Ex-Sonic West lifts Cavs over Wizards

WASHINGTON — King James got his crown knocked off, was booed every time he touched the ball, went 0-for-3 in the fourth quarter and passed up a chance to take the winning shot.

And his Cleveland Cavaliers still beat the Washington Wizards.

LeBron James had 34 points and 12 rebounds, and dished the ball to ex-Sonic Delonte West for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left Sunday, helping the Cavaliers get past the Wizards 100-97 to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series.

After Cleveland’s 30-point victory in Game 2, and Washington’s 36-point margin in Game 3, these teams that know each other so well finally produced a gem of a game. Cleveland led by 15 in the third quarter, but Washington came back, with Gilbert Arenas capping the rally.

He made two free throws with 57 seconds left to get Washington within two points, and after James missed a jumper, Arenas’ 8-foot fadeaway with 28 seconds remaining made it 97-all. James dribbled out the clock before finding West, whose career playoff-high 21 points included five of Cleveland’s 13 3-pointers.

Arenas, who built a reputation for clutch late-game performances before having two operations on his left knee, then tried to pull Washington even at the buzzer, but badly missed a 3 try over West.

Now James’ Cavaliers, who eliminated the Wizards in each of the previous two postseasons, have control, with Game 5 on Wednesday at Cleveland.

Saddled by foul trouble, James was hardly as aggressive late as he was early. When he dunked following a Wizards turnover to make it 51-41 late in the first half, James already was up to 22 points — his total for Game 3.

Still, little came easily, and his simmering feud with Washington guard DeShawn Stevenson nearly bubbled over late in the second quarter.

James drove to the basket, and Stevenson came from behind and swiped a hand out, missing the ball but clipping the Cavs’ star in the head. James’ burgundy headband came off and went flying, while Stevenson fell to the court. James kept his balance and stepped toward Stevenson, who got up and stepped toward James.

They exchanged words, but that was it, before teammates stepped in to separate the pair. Stevenson was called for a flagrant foul, and after James went 1-for-2 at the line, he made a 3.

That was part of a 13-0 Cavaliers run during which James scored nine points, putting the visitors ahead 44-39 en route to a 54-44 halftime lead — a margin helped by Washington’s 4-for-21 shooting in the second quarter.

James heard jeers even when standing on the sideline for an inbounds play. He heard about it, loudly, on a couple of occasions when he tossed up airballs.

After James complained about a foul call on teammate Ben Wallace, fans reprised their chants of “ov-er-ra-ted!” from Game 3. Unlike in Thursday’s loss, when he laughed it off, James didn’t react this time, although seconds later he threw away a pass. Then again, seconds after that, he knifed through the lane for a resounding slam.

Other than him and West, only one other Cavs player scored in double figures, Daniel Gibson with 12. Antawn Jamison led Washington with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Caron Butler added 19 points.

One very key stat: The Cavaliers held a 51-31 rebounding advantage, including two offensive boards in a row that led to Joe Smith’s three-point play to make it 80-73 heading into the fourth.

Arenas was in the starting lineup again, wearing a black sleeve and blue knee pad on his left leg.

Whatever emotional lift he might have given his teammates, whatever excitement his mere presence in uniform might have given the crowd, Arenas was not exactly helpful with the ball in his hands. By the time he sat with 31/2 minutes left in the first quarter, his line gave whole new meaning to his nickname “Agent Zero”: zero points, zero field-goal attempts, zero foul shots, one assist, one foul, and four of Washington’s five turnovers.

Arenas’ first points didn’t come until a reverse layup in the third quarter, and he finished with 10 in a series-high 32 minutes.

The Cavaliers went up by as many as 15 points, at 67-52 on James’ 3 early in the third quarter, but the Wizards used a 12-0 spurt to make things interesting.

Notes: Gibson was called for a technical foul in the third quarter

after appearing to cock his fist when Wizards C Brendan Haywood knocked into him while hanging on the rim after a dunk. … Cleveland has outrebounded Washington in all eight games they’ve played this season. … Washington’s fans were decked out in 20,000 white T-shirts left on seats before the game. … Cleveland switched from its Game 3 blue road uniforms to burgundy for Game 4. As if such things really matter, James offered a sober pregame analysis. “The blue uniforms haven’t be to great to us this year,” he said with a straight face, “so we decided to make a change and see what happens.”

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