James, Cavs bounce Wizards

Arenas forces OT with 3 but misses 2 free throws late

Cavaliers 114 Wizards 113

May 06, 2006|By JEFF BARKER | JEFF BARKER,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Two nights earlier, the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers were tied at the end of regulation. The Wizards had watched helplessly as LeBron James drove for a game-winning layup in overtime.

Last night in Game 6, the Wizards got a chance for big-time redemption.

In almost identical circumstances, Washington again couldn't get a final stop in overtime to prolong their season. The Wizards ended up losing the game and the series to the Cavaliers, 114-113.

There were striking similarities between games 5 and 6. It was almost as if the games were one long, dizzying blur of offensive heroics and faulty defensive performances.

There the teams were again last night, tied at 107 after regulation because Washington's Gilbert Arenas hit a 28-foot jump shot with 2.3 seconds in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.

And there were the Cavaliers again, with the clock winding down in overtime trailing by one point.

Cleveland was down by just one because Arenas - who in just a few moments went from praiseworthy to blameworthy - missed two free throws after being fouled intentionally with 15.1 seconds left.

In between the misses, James stepped to Arenas at the free-throw line, tapped him on the shoulder and said something. The gamesmanship must have worked because Arenas missed the second shot.

But Washington still led 113-112.

Just as in the previous game, the Wizards expected James to attempt the final shot. But this time, James was double-teamed and passed. The Cavaliers worked the ball into the corner to little-used Damon Jones.

Jones, who played a total of 14 seconds in the game, hit a corner jumper with 4.8 seconds left to give Cleveland the win and the series. Cleveland advances to play the Detroit Pistons in the second round.

Asked about the shot, Jones said: "No fear. I was either going to be the hero or the goat."

James joked afterward that Jones was "the self-proclaimed best shooter in the universe."

Said Cleveland coach Mike Brown: "I believe in Damon Jones. His teammates believe in him and I knew that if they were going to double LeBron, he was going to make the pass."

But it was a bitter end for Arenas, who finished with 36 points but may be remembered as much for the missed free throws as for his long three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

"It is hard to swallow. You feel like you let your team down. You feel like your let your city down. You didn't get to Game 7," Arenas said.

Early on, the Wizards displayed their season-long tendency to play poorly with a lead.

The Wizards hit their first three shots and seven of their first eight for a 15-6 lead.

Cleveland, meanwhile, hit only four of its first 16 shots.

But the Wizards then went into a funk and the Cavaliers, trailing 24-10, went on a 20-6 run to tie the game at 30 with 8:02 left in the first half.

James had 18 points at the half. He started the game by racing for a layup off the opening tip - not a good early omen for Washington.

Cleveland was also led by Donyell Marshall, who was having his best game of the series with 13 points at the half. Marshall finished with a season-high 28 points as Cleveland got a huge game from its bench.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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