WASHINGTON - The Cleveland Cavaliers are mastering the art of doing just enough to win. This time, they managed to blow a 17-point second-half lead against the short-handed Washington Wizards.
But win the Cavaliers did, so it's hard to argue too much with the results. When the big basket was needed, LeBron James hit a struggling but wide-open Sasha Pavlovic for a 3-pointer in the final minute of Saturday night's 98-92 victory, giving Cleveland a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.
James had his best game of the series with 30 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Cavaliers, who on Monday can complete the first playoff sweep in franchise history, a result that wouldn't be surprising since the Wizards are missing injured All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.
"We're not playing against a high school team," James said. "We're not playing against an NCAA team. It's the NBA. No matter what personnel is on the floor, we have to win the ballgame, it's as simple as that. We win by 20, we win by one or we win by six, like we did tonight, a win is a win."
In an attempt to inspire the crowd and their teammates, Arenas and Butler were introduced with Washington's starting lineup. Arenas gingerly limped down the steps and across the court on his surgically repaired knee as the crowd went wild.
It was a nice try, but nothing changed. The Wizards, while competitive, couldn't finish the job. The most glaring statistic was Washington's 6-for-20 shooting in the fourth quarter.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 24 points and eight rebounds. Antawn Jamison scored a career playoff-high 38 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Wizards. Antonio Daniels, who drove more aggressively to the basket than he did in the first two games, finished with 20 points and 13 assists.
The Wizards had hoped the comforts of home would give them the final push needed to beat the Cavaliers, even though Washington hasn't won at home since March 28 - a skid that's now reached seven games. Game 4 is Monday in Washington.