Cavs get preferred foe: Wizards

Final-day scenario sets up Cleveland vs. ailing opponent

April 21, 2007|By Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE -- Things couldn't have worked out any better for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night if they would have scripted the evening themselves.

In order for the Cavaliers to finish with their most advantageous playoff position, several things needed to happen.

The Cavaliers needed to beat the Milwaukee Bucks and they did that. Cleveland needed the Chicago Bulls to lose in New Jersey and that also occurred. Also, the Cavaliers preferred to have Washington defeat Indiana and the Wizards won that game.

Mission accomplished for the Cavaliers, who are shaping up as a formidable foe in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"We took care of business," coach Mike Brown said after the victory over the Bucks. "I thought we played some pretty good basketball the last month and a half. We did, through the course of the year, show glimpses of it, but I thought we were a little bit more consistent during the last month and a half of the season. It's always encouraging when you see a team or anyone be consistent."

The Cavaliers won their final four regular-season games to finish with a 50-32 record and take some momentum into the playoffs.

"We definitely proved coming down the stretch that we are one of the better teams in the NBA by basically coming out and destroying teams," Cleveland's LeBron James said.

"No matter who we were put up against, we honestly just destroyed teams and played well offensively and defensively."

The Cavaliers' victory over the Bucks, coupled with Chicago's loss in New Jersey, meant that Cleveland finished as the second-seeded team in the East and the Bulls had to settle for the No. 5 spot.

Washington's victory meant it held on to the seventh position, setting up a first-round, best-of-seven matchup between the Wizards and the Cavaliers.

Washington's Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler are both injured, making the Wizards the most-desired first-round opponent in the East. Also, by landing the No. 2 spot, Cleveland can avoid Detroit, Miami and Chicago through the first two rounds, since all three are in the other bracket.

Cleveland defeated Washington in the first round last year, 4-2, before losing to Detroit in seven games in the Eastern semifinals. The Cavaliers think they are better prepared for the playoffs this time around because of that experience.

"Last year, we didn't really know what we were getting into," Brown said. "We didn't know much about the playoffs or our team. We just kind of figured it out last year. We had a little bit of success. Hopefully we'll do a little better this time around."

James says he is anticipating the playoffs more this year.

"Because of how much more prepared I am mentally," he said, "knowing that I've been in the post-season before."

On Wednesday, there was more drama and excitement at Cleveland's home arena after the game than there was during it, as many fans hung around the arena to scoreboard-watch the end of the Chicago-New Jersey game, which started a half-hour later than the Bucks and Cavaliers did.

The Cavaliers had that game on in their locker room, and they cheered openly for the Nets.

In the end, everything fell into place perfectly for the Cavaliers.

"Now it's all about trying to win a championship," James said.

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