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For more than two months since a colossal trade dismantled the defending Eastern Conference champions, Cleveland has waited for the game where its team of mixed parts and new faces finally molded into a legitimate NBA title contender. It happened.
It took 30 games for Ben Wallace to let out his Afro and let people know that he still has enough left to make a vicious, two-handed reverse dunk. Thirty games for Wally Szczerbiak to find his comfort zone playing alongside LeBron James and finally hit some open looks. Thirty games for James to have that usual, heroic, LeBron James effort — 30 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds — and have the game decided before the fourth quarter.
– Brian Windhorst on Brendan Haywood flagrant foul:
The Wizards’ plans to foul him around the basket simply did not work, even when Wizards center Brendan Haywood was ejected in the third quarter for a flagrant foul 2 when he shoved James as he headed up for what appeared to
be an uncontested dunk. James said the play was ”scary” but did not call for Haywood, whom he had a confrontation with in Game 1, to be suspended.
”It was not a basketball play in any way, shape or form and somebody could’ve gotten hurt,” James said. ”I was just trying to get a foot under me so I could land; I popped right up.”
– Brian Windhorst on the Wizards:
I am not around the Wizards everyday, though I have covered like 26 preseason, regular season and postseason games of theirs over the last three years. But I canâ€™t help to notice that they are not as focused as the Cavs are. At the end of there practices, before the game in the locker room, in pregame warmups, etc. Maybe that is just their style and staying loose is best for them. But the Cavs are a happy-go-lucky team, too but you can tell when it is the playoffs. Then you see how the Wizards play in the playoffs and it is hard not to equate one attitude to another. For example, Stevenson makes a 3-pointer down 19 points and does his face wave thing or whatever. Style above substance, you know? But I could be wrong.
– Arena on playing aggressive:
Gilbert Arenas said he didn’t think the Wizards were playing at an overly physical level either and that the officials are calling the game too tight in some aspects.
“When I was young, watching basketball, the fouls they’re calling out there is like golf compared to what the Bad Boys [of Detroit] used to do to Michael [Jordan] and each other. So if this is getting out of hand, I must have been blind when I was watching basketball when I was little.”
“When he brings the ‘fro out, I think it’s intimidating for the other team,” Cavaliers forward Joe Smith said. “They know it’s business tonight.”
He brought energy from the start, had a dunk about four minutes into the game, and by then he’d recorded more points (four) than LeBron James while the Cavaliers searched for their offense. He left the game near the end of the first when smoke from the pregame pyrotechnics bothered his eyes, but his return in the second quarter coincided with the time when Cleveland built its lead.
As the Cavaliers’ advantage ballooned in the third quarter, Wallace was at his defensive best, clamping down on Jamison and collecting six rebounds and two assists. In all, he tallied eight points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes. Those numbers are still below the 12.9 rebounds he averaged through six seasons in Detroit, but his presence was more evident.
– Antawn Jamison on the Cavaliers:
Antawn Jamison spoke to the media, but it seemed like he was also speaking to some of his teammates, who may just have awakened the Cavs from their late-season doldrums.
“Let’s get something understood,” Jamison said. “We didn’t underestimate [the Cavs]. … I don’t want what was said a month ago to have the effect of how we view this team. Let’s be honest, some guys talked, but it’s over with. We have a lot of respect for this team and we know what they are capable of. … This is a team that can create a lot of problems for many teams in the NBA.”
– Coach Eddie Jordan on the Cavaliers:
“We are playing the [Eastern Conference] champions,” Jordan said. “I know they changed their team but they still have the same coaching staff and, in a respectful way, the monster player. And he’s taking over the series.”
“They’re trying to play physical. They’re sending double and triple teams. They’re trying to get me out of my comfort zone. They’re trying to get me to the point where I am frustrated,” James said. “I’m mentally prepared as the leader of our team. We’re here to win a series; we’re not here to talk.”