Washington Wizards (43-39) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Saturday, April 19, 2008
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN/FSN OH, WTAM
The Cavaliers are limping into the playoffs this year, but their foe is a familiar one. For the third straight season they must take on the Washington Wizards in the first round. Both of these teams have been killed by injuries all year. In fact, the Wizards haven’t been healthy, really, in almost 2 years. But they are getting there now, as Gilbert Arenas will be playing in this series. Will the Cavaliers come together and play good, energetic basketball, or will they continue to look confused and lifeless? The answer to that question will determine who wins this series.
These two teams split their regular season series. The Cavaliers did beat the Wizards on the day after the trade deadline when they had only 6 regular players active and 2 D-League signees, but the Wizards managed to get revenge and beat the Cavaliers in their only matchup after the new Cavaliers players arrived. In the 4 games against the Wizards, the Cavaliers averaged 24.75 assists and 12.25 turnovers. In 3 of the 4 games, the Cavaliers turned the ball over at least 13 times. That number will have to be reduced in this series. The Wizards are expecting Gilbert Arenas to be healthy and contribute, which will mean they will finally have their “big 3″ ready to go against the Cavaliers. But the “big 3″ will be going up against the “big 1″, as in LeBron James.
In his postseason career, LeBron James has averaged 27.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg, and 7.1 apg. He is the only player in NBA history (with a min of 20 games) to average 25.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. LeBron is a primetime player, and the playoffs are his stage. The Wizards have been running their mouth, and we’ve all seen what happens when you push LeBron with verbal attacks.
The Wizards are not a fast paced team, but they are an efficient team and with three great offensive players and a quick, slashing point guard in Antonio Daniels, they are tough to stop. It gets even more complicated when you consider that Brendon Haywood has quietly had a very good season. Offensively, this is a team that can give the Cavaliers problems. The Cavs played better defense down the stretch, but they still aren’t quite where they were last season on the defensive side of the ball. It will be important that they stop Daniels at the point of attack and make it as difficult as possible for the Wizards to get a lot of motion within their offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Wizards just are not a very good defensive team at all. That could play into the Cavaliers hand, as LeBron and Z both have typically had very good games against the Wizards. If Z can get things going early, it will obviously make life easier for LeBron, but the big key will be the Cavaliers outside shooters. Will Daniel Gibson be able to find his postseason form from last year? Will Wally Szczerbiak be able to find his touch that he has seemed to have misplaced since the trade? Will Delonte West be able to keep up his recent hot shooting from outside? Will Damon Jones see any playing time? Only time will tell. But if none of these shooters can step up and hit some shots for the Cavaliers, it will minimize the Wizard’s biggest liability and it will make life awfully dificult on the Cavaliers.