Wizards Running on Empty
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Mo "Original Hibachi" Williams was the only guy willing to state the obvious after his team drilled the Washington Wizards 98-86 on Wednesday night, with LeBron James whirling his air guitar in the fourth quarter as if he were practicing for a Guitar Hero competition later that night. The Cavaliers couldn't let the worst team in the Eastern Conference and a former playoff rival go into the offseason bragging about stealing three wins from the team with the league's best record.
"We just had extra, kind of aggression and incentive behind this game," Williams said. "We wanted to win handily because we felt like ... we had to send a message."
Message delivered. You could tell that the Wizards were ready to get out of town at the start of the fourth quarter, when they were down 20 points and interim Coach Ed Tapscott sent in a lineup of Javaris Crittenton, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Dominic McGuire and Nick Young.
Of course, Crittenton and McGuire were the starting backcourt last night, but Tapscott left Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison on the bench and never thought about asking either to enter the game, even after the young guys got within 14 points with 8:42 remaining. "It just didn't seem that we had what we needed to make a run," Tapscott said.
Tapscott was right, because it didn't take long for the Cavaliers to quickly build the lead back up to 20, with Joe Smith dunking, and Daniel Gibson flipping an underhanded pass to a trailing Ben Wallace for a two-handed dunk that sent LeBron James airborne from the bench, with a high leg kick that would've hit Gheorghe Muresan square in the face.
So, Butler finished with 10 points in just 31 minutes, which were the fewest he's played since March 13, when Butler played just one half against Orlando on his birthday because of a strained left hamstring. Jamison had just seven points in 27 minutes, which snapped a string of 73 consecutive double-digit scoring games for Jamison. It also was the fewest points and minutes for Jamison since he scored seven points in 24 minutes on Nov. 8, also against Orlando.
"It's been a long season," Tapscott said about his decision to rest Jamison and Butler in the fourth period. "Sometimes you need to live to fight another day."
Tapscott even decided to give his team the day off today, allowing his guys to get more rest.
The Wizards only have three games left to fight. They have a home-and-home series against the Toronto Raptors beginning Friday, then they finish the season in Boston on April 15 in a game that may not mean much in the big picture for the Celtics. Given the circumstances, and the possibility that Gilbert Arenas will play at least one of those games, do you expect the Wizards to finish the season with 18, 19, 20 or 21 wins this season?
The Wizards are 0-1 against Toronto this season and 0-2 against Boston this season. They need one more win to match the 2000-01 Wizards for the worst 82-game record in franchise history. Two more wins would allow them to salvage something this season. Okay, maybe that's a stretch.
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