Wizards have their way with Cavaliers
Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008
WASHINGTON ó LeBron James was serenaded with chants of iover-rated!î as he stood at the free throw line late in the third quarter, the latest humorous twist in an ongoing saga that had somehow snared ó yes, believe it or not ó one of his sonís favorite rappers into a front-row seat near the basket.
James couldnít help but laugh. He was so distracted he missed the free throw. Didnít really matter. By then, the Cleveland Cavaliers were trailing by 28 points, a stunning reversal from Game 2 to Game 3 in their first-round series against the Washington Wizards.
Maybe it was the new haircuts sported by four Wizards players. Maybe it was the presence of Soulja Boy. Maybe it was sight of Colin Powell in a iWhite Outî T-shirt. Or just the comfort of being home. Or the inspiration of having Gilbert Arenas in the starting lineup, even though he limped out of the game in the first half.
Actually, there were plenty of reasons the Wizards routed their playoff nemesis, 108-72 in a Thursday night party at the Verizon Center. DeShawn Stevenson, who started the ioverratedî talk and invited Soulja Boy to the game, had a icanít-feel-my-faceî 19 points. Caron Butler (17 points) and Antawn Jamison (15) also found their games. James didnít have his. And, yes, those 15 first-half Cleveland turnovers had a lot to do with it, too.
iIt was a good old fashioned behind-kicking,î Cleveland coach Mike Brown said.
The victory took the Wizards off the ropes by cutting Clevelandís lead to 2-1 in the first-round series. Washington will also host Game 4 on Sunday, when coach Eddie Jordanís players will have the confidence of knowing they arenít destined to be forever hexed by James and Co. Cleveland had won eight straight playoff games against the Wizards, including a first-round sweep a year ago.
iI donít know about the rapper and haircuts,î Jordan said. iBut the fans and the way we played kind of came together.î
One game after setting a franchise playoff record with a 30-point win in Game 2, the Cavaliers set another team postseason mark by losing by 36. The margin of victory also set a Wizards franchise playoff record.
The Wizards took control with a pair of 9-0 runs in the first half. They led 49-33 at halftime, and the Cavaliers never threatened to make a game of it in the second half.
But, oh, the subplots!
The crowdís big chant was a reference to Stevensonís claim that James was ioverratedî following a Wizardsí victory over the Cavaliers last month. James said responding to that remark would be like Jay-Z responding to Soulja Boy ó a hip-hop mogul answering a one-hit wonder.
Stevenson had to eat his words after Games 1 and 2, but he had Soulja Boy dancing in the aisle while going 5-of-7 on 3-pointers.