play Cleveland like no other team in the league.
"No matter when we play, if we have three players, 12 players, when we have to play Cleveland, we get up for it," Arenas said. "It's been a rivalry since Larry Hughes decided to go there. It's always going to be a good game."
Wednesday night was no different, with the game televised on TNT and Brendan Haywood playing at home for the first time all season, with Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. To realize what this game meant to the Wizards, all you needed to do was see Darius Songaila, stoic as they come, flexing after a jump hook in the fourth quarter and screaming "Whoo" after another big shot forced Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown to call timeout.
Haywood was solid, as he had 12 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes. He has a long history with Zydrunas Ilguaskas and he contributed to holding him to just nine points.
Arenas continues to struggle mightily with his shot. He showed an amazing ability to break down Delonte West and get to the rim, but his layups were often really hard off the glass or too soft. He also seemed to lack the proper balance on his jump shot. He never looked comfortable, as he leaned sideways, never got squared and rarely had his feet under him. Though his first two games, Arenas has missed 17 of his 23 shots. He explained, "Just rust of being out. Being fatigued, not knowing the floor. That's all it is. I can come out and shoot a thousand shots and look great. I'm glad I don't have 42 turnovers by now, being so tired."
Funny Arenas mentioned turnovers, because he has commited just one turnover to 20 assists in his first two games. When have you ever seen that kind of discipline from him? It's no coincidence that the Wizards had six different players score in double figures and dished out 27 assists as a team with Arenas running the floor.
Arenas said he will play on Saturday if Javaris Crittenton is still unable to go with a back spasms. If Crittenton plays, Arenas said he likely will rest.
James had a relatively quiet 31 points last night. I didn't realize he had scored so many points until I looked at the box score after the game. After the game, James explained the Wizards success by stating, "Records never matter when we play the Wizards. It doesn't matter who is in first place or who is not in first place. The Wizards know us and we know them. So the records can be thrown out the gym."
Game 4 of this regular season series is next Wednesday in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are 36-1.
April 3, 2009; 1:01 AM ET
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