Chalk up another milestone for the emerging legend: He made his
first game-winning shot in the playoffs.
James scored a franchise playoff-record 41 points Friday night,
including two tough shots in the paint in the final minute. In a
thrilling one-on-one fourth-quarter duel between two young stars,
James had the final say over Gilbert Arenas in the Cleveland
Cavaliers' 97-96 victory over the Washington Wizards.
"We are two All-Stars," James said. "We don't want our teams
to lose the game. It was unfortunate that one team had to lose, but
I am happy I was on the winning side. It was a great performance by
myself and Gilbert."
James made 16 of 28 shots and had five rebounds and three
assists. Arenas scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter --
making all but one of the Wizards' field goals in the period -- but
he missed an open 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the
"It went in and came out. You're going to miss more than you
make in your career," Arenas said. "I missed that one, but I'm
going to have more opportunities to make them. ... I thought it was
going in. It was there, just a little off. It just wasn't our day.
We fought all 48 minutes of this basketball game and we deserved
The Cavaliers lead the series 2-1. Game 4 is Sunday in
Larry Hughes, who had been struggling all series, scored eight
of his 16 points in the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers. Zydrunas
Ilgauskas had 15 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with
4:57 to play.
But the Cavaliers were all about James, who played all but 23
seconds. His teammates were a combined 19-for-57 from the field.
The Wizards mixed up their defenses, sometimes showing double-teams
and threats of double-teams, especially in the second half, but
James couldn't be stopped at the end when everyone in the building
knew he would take the shots.
He gave the Cavaliers the lead with 31 seconds remaining by
driving to the paint against Jared Jeffries. Jeffries appeared to
tie James up, but James recovered and put in the layup.
Arenas, serenaded by chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" in the fourth
quarter, responded by driving the paint to draw a blocking foul on
James while making the layup. Arenas hit the free throw for a
three-point play, giving the Wizards a 96-95 lead with 23 seconds
to go -- but giving James time to win it.
"I said I wouldn't have two bad games in a row," said James,
who had 10 turnovers and shot 7-for-25 in the Game 2 loss. "I
watched Game 2 over and over, and I saw the adjustment they made on
me from Game 1 to Game 2. Me being the player I am, I had to
counterattack, and I was able to do that."
James wouldn't have been in position to win the game were it not
for two key defensive plays. Donyell Marshall blocked Ruffin's
layup, then was fouled at the other end and made both free throws
to tie it at 93 with 51 seconds remaining. On the Wizards' next
possession, Flip Murray jumped to intercept Daniels' pass for a
Caron Butler had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Antawn Jamison
scored 14 points -- but only two in the second half -- for the
Wizards, who shot 39 percent in the second half after making 55
percent in the first.
"It hurts," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "You have to
let it seep out of you as the night goes along, and tomorrow
morning you go back to work for the game on Sunday."
The game began with a blood-pumping, up-and-down pace missing
from the first two games, although James was curiously a non-factor
for much of the first quarter. The Cavaliers instead tried to feed
the ball inside to Ilgauskas, who made a long hook for the game's
first basket and didn't have another field goal until the second
A 15-4 run gave the Wizards a 26-15 lead, and coach Mike Brown
decided he'd seen enough. He called timeout, and the message was
clear: James needed the ball. He was the focus of the next three
possessions, but only one was successful. He drove by Butler for a
dunk, was called for an illegal dribble and missed a jump shot.
James, who had a triple-double in Game 1, didn't get his first
assist until 2:21 to go in the half, and the Wizards led by 14
before James led a late rally before the break. An 8-2 run cut
Washington's lead to 58-50 at the half.
The Wizards went cold in the third quarter, making six of 18
shots. James made two baskets and assisted on the other in a 6-0
run that tied the score at 67, and the teams went to the fourth
tied at 71.
The rest of the game, it was Arenas vs. James. The Wizards made
James work hard for his game-winner, but not hard enough.
"Jared was there. Mike Ruffin was there. And he made a tough
shot," Butler said. "That's the type of shot you want him to
take. Tonight he was converting a lot of those."
How big is the hype surrounding James? The Wizards issued a
credential to a reporter from lebronjames.com, giving him a seat
between The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer and USA Today. ... Pregame
mystery in the Wizards locker room: Someone wrote "The Hater" in
block letters on the nameplate above rookie Andray Blatche's
locker. "I don't know who did it -- probably Gil," Blatche said.
But Arenas said there was no way he could be the culprit. "I have
bad penmanship," he said.