Wizards 106, Cavaliers 96


WASHINGTON – Hold on, LeBron. Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards aren’t quite ready to pack it in.

With LeBron James suddenly, stunningly, quiet after a tremendous first half Sunday night, Arenas recovered from an awful start to lead Washington’s comeback for a 106-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, tying the first-round series at 2-2.

Arenas scored 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, making his first five shots of the period. That spurt ended with a 3-pointer that put Washington ahead 96-87 with under 31/2 minutes left, and Arenas held his shooting pose and nodded.

As dominant as James was early, setting franchise playoff records for points in a quarter (18) and half (25), he was nowhere to be found at times in the second half. He took only three shots in the third quarter, missed all, and wound up with 38 points.

And, in a perfect mirror image, Arenas made up for his 1-for-9, six-point first half in a big way down the stretch.

He got going a bit with eight points in the third quarter, as Washington whittled a 13-point deficit. Arenas was fouled on a drive to the basket with 0.4 seconds left in that period, and with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” ringing off the rafters, he made both free throws to tie the game at 72 heading to the fourth.

That figured to setup Bron-Bron vs. Gil, Part II, after their down-the-stretch duel in Game 3. In that one Friday, James hit the go-ahead shot with 5.7 seconds left in the game to finish off his 41-point performance, and Arenas – who scored half of his 34 in the fourth quarter – missed an open 3-pointer that would have won it.

But while James opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, his sixth of the game, Arenas answered right away from beyond the arc. Antawn Jamison tacked on another 3 for Washington, giving the hosts their first lead since early in the second quarter, and Arenas added a long jumper to make it 80-76.

Just as in Washington’s Game 2 victory, Arenas got plenty of help from his top two sidekicks, Jamison and Caron Butler. Jamison had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Butler added 21 points – 14 in the second half – and some tough defense on James.

In the fourth quarter, as Washington was padding its lead, it wasn’t James who was taking Cleveland’s shots. Nope, it was the likes of Donyell Marshall, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Damon Jones who were getting plenty of touches.

Flip Murray scored 19, and the only other Cavaliers player in double figures was Ilgauskas with 13.

Game 5 is Wednesday at Cleveland.

James wound up with six rebounds and five assists, but he also had seven turnovers, including four on offensive fouls. After one in the fourth quarter, he put his palms up and mouthed, “What did I do?” His coach, Mike Brown, crumpled a paper cup and threw it to the ground.

Earlier, James turned to Brown and complained loudly about the officiating. During Saturday’s off-day, it was Wizards coach Eddie Jordan who spoke about the referees, saying he thought James was getting preferential treatment.

Booed every time he touched the ball at the offensive end in the early going, James was as efficient as could be in his marvelous first quarter. He began 6-for-7 from the field – 4-for-4 on 3-pointers – and his finish on a breakaway capped a run in which James scored 15 of the Cavaliers’ 16 points.

Washington tried all manner of holding James in check, with Butler, Jared Jeffries, and Antonio Daniels all guarding him. Arenas, meanwhile, missed his first five shots. But Jamison kept the Wizards in it, recovering quickly from his second-half disappearance in Game 3, when he scored all of two points. He scored 17 in the first half Sunday, and his 3-pointer 71/2 minutes before the break made it 36-all, and Washington led 38-36 after Daniels’ jumper.

From there, though, Cleveland outscored Washington 21-8 to grab a 57-46 halftime edge. The most encouraging part for the Cavs? James actually got an extended breather, sitting for the last 2:17 of the half. He played the whole way in Game 1, and rested a grand total of 23 seconds in Game 3.

But he picked up his second foul when Jeffries drew a charge, a call that drew a sarcastic laugh from James, who sat shortly thereafter.

Notes: The Cavaliers watched the end of the Suns-Lakers overtime game on a big-screen TV in the visiting locker room. When Kobe Bryant hit the winning shot, there were shouts of “Show-Be!” and “Kobe Jordan!”. … Jordan said he hadn’t heard from the NBA about his comments Saturday that James should have been called for traveling on his winning shot in Game 3, and that James is getting calls Arenas isn’t. Asked if he’s ready for whatever decision the NBA makes, which could include a fine, Jordan said: “I am. My wife’s probably not, but I am.”

AP-ES-04-30-06 2228EDT