NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers 100, Wizards 97
By Howard Fendrich
WASHINGTON ó King James lost his crown.
All right, so it was his burgundy headband that went flying when LeBron James took a shot to the noggin from DeShawn Stevenson, their simmering feud nearly boiling over. James kept his cool, allowing the flagrant foul to spark him and his Cleveland Cavaliers.
At game’s end, James was just as collected, drawing waves of Washington Wizards defenders before dishing to Delonte West for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left. That shot, along with James’ 34 points and 12 rebounds, led the Cavaliers to a 100-97 victory on Sunday and a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series.
“There’s been some extracurricular activities going on outside and inside this series,” James said, “but I’ve been able to stay focused.”
The Wizards were ahead by a point with 31/2 minutes left in the first half when James drove to the basket, and Stevenson came from behind and swiped a hand out, clipping the Cavs’ star with what James said teammates told him was a closed fist before tumbling to the court. James kept his balance and stepped toward Stevenson, who got up and stepped toward James.
They exchanged words, but that was it, before teammates stepped in between.
“If we was on the park, something definitely would have escalated,” James said. “But, you know, I guess that’s what they want to do. They want to hurt LeBron James this series. It ain’t working.”
Gilbert Arenas made two free throws with 57 seconds left to get Washington within two points. After James missed a jumper ó part of an 0-for-3 fourth quarter ó Arenas’ 8-foot fadeaway with 28 seconds remaining made it 97-all.
And from there, as West put it: “I’m pretty sure everybody in the gym, including their defense, thought (James) was going to take the last shot. And I think sometimes we forget this guy has great court vision. He made the right play.”
Which was dishing to an open West, who went to high school in nearby Maryland.
“Washington definitely probably had a flashback,” James said.
Even after West came through, Arenas had enough time to try to tie it again.
But a player who built a reputation for clutch late-game performances before having two operations on his left knee hesitated before badly missing a 3 over West.
Arenas was so “distracted” and “flustered” by the way things ended, he forgot about his postgame ritual of throwing his jersey into the stands to give a fan a souvenir.