Great statement win tonight for the Wizards in Cleveland, 102-94. Just to prove me wrong, Caron Butler made a season-high four three-pointers; in fact, he made more threes tonight than he made in November and December combined. Washington got 75 points from Butler, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison and a crucial boost from Antonio Daniels who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter and added seven assists.
The game went back and forth, but I knew Washington had it once I found "The Karate Kid" on AMC Classics during a fourth quarter commercial break. "Gilbert-san, paint the fence! Antawn-san, wax on, wax off! Caron-san, make the trey!" And an absolutely brilliant move by Eddie Jordan to go with the crane defense in the fourth quarter.
LeBron James looked like he was suffering from a post-All Star game hangover in the second half as he went 0-8 from the field and missed his last seven free throws, including four in the last three minutes. No MVP performance tonight for Bron-Bron. He had some help from Donyell Marshall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (I spelled that without even looking it up!), but their combined points (42) fell well short of their combined age (62), so I wouldn't expect help from them every night. Drew Gooden had only six points in 20 minutes. He looks a lot bigger than his listed weight (242), and maybe it's that Amish beard he's sporting, but I don't think the camera adds that many pounds.
Maybe the Cavs are looking for help from newly acquired forward Lee Nailon, who did not play tonight, but their immediate future looks worse than Bode Miller's endorsement prospects. Cleveland hopes to get Larry Hughes back for the playoffs, but don't be surprised if they have slipped back a few seeds in the playoff bracket.
The Wizards, on the other hand, appear to be a team headed in the other direction. A win like this is almost enough to make me start thinking they can challenge Miami for the division title. Almost. But then I remember that they gave up a 17-point lead to the Hornets just last week. They catch a break tomorrow night hosting the Knicks (more on the 'Bockers in a moment) and then travel to Memphis on Monday, a team that has a record comparable to the Hornets'. By Tuesday, this blog could really start getting Wizard-centric. Stay tuned.
Before I found Ralph Macchio and the recently departed Pat Morita, I also watched a few minutes of the Knicks-Nets on ESPN (the Olympics, you ask? Please.). With 9:05 to play in the third quarter, New Jersey led 45-35. Not a typo, 45-35. Looks like Larry Brown has smoothly integrated Steve Francis into his Princeton offense. Okay, so the Knicks scored the last 11 points to make it a close 94-90 loss, but did anyone who was not being paid to be there stay at the Garden to watch this horror show? This leads me to one of my favorite contests: guess the New York Post back cover headline. I'm going with a pouty head shot of Francis, accompanied by the caption: "Stevie Nix!"