Scouts Inc. Update: Wizards vs. Cavs, Game 5

Originally Published: April 30, 2008
By Mike Moreau | Scouts Inc.

• Cavaliers-Wizards series breakdown | Series page



LeBron James doesn't have to score to dominate a game, as evidenced by his Game 4-winning assist to Delonte West. Just his presence on the court dominates the Wizards' attention, and it was his attention that allowed West and Daniel Gibson to have open 3-point looks in the second half of the Cavs' win Sunday.

In this same type of situation, other All-Stars would look to pass to their teammates only until they had no other option, but not James. He is such a great teammate, as he tries to feed the other Cavaliers early in games to get them in rhythm so that in crunch time they are prepared to step up and hit the big shot. Let the evidence of Game 4 speak for itself.

Give Cleveland coach Mike Brown credit as well for putting two of his best 3-point shooters in position to make shots. In the set the Cavs ran continually in the fourth quarter, West swung the ball across the top of the floor to James. West then cut through the lane and circled to the corner opposite James, who then came off a high ball screen to the middle.

With all the attention on James, he drew defenders and kicked to Gibson, who then made the extra pass to the corner to West for the 3. When the Wizards adjusted by denying the pass to West, Gibson was left with the ball in his hands for an open 3-point look.

Expect Cleveland to run more of these types of sets in Game 5, as it will expect to shoot a better percentage at home. Washington will have to either change the level of commitment to James on the drive, or change the way it rotates to the shooters. With James back in attacking mode off the dribble in Game 4, this is a difficult defensive dilemma for the Wizards.

Look for Washington to alternate between hard traps to bring pressure, soft help for containment and more of its matchup zone scheme to disrupt rhythm -- which it used with some success in Game 4. A matchup zone is really a switching man-to-man, which requires great communication and concentration, as defenders pass different players around to each other. If LeBron starts going off, look for the Wizards to fall back to its zone to regroup and give James a changing look.

Even when the Wizards defend James well, he is still dangerous without the ball -- he can cut into any open area with his speed and get to the offensive glass quickly and score. If the attention is all him in Game 5, look for him to try to make more plays like these away from the ball.

In Game 5, expect Cleveland to try to get Zydrunas Ilgauskas going in the post. The Wizards seemed content to let him shoot the 18-foot jumper in Game 4, but he was unable to convert, missing lots of open looks. Cleveland will go back to its high-low action to get its second-leading scorer involved early.

As great as James was Sunday, the Wizards put themselves in a hole with silly turnovers and poor shot selection, both of which involve decision-making. They will lose Game 5 if their offensive wounds are self-inflicted. Washington's offense is at its best when it has the ball moving and players cutting, and it has been successful getting good shots in the series when it is putting the bigger, slower Cavs in motion.

The Wizards must get back to that action in Game 5, which is exactly what their Game 3 blowout win was based on. This is also how they got the lead in Game 1, before getting stagnant down the stretch in a game they feel they should have won. This offensive action gives all of their players their best chance to contribute, and it gives the Wizards their best opportunity to play with the lead and keep the crowd subdued. They must resist the urge to take quick 3s early in the shot clock, which killed them in Game 4 by allowing the Cavaliers to get some easy fast-break baskets.

This also allows Brendan Haywood the chance to put Ilgauskas in motion and use his quickness to flash, roll to the basket and crash the offensive boards. It also provides Darius Songaila and Roger Mason more opportunities to score off the bench.

Also expect Washington to run every chance it gets, as Haywood and Antawn Jamison can outrun the 4s and 5s of the Cavaliers. Some early transition baskets are a must for Washington in Game 5 for it to get a lead.

The Wizards can win this game, but only with better performances from Jamison and Caron Butler -- look for more aggressiveness from both. Gilbert Arenas has been effective in this series as a passer, and can set up his teammates with dribble penetration. So look for him to play a major role in getting the other two stars (Butler and Jamison) going early.

As a team, the Wizards must play with more consistency on the road in Game 5 than they did when playing at home in Game 4 -- not an easy task against a team trying to close them out. They must maintain their poise and not get caught up in any more of the emotional nonsense and silly antics of previous games.

If James can keep his teammates involved and playing at a high level, his teammates can put him in position, once again, to provide whatever is necessary down the stretch. In a close game, that gives Cleveland the edge.

PREDICTION: Cavaliers win Game 5

Mike Moreau is the director of basketball for the Pro Training Center and The Basketball Academy at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla. He also serves as an NBA analyst for Hoopsworld.