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.

By Michael Lee |  April 3, 2009; 1:01 AM ET
Previous: Cavaliers (61-13) at Wizards (17-59); Arenas, Haywood To Start; Crittenton Out | Next: Leftovers Part I: Role Players


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Hell Yeah!
Thats why I keep coming back for more.

Posted by: AWizinLA | April 3, 2009 1:15 AM

it is unbelievably frustrating/enfuriating reading about how we are handling/changing the "plan" w/respect to Gil's comeback. how could his playing status on saturday night possibly depend on CRITTENTON's health? all we care about is GILBERT's health!!! if he is healthy, then play. if not, then don't. what the fu%*!&$ difference does it make if Crit is healthy or not. that is just so unbelievably assinine and short-sighted it is unfathomable.

Posted by: PVGtownAz | April 3, 2009 1:38 AM

with that said i LOVE having Gil back. he makes us so much more fun and exciting. if he's healthy next year, along w/Haywood and an impact rookie (initials BG), we could make some SERIOUS noise.

Posted by: PVGtownAz | April 3, 2009 1:39 AM

I'm just glad that Gil is getting some PT this season. As far as Crit. playing Saturday instead of Gil, no problem. It's nice to see wins, but it's also good to see some of the young players getting PT. Crit. will be in the mix next year, so the more minutes he gets, the better. What a great win tonight. Haven't been many wins like this one this season.

Cleveland threatened to make several runs, but the Wiz built a lead through three quarters, and didn't create many opportunities for the Cavs to close the gap. The Wizards finished strong and didn't leave the outcome to the refs. You gotta know that in a close one in the final minutes LeBron is going to get his share of phantom calls. That one on that LeBron got against Songaila in the closing minutes sure looked marginal. For the most part the refs though called a pretty good game. It'll be much harder on the road in Cleveland next week.

Posted by: JPRS | April 3, 2009 1:59 AM

I know it's only a 2 game sample of arenas/haywood and only a 1 game sample of both of them on the court at the same time, but you have to think that we are going to be a force next year.
Not to take anything away from the starters, but it was the bench who got us going tonight. Suddenly the guys who started most of the season are the second unit. And oh my what a second unit..blatche, songaila, young, mcgee, and james. A very nice mix of youth and vets.
But back to the starters...it is difficult to argue against us having one of the stronger starting lineups in the east when healthy. Arenas, Butler, Jamison, Mcguire, and Haywood. That unit will easily be good for 80 pts a night. We get a coach who can help us stop people from dropping 100 on us and you have a great ball team. In spite of the injuries the starters have been together for a long time and continuity in sports is usually a good thing.
Barring more injuries...I think we could win 50+ next year.

Posted by: rapotter | April 3, 2009 4:50 AM

"But back to the starters...it is difficult to argue against us having one of the stronger starting lineups in the east when healthy. Arenas, Butler, Jamison, Mcguire, and Haywood. That unit will easily be good for 80 pts a night."

You think McGuire will start next year? Because I'm thinking he's better off the bench. He'd be there now if it weren't for he Wiz' perceived weakness inside. They don't have an inside scorer, which is why Jamison draws the job. That's fine against some teams, not against others.

We have some guys who look like PFs, such as Blatche, and some who play like PFs, like Songaila, but I can't see one that really fits the mold. Darius is short and slow, and Blatche is -- well, depends on what night you show up.

Songaila looked great with the two absentees back on the court. He showed what a difference his skills can make. And why the Wiz wanted to sign him in the first place.

Crittenton really shouldn't play much in a game like this. But he definitely should play a lot in games like that road contest against Memphis. All sorts of learning opportunities without a lot of pressure from fans. That's when you should see the kids a lot more than you do.

All in all a hopeful sign for next season. Let's hope Blake Griffin gets a chance to play in Washington.

Posted by: Samson151 | April 3, 2009 7:21 AM

I loved, loved, loved this win.


There is the oft-spoken feeling on Fun Street that when everyone is healthy, everything is alright and this team is one of the top teams in the league. They'll point to the win against Cleveland as further proof, and they won't spend this summer working like crazy to change and improve their games, the front office won't have to add real talent to the team, just a "savvy veteran" or two, etc.

Truth is, though, that the Wizards remain the second worst team in the league for many reasons, not just injuries.

But up yours, LeBron.

Posted by: disgruntledfan | April 3, 2009 7:41 AM

Young played good D again - even when matched against Lebron. He's starting to look like he could be a solid 3rd guard next year. But the Wiz still need to get a quality 2nd guard (Stevenson, McGuire, JJ, etc.) ain't going to get them to the promised land.

Posted by: Izman | April 3, 2009 7:48 AM

Re: McGuire starting next year

It may not be too bad of an idea. Having McGuire and Haywood anchoring the defense and letting the other three lead the offense.

Posted by: crs-one | April 3, 2009 8:31 AM

I just got my season ticket renewal letter today. It said if I watched the game last night that iswhat I can expect next year a 82-0 season. There is nothing Gil can't do.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | April 3, 2009 9:20 AM

Some where Tony's got the ole Bandwagon deep in storage. The Wiz get healthy, get lucky in the draft,Grunfeld makes a good trade, and hires the right coach, and it might be time to break that thing out of storage.

My truck driver from Cleveland was in this morning. I told him even if the Cav's win a title I've got bragging rights all summer long...

Posted by: flohrtv | April 3, 2009 9:21 AM

I mean how bad of a defensive player is Wally Szcerbiak to let Songalia drive around him for a layup? DAMN!!! We should have an awesome bench next season Critt,Young,Blatche,Songalia,and Javale or the lottery pick. Nice win last night, looking forward to next Wedensday in Cleland(as Richard Pryor used to say)Haywood played well last night came out like he had something to prove and LA Smooth finally played well against a top notch team way to go Nick.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 3, 2009 9:27 AM

I think the idea of Dmac starting next year is not a bad idea. I know that during the off season he will be working hard on further developing his game as he did last summer and I thought he played well last night. He had a couple of turnovers but I think that was due more to being nervous playing alongside Gil,Butler,Jamison and Haywood. I have always like McGuires game defensively and with continued development in his shot, yea I would take him over Stevenson as a starter.

On a side note, if I could have reached thru the screen and pimp slapped fat Barkley, I would have made him see stars. I hate the way he constantly bash the Wiz. I was glad to see Arenas direct a statement at him during the postgame last nigh. I hope he heard it. He can really be a class A jerk at times. I wonder how his crow is tasting this morning.

Posted by: ivyleague | April 3, 2009 9:30 AM

that was a beautiful game :)

Posted by: mallorygrauer | April 3, 2009 9:31 AM

That was a great overall effort and for true fans of Les Boulez it was extra nice considering the opponent. I've never seen a "superstar" act like a bigger crybaby than Lebron - and how about that cheap knockdown of Darius near the end? It was sweet to see Tough Juice steal that inbounds from him too - but of course the announcer was apologizing for James saying the ref should have moved Caron back. I was yelling at the tv. And of course all of the phantom calls that James seems to create. Gil is playing really well considering he's struggling with his shot - 20 assists and one TO total in 2 games shows that he's really letting the game come to him. Good things to look fwd too of course w/everyone healthy. Repeat with everyone healthy-but isn't the health issue always the caveat with this team?
It's nice to see the team playing like they have something to play for - even though they're not going to make the playoffs.

Posted by: gibbshogs | April 3, 2009 9:48 AM

Loved seeing the rare show of emotion from Songaila in the 4th. As soon as I saw they had Wally guarding him I starting thinking they had to get the ball to him inside. Haywood is clearly not in real game shape, but he did a nice job battling on the boards. The other effect of having Arenas out there looking to pass is that Haywood gets more easy set up baskets and doesn't grind the offense to a halt trying to go one-on-one. I just hope that when Arenas gets his confidence back in his leg and starts attacking the basket more that he doesn't forget the benefits of moving the ball like he has the last couple of games.

Maybe the best utterly meaningless game I've ever seen.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 3, 2009 11:21 AM

As for Barkley . . . What was he supposed to say? Of course he expected the Cavs to win. Anyone in their right minds would have expected the Cavs to win.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 3, 2009 11:27 AM

Note to Ivyleague: I wouldn't worry too much about what Barkley has to say, trust me anybody who's out trolling the streets for paid sex can't be too bright(Hey Charles ever heard of an escort service?) he needs to get with the.....The Serial Skirt Chaser(Andray Blatche)they might be able to get two for one!!!!

Posted by: dargregmag | April 3, 2009 12:17 PM

Watching DSong get fired up was worth the price of admission. You can tell the guys are so happy to be back to a full squad and being able to do the things they're used to doing. DSong is a great back-up power forward (and a lousy starting center). He's smart, efficient and just schools people like Wally. A front line of DSong, Blatche and McGee will be SICK against opposing 2nd units.

Posted by: jon_quest | April 3, 2009 12:36 PM

Hope this is a preview of things to come, but we still need a 2 guard (Caron is a 3) and a spot up 3 point shooter (Roger Mason would have fit the bill). We still have a lot of dead weight in DSS, James, and Etan who need to be moved. If we don't end up with the 1st pick and Blake Griffin, the team should trade for a veteran bigman who can score and defend inside. Haywood does a very good job but he is usually only on the court for 25-30 minutes and Jamision is not a true 4.

We can only hope that EG doesn't stick to the mantra of this team can compete with anyone if healthy, because it's still far from being a contender. Hope he makes some real moves this offseason to improve the team.

Posted by: wizfan89 | April 3, 2009 1:34 PM

Why is it that Nick Young has to be considered the 3rd guard? Only the Wizards would consider starting DeShawn Stevenson ahead of Young!

And as far as starting Dominic McGuire is concerned, I say that he needs to get some minutes in the Las Vegas Summer League. Dominic has good fundamental skills, but ZERO scoring ability. Maybe he could work on a mid-range jumper. There's no way the Wizards can compete with the Miami Heat, Hawks, Celtics or other high-scoring teams, when they start McGuire and he puts up 3 or 4 points a night.

Posted by: musicmanjr | April 3, 2009 3:19 PM

With a healthy Arenas, Jamison, and Butler in the starting lineup and Haywood getting a fair amount of garbage points, the Wiz could get along pretty well with limited offensive contributions from McGuire, as long as he continues to provide all of the other positives he normally brings. In any event, developing a jumpshot isn't something a guy goes to summer league or the D-League for. That's the kind of thing that comes from repetition in a gym with a shooting coach.

Posted by: kalo_rama | April 3, 2009 4:59 PM

Why all the hate on McGuire becoming a starter? If he can do the little things that the others can't do or won't do, why not? You get enough scoring from Gil,CB3, and Jamison so that leaves rebounding, assist, blocked shots and defending to D-Mac and BTH. Did anyone see what Boston did with a limited but still improving Rondo last year? They had their big 3 and and big man in the middle with a limited but still improving Rondo. The Wiz can build a decent bench. Young, McGee(Summer League play a must),D-Song, Blatche, Veteran To Be Named Later,D-Stevenson, and my main man J-Critt. This team next year can really do something special. As usual, barring injuries, they can really compete with the best. Some dead weight has to be dropped from this team before they can move forward. Mr. Polin has given the green light to spend and if it can be spent on a veteran that can improve this team, do it.
But back to D-Mac, I called it from day 1 when he was drafted by the Wiz. The kid is showing that he is more than willing to do the little things which can carry a team over the top.

Posted by: Doobie_Sparks | April 4, 2009 2:05 PM

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