One last look back: Cavs-Wizards 2006

[Editor's Note:] This is Part 2 of the 5-part Wizards/Cavs playoff preview.  Part I came yesterday via the Video Correspondent.  

The following is written by BF member Spence, who also blogs for the Wizards at the DC Sports Blog.  Click "Read More" to read this great, comprehensive report of the six games the two teams played in last year's postseason.

Game One: Cleveland 97 Washington 86

It wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Cavaliers came ready to play for the first playoff game in the career of all-around savior of the human race, Lebron James. The Bullets shot just 41 percent from the field, and were outrebounded 52-36.

The Cavaliers led by 11 points after one quarter and by 14 at halftime. The lead stretched to 17 points by the start of the fourth quarter, before Gilbert Arenas scored 17 points in the final period to make the final score seem less embarrassing.

Lebron James made ABC and ESPN hoops analysts wax orgasmic by recording a triple double in his first playoff game - 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Donyell Marshall came off the bench to add 19 points and Eric Snow unaccountably managed to pour in 14. Cleveland fans at the elegantly named Quicken Loans Arena serenaded their superstar with chants of "M-V-P" from the first quarter onwards.

For the Bullets it was an afternoon of frustration. Their trio of Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison entered the playoffs averaging over 67 points per game, but could manage only 48 on this day. As a team, the Bullets missed 19 of 22 3-pointers and shot under 70% from the free throw line. The only players who did shoot well were Jared Jeffries (5-7 from the field for 15 points) and Antonio Daniels (6-6 from the field for 14 points).

In what would prove to be a theme for the series, Washington got very little production from its bench outside of Daniels.

Game Two: Washington 89 Cleveland 84

The Bullets shooting woes got even worse in game two, as they could not manage to hit 40% of its shots from the field or even 67% of its shots from the line. They still got the road win by holding Cleveland to 36% shooting and forcing Lebron into 10 turnovers. James also scored 26 points, but had to take 25 shots to do it. James' biggest mistake, however, came late in the game when he saved a ball from going out of bounds, but tossed it back into play right under his own basket. Arenas easily intercepted the pass and laid it in for 2 points.

The Bullets and Cavs battled back and forth all game, with the outcome in doubt almost to the very end. Drew Gooden shook off a poor first game and came back to score 24 points and grab 16 rebounds, thoroughly outplaying his counterpart Antawn Jamison. While the Bullets once again got minimal help from the bench, Cleveland's bench was even worse, chipping in a measly 5 points.

Gilbert Arenas led all scorers with 30 points. Caron Butler returned to form, scoring 21 points on 19 shots and leading his team with 9 rebounds. As a team, the Bullets recorded almost as many steals (10) as turnovers (11).

The key defensive adjustment for this game was Eddie Jordan abandoning the double team of Lebron James and instead going to a single coverage scheme with Caron Butler or Jared Jeffries shadowing James' every move. The Cleveland superstar missed shots he hit in game one, and with all his teammates guarded, he only had 2 assists.

The other change was Washington's willingness to play James rough. In the first quarter, center Brendan Haywood responded with a forearm shiver that sent Lebron to the floor. The Cleveland crowd howled in rage, but the point had been made: no easy baskets for Lebron today. James wasn't the same after that.

Brendan Haywood somehow managed to take only one shot and grab only one rebound in 29 minutes, but his defense was superb. Aside from rattling Lebron's teeth a bit, Haywood forced Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas to miss 10 of his 13 shots. With King James and Big Z throwing up enough bricks to build a basketball arena with a less-stupid name, a career game from Drew Gooden wasn't enough to save the Cavs at home.

Game Three: Cleveland 97 Washington 96

The first of three heartbreaking 1-point losses for the Bullets came in the first game of the series played in Washington. Lebron James scored 41 points, but the most important basket came with 5.7 seconds left. James drove around Antonio Daniels, bumped into Michael Ruffin, and banked it off the glass. The bucket gave Cleveland a razor-thin lead they didn't relinquish. Gilbert Arenas, who scored 34 points, missed a wide-open three as time expired.

James got some help in this win, as Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Larry Hughes, who had done almost nothing in the two games in Cleveland, added 16 points and 4 steals.

But it was James who got Cleveland this win. He played all but 28 seconds of the game, and his teammates missed 38 of the 57 shots they took. Despite shooting only 41 percent as a team, the Cavaliers forced 17 Bullet turnovers, including six from Arenas, and shot 14 more shots.  

The Bullets came out strong and held an eight-point lead at halftime. But they went to sleep in the third quarter, scoring only 13 points and allowing Cleveland to tie the game at 71 entering the fourth. Arenas scored 17 of his team's 25 points in the final period, hitting all but one field goal. But LeBron gave his team the lead with 31 seconds left, driving around Jared Jeffries and making an incredible short shot after it appeared Jeffries had tied him up for a jump ball.

Caron Butler scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Antawn Jamison scored 14 points, but only two came after halftime. The Bullets shot a red-hot 55% in the first half, but withered in the final two periods, hitting less than 40% of their shots.

Game 4: Washington 106 Cleveland 96

Things looked bleak for the Bullets. The team was down 2-1 in the series and, by halftime, looked well on its way to losing both home games and returning to Cleveland facing a virtually insurmountable 3-1 deficit. In the first half of the game, Lebron set franchise records for points in a quarter (18) and a half (25), as the Cavaliers took a 57-46 lead at the break.

Arenas, meanwhile, scored six points in the first half on 1-9 shooting. The only thing keeping the game from becoming a total rout in the first half was Antawn Jamison, who finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Other than that, the Bullets had little. All seemed lost.

But at halftime, two things happened. First, Gilbert changed his uniform and shoes, complaining that they were bringing him bad luck. Second, Eddie Jordan scrapped his Princeton offense and told his team to play looser and use their natural talents. Jordan vowed he would not call plays in the second half after realizing that former Bullet guard Larry Hughes was reading the plays and tipping off his teammates.  Gilbert in particular was told to try to take over the game the way he had in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

The Cavaliers held a 13-point lead early in the third quarter when the Bullets, led by Caron Butler, began to chip away. Butler, who scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and began hounding James on defense, forcing him into errors. James turned the ball over seven times in the game, four times on offensive charging calls. While James and his coach, Mike Brown, protested loudly after each call, it was Eddie Jordan's pre-game complaints of preferential treatment on LeBron that seemed to matter most. Meanwhile, Arenas got back on track a bit, scoring eight points in the quarter, as the Bullets outscored Cleveland 26-15 and tied the game going into the fourth.

Lebron led off the fourth with a three to give his team the lead again. However, Gilbert Arenas immediately responded with a three of his own to tie it up again. On the next Bullets possession, Antawn Jamison hit another three, giving Washington its first lead since early in the second quarter. Arenas hit 7-11 shots in the second half and poured in 20 points in the fourth quarter alone. Cavs coach Mike Jones tried different defenders on Arenas - Eric Snow, Flip Murray, Larry Hughes, and even Lebron - but nothing seemed to matter. Arenas finished with 34 points, 5 rebounds and six assists. His spectacular fourth quarter blew the game open.

Game 5: Cleveland 121 Washington 120

With the Bullets leading 120-119, only seconds away from a 3-2 series lead, Lebron took an inbounds pass, tiptoed along the baseline, evaded three Bullet defenders who appeared afraid to get close to James, and easily dropped in a layup with 0.9 seconds left in overtime to give his Cavaliers the win.

James led all scorers with 45 points and after complaining about the lack of foul calls on him in Game 4, took 18 free throws. Larry Hughes and Eric Snow added 24 and 18 points respectively to aid Cleveland's cause. Home court worked for Cleveland, as they shot 43 free throws, compared to only 29 for Washington.

Lebron drew a sixth foul on Caron Butler with 25 seconds left in overtime and calmly hit both free throws to give his team a 1-point lead. However, Gilbert Arenas, who scored 8 points in the overtime session, drove to the hoop and was fouled by Flip Murray with 3.6 seconds left. Arenas hit both free throws, giving his team the lead again before James' heroics.

The Cavs held a 107-100 lead with just over one minute remaining in regulation, when the Bullets stormed back, tying the game on a three-point play by Antonio Daniels.

Both teams came out of the gate quickly, with Cleveland shooting 61% in the first half. But they held only a one point lead at the break, thanks largely to Gilbert Arenas, who scored 20 points in the first 16 minutes of the game.  The Cavs responded by running a second defender at him, but while that tactic seemed to work for a while, Arenas still finished with 44 points on 14-24 shooting, including 6 for 9 from downtown.

Butler scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished five assists before fouling out in overtime. Antawn Jamison had a huge game, scoring 32 points on 13-24 shooting. Antonio Daniels came off the bench to score 13 points and hand out seven assists against only one turnover in 38 grueling minutes. Jared Jeffries scored eight points before fouling out trying to guard Lebron James in the fourth quarter.

Game 6: Cleveland 114 Washington 113

For the second straight game the Cavaliers got a win in overtime. Damon Jones, the self-proclaimed `Greatest Shooter in the Universe', hit a 17-foot baseline jumper with 4.8 seconds left in overtime to give Cleveland a one-point lead and the win. Those final 14 seconds were the only minutes he played the entire game.

The Bullets held a 14-lead in the first quarter, but let it slip away in the second. For the rest of the game the teams battled back and forth until Washington took a 7-point lead with 5 minutes to play in the game. However, the Bullets allowed Cleveland to come all the way back and take a three-point lead with second to play. It was only because of the incredible 30-foot three from Gilbert Arenas with 2.3 seconds to play that the game even went into overtime.

In the extra session, the Bullets took a one-point lead with 30 seconds left after Caron Butler hit two free throws. The Cavaliers then turned the ball over when Eric Snow's cross-court pass sailed into Washington's bench. The Bullets brought the ball down and kept it in the hands of their superstar, who was fouled with 15 seconds left in overtime.

Arenas' first free throw clanked off the front rim. As he went back to shoot the second, Lebron James approached him and told him that if he missed, Cleveland would win. Arenas promptly missed the second off the back rim, setting up Jones' shot.

Lebron finished with 32 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and five turnovers. No other Cleveland starter scored in double figures, but the bench came alive. Donyell Marshall finished with a season-high 28 points, and Flip Murray added 21 points. Marshall and Murray combined to shoot 18-27 from the field and 5-8 on threes.

Arenas led all scorers with 36 points, but missed half of his eight free throws. Caron Butler shot only 5-18 from the field, but managed to score 18 points and grabbed a monstrous 20 rebounds. Antawn Jamison followed his best game of the series with his worst, scoring only 15 points on 6-17 shooting and grabbing a measly four rebounds. Brendan Haywood was a force, dominating the paint with 17 points on 7-8 shooting.

In the end, there was very little that separated the two teams.  But the Cavs moved on to scare the Pistons, and the Wizards went home.  Two stars--Arenas and LeBron--were born.

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