Due to none of us being near computers last night at the start of the game, there was no live blog for it. Our sincerest apologies for that. You can check out Rick’s recap of the game here. What follows is my analysis of the game and series as well as my look at what everyone else is saying about it.
-Lets start with….who else? LeBron James. Just another simply amazing playoff game for us to add to our DVD collections. His stats don’t even really tell the story. Yes, 27 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and just one turnover in 44 minutes played is a great game by anyone’s standards. But beyond the box score, LeBron took complete control of this game. He ran the offense. He defended Caron Butler. He got his teammates involved. It was a masterpiece to watch.
-One of the key points of this game was the end of the 1st quarter. With just 50 seconds left in the first, DeShawn Stevenson hit 2 free throws to put the Wizards up by 8 points at 31-23. The crowd was going nuts, the Wizards were on fire, and it felt like if the Cavaliers weren’t careful, this one was going to get out of control, especially with LeBron due to take his normal trip to the bench to start the 2nd quarter (kudos to Mike Brown, by the way, for changing it up and not actually taking him out yet at that point for once). A Daniel Gibson missed three-pointer could have been devastating, but Joe Smith picked up a huge offensive rebound and it led to a nice pass from Devin Brown to Anderson Varejao for an easy layup (as though any layups for AV are actually easy). After a missed 3 by Roger Mason, Daniel Gibson then took the ball to the lane and threw up a finger roll prayer at the buzzer which miraculously went in to cut the deficit to a manageable 4 point hole at 31-27. It took the crowd out of the game a bit and made sure the Wizards didn’t carry over their momentum to the 2nd quarter. That stretch was just huge for the Cavaliers.
-I said in my article about Sasha Pavlovic’s return that it seems like the Cavaliers always have an unlikely hero in playoff elimination games that they win, and Friday night was no exception. No no, it wasn’t Sasha Pavlovic, and no we didn’t really think it would be. But the hero of Game Six (other than LeBron, of course) was none other than Wally Szczerbiak. I can’t say enough for Wally and the way he bounced back from his well-documented struggles earlier in the series. A lot of us had questioned the decision to start Wally over Devin Brown once the playoffs started, and even the likes of Brian Windhorst were saying that Wally’s leash was likely to be cut short in Game 6. Well, Szczerbiak answered in a big way. He had a playoff career high 26 points on 6 of 13 shooting from three-point range. You got the feeling Wally was in for a big night when in the first quarter he threw up that flat-footed prayer of a leaner from about the free throw line that somehow went in. It was Wally’s night.
-I can’t say enough for Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. I think this Wizards team can be a bit overbearing with their antics and talking. No matter how much we all love Gilbert Arenas’s soon-to-be-extinct blog, and we really do love it, his brashness can be a bit much at times. DeShawn Stevenson is just an idiot. Brendan Haywood can seem misguided a bit with his questionable trash talking remarks and mocking tone. Outside of the DC area, this is a polarizing team. Either you like their soap opera entertainment style, or you wish they’d just shut up and play basketball. But it’s a shame if Butler and Jamison get lumped in with the rest of those guys. Caron and Antawn are the heart and soul of their team, and I came away from this series with even more respect for those guys. Caron Butler had an emotional Game 5 performance that Wiz fans won’t soon forget, when he willed his team to a huge road win that kept their season alive. Friday night, it was Jamison who tried to do the same, as he came out in the first quarter with a purpose, and he was huge for the Wiz. Assuming the Wizards can re-sign Jamison in the offseason, they will be in good hands with those 2 leaders.
-I want to thank Bullets Forever for all the great posts during the series and for putting up with my banter in the comments section over there. We may not see eye to eye on everything in this series, but we here at WFNY have nothing but respect for those guys, and I for one will be watching their blog all offseason to monitor the future direction of this Washington franchise. I also want to give out a thanks to Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Blog for the entertaining posts throughout the series and for being a sport and answering Rick’s questions. Kudos also to TruthAboutIt for the the excellent insight in the recent Q&A with Rick.
-Looking ahead, we still don’t know yet whether the Cavaliers will end up playing Boston or Atlanta in the next series. Atlanta would seem to be the obvious choice for Cavs fans to be pulling for. They are the 8th seed. The Cavs would have home court advantage. The Cavs could avoid having to play a team that won 66 games this year. But remember the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” Atlanta is a young, athletic team that does a great job rebounding and getting up and down the court. They are a team that could give the Cavaliers some serious problems. Sure, the Cavs went 2-1 against Atlanta this year, but they never played each other after the big trade. As for Boston, the teams split the season series 2-2, but the Cavaliers dropped the only post-trade matchup with Boston 92-87 on the road. So take your pick who you want to play and who you want to root for on Sunday.
What The Inside World Is Saying
“It may not have mattered as much, but the Cavs eliminated the Wizards in the first round for the third straight year. They did so by totally dominating the home team after trailing, 31-27, after the first quarter.
A 15-0 surge midway through the second quarter decided the game.” [Branson Wright]
“To think that West, Smith and Szczerbiak weren’t even with the Cavs until the end of February, all stuck on teams with without even a playoff fantasy. These three guys have been in the NBA a combined 23 years, and only once (Szczerbiak in 2004) have they advanced past the first round.
It as if only now did they truly feel like part of the team after joining the Cavs as part of that huge February 21st trade.” [Terry Pluto]
“Tom Knott wrote another column today basically saying that David Stern had guided the Cavaliers into the second round. I won’t link to it because I refuse to encourage him getting any traffic. But here’s the point: If David Stern was controlling this series that much, answer me these questions:
1.) Why didn’t the NBA suspend Brendan Haywood or DeShawn Stevenson for much harder fouls? They’re more important than Darius Songaila.
2.) Why wasn’t Caron Butler called for a travel on his game winning shot in Game 5?
3.) Why wasn’t Darius Songaila called for a foul on LeBron’s game winning attempt in Game 5?
I’m not complaining about those things. I don’t really think any of them should have gone the other way than what they did. I’m just saying, aren’t those much more subtle and effective ways to control a series than suspending Darius Songaila?” [Dan Labbe]
“Szczerbiak, a career 49 percent shooter, has been shooting 36 percent since arriving with Delonte West from Seattle in the big trade on Feb. 21. Brown has been confident Szczerbiak would break out of the slump eventually. Friday night he did.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]
“Nobody closes the Verizon Center like the Cavaliers.
For the third consecutive year, the Cavs finished off the Wizards on their own floor, scoring a 105-88 victory Friday to secure a 4-2 NBA Eastern Conference series victory.
This finale, though, was different. The Cavs pieced together one of their finest games of the season, executing at a high level both defensively and offensively to turn what was expected to be another nail-biter into a blowout.” [Brian Windhorst]
“Cavs guard/forward Wally Szczerbiak was downright terrible in Game 5 in Cleveland. He missed 3 of 4 shots and had four turnovers. He got in foul trouble, which allowed Coach Mike Brown to bench him.
Brown had to be thinking that Szczerbiak was on a short leash for Game 6 in Washington. Wally was turned every which way but loose by Wizards swingman Caron Butler in Game 5. That’s the quickest way to find yourself on the bench while dealing with Brown.
But he came ready to play in the close-out game on Friday, as the Cavs demolished the Wizards and won the series, 4 games to 2.” [Bob Finnan]
“The Cavs withstood Washington’s best shot in the first quarter. Washington scored 31 points in the first period, but only led by four. As a Cavs fan, you gotta be feeling good about only being down four in that situation, as Washington shot really well (57%) and LeBron only had 2 points. Then the second quarter happened…” [Random Thoughts]
“Let’s make no mistake about this: the better team won tonight. The better team, the better players, the better coach, the better fans… you name it, Cleveland had it all over D.C. in the first round for the third straight year.” [Sons of Nev]
“Fouls was a big thing in the series and a lot of people thought the Cavs were favored. Guess what, they weren’t. We were fouled around 20 times per game during the regular season and were fouled about 23 times per game during the playoffs. The Wizards were fouled about 20 times per game during the regular season and were fouled about 24 times per game during the playoffs. The Cavaliers attempted about 25 foul shots per game during the regular season and during the playoffs we averaged around 32 attempts. The Wizards averaged around 24 foul shots per game during the regular season and averaged 30 during the playoffs. Yes there is a jump in both categories, but you should expect that in the playoffs and in such a physical series.” [Cavalier Attitude]
What The Outside World Is Saying
“Over the last two weeks, it was easy to get distracted by Soulja Boy and trash talk, hard fouls and championship-level whining. It was entertaining in the way only the NBA playoffs can be, with public posturing and melodrama ruling the days between games. But in the end, the Cavaliers had LeBron James and the Wizards didn’t. The tags on LeBron’s $410,000 Maybach, if I saw this correctly as he cruised by the other night in Cleveland, say “KING OF OH,” which is a bit understated when you consider he’s perhaps one all-star teammate away from being King of the Basketball World.” [Michael Wilbon]
“Go ahead. Laugh at the irony.
And it doesn’t matter whether they bow to James’s throne or try to tip it over, the result is still the same.
The NBA’s Prime-time Meal Ticket and His Dogsled 105, The Washington Expendables 88.” [Mike Wise]
“Not having Songaila left the Wizards short-handed in the front court but the loss could hardly be pinned on the absence of a player who averaged 5.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in the first five games.
No, the Cavaliers proved they were the better team, leaving the Wizards and their fans to once again ponder what might have been had Arenas been healthy.
As Arenas left the floor, one fan shouted: “Don’t worry Gilbert, we’ll beat them next year!” [Ivan Carter]
“Tonight’s starting lineup was easily the team’s most successful of the sesaon; its winning percentage was something like .570. Teams that play .570 ball are only going so far.
The hope can only be that the same group comes back next year, no one gets hurt, Caron learns to play like a madman even when Gil’s on the court, Gil learns to dial his game back a bit, DeShawn decides to keep acting like a nutso, and everyone’s Internet click counts remain high. At the same time, is it possible that this team is smashed to bits and becomes as unbloggable as the Cavs?” [D.C. Sports Blog]
“As the game wound down, the blowout clearly in hand, I was keenly listening to see what kind of ovation these starters received. This game hadn’t gone well, and this series was about to end in bitter disappointment, but I wondered anyway whether this crowd would have the entire season in mind.Because really, this might have been my favorite Wizards team to follow. When I think of the 2007-2008 Wizards, the only word that comes to mind is resiliency. Before the season even started, Etan Thomas went out with a serious heart ailment. Five games into the season, we were already calling for everyone’s head. Eight games into the year, its best player went out for virtually the entire season. In the middle of the season, when it had finally found a formula for success, it’s new star went out for 24 games. Then, at the end of the season, faced with a difficult schedule and the prospect of having to reincorporate everyone, it still pushed hard to the postseason, taking head on the challenge of facing the team that always beats them.” [Bullets Forever]
“Some may wonder why it took so long for Jamison and Butler to speak up about the locker room antics. No one actually knew where all the talk would lead the Wizards. Of course, we all had an intuition that it wasn’t a good idea…but even I minimized the significance of “talking trash” and thought that the Wizards would back it up.
We still don’t know if all the pre- and during series talk really has had an effect on any of the game outcomes. I’d say pretty minimal at best. But that fact is that nonsensical verbiage is inconsiderate towards your teammates.
It’s safe to say that Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler expected more from DeShawn Stevenson, and especially Gilbert Arenas. They hoped that it wouldn’t have to get to the point of having to speak up in such a manner. After all, Gilbert Arenas is supposed to be a team captain, right? Too bad he hasn’t acted like one. His immaturity has unfortunately usurped the leadership of Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison….and the title of this blog post.” [Truth About It]
“The first two losses in this series were the fault of nobody but the Wizards. They talked too much and did not back it up. They made the NBA think they were afraid of the Cavs and roughing them up would be the only way they could win. That was not the case.
In the end, I think this series could have gone either way. I’m not saying the Wizards would have won it, but the NBA’s disgusting display of overreaction and inconsistent officiating made this series a glaring example of the NBA’s incompetence. Their bias toward their stars has been talked about for decades and it’s no different now. Just watch this series and tell me different. Lebron James is a great, great player. I think he’s the second best player in the league behind Kobe, but his whining and crying about EVERY play takes away from his talent. These observations should be obvious to anyone not residing in Ohio.” [Les Bullez]
What The Players And Coaches Said
“It was a total team effort. Joe Smith was good. Daniel Gibson was good. Wally Szczerbiak was terrific. We keep telling guys on our team that when our guy, LeBron James, has the ball he is going to draw a lot of attention. We just have to be ready to shoot the ball because it is coming. Terrific, terrific, terrific, terrific, terrific performance by our guy LeBron James. Terrific.” [Mike Brown]
“First of all, I give a lot of credit to Washington. They played a great series. They have a lot of great players in Caron (Butler) and Antawn (Jamison). I feel bad for Gilbert (Arenas) that he was not able to be healthy and play throughout the series. Coach Eddie Jordan had a very good team and I give them much credit. I’m excited that we were able to refocus ourselves after the Game Five loss at home and come into this building and win another game on the road.” [LeBron James]
“We thought it was a successful season. We ended up finishing fifth in the conference. Our team and Detroit are the only teams to make consecutive playoff appearances in the last four years. That’s good company. We had players with breakout years in Roger Mason and Brendan Haywood. We had two All-Stars. Deshawn Stevenson, with the bounce back, had a terrific year for us. We had some young guys get good experience with our short bench. I felt it was a very successful year. In the history of time in the NBA, if it is true that you have to take your lumps and your beatings before you can make the next jump in the playoffs, then certainly we are on the brink of that.” [Eddie Jordan]
“We fell in love with the jump shot a bit too much. We did a great job penetrating and mixing it up early but I think we got to a point where we fell in love with the jumpshot. We took some difficult shots. That was the biggest thing. Cleveland stayed together, played well, and found a way to get it done.” [Antawn Jamison]
“Every year is different. Both teams are a little different. It is just one of those frustrating things. The last two years we haven’t been able to see what we would be like if we were healthy for a long period of time. Tonight we didn’t have enough. You can’t make any excuses though. Tonight they were better than us. You have to tip your cap to them. They beat us and won the series.” [Brendan Haywood]