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LeBron James scores 30 points as Cavaliers beat up Wizards 116-86

CLEVELAND - Maybe Gilbert Arenas was talking about some other Cavaliers.


CLEVELAND - Maybe Gilbert Arenas was talking about some other Cavaliers.

The Cleveland team he and the Washington Wizards faced Monday night doesn't look so beatable. LeBron James scored 30 points, Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16, and the Cavaliers played their best game in months, blowing out Arenas and Co. 116-86 to take a 2-0 lead in an opening-round playoff series oozing with bad blood.

The 30-point margin of victory was the largest in Cleveland's post-season history. The Cavs were playing in their 112th playoff game.

James scored 14 points in the third quarter when the Cavs opened a 25-point lead over the Wizards, whose defensive scheme coming into their third series in as many years with Cleveland was to slow James by roughing him up with hard, clean fouls.

It may be time for Plan B.

The Wizards hardly bothered James, who finished with 12 assists and nine rebounds to barely missed his third career post-season triple-double. James went to the bench with 6:12 left. At that point, the Cavaliers were leading by 24 points and coach Mike Brown inserted seldom-used reserves Dwayne Jones and Damon Jones.

Wally Szczerbiak added 15 points for the defending Eastern Conference champions, who have struggled since a big trade in February changed their roster. As the playoffs neared, Arenas called the Cavs out, saying "I think everybody wants Cleveland in that first round" and "We don't think they can beat us in the playoffs three years straight."

Those comments followed Wizards forward DeShawn Stevenson calling James "overrated."

Washington has lost eight straight games to Cleveland in the playoffs, and the Wizards will have to figure something out before Thursday night's Game 3 in Washington or they'll be heading off on summer vacation, again courtesy of the Cavs.

Arenas went just 2-for-10 from the field and Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were both 4-of-13 as the Wizards' Big Three combined for 28 points. The trio spent much of the fourth quarter sitting and thinking about what happened and the task ahead.

James withstood more rough treatment by the Wizards.

In the third quarter, Washington centre Brendan Haywood was ejected for a flagrant foul on James. Haywood didn't make much of an effort to go for the ball and shoved James hard with both hands as he drove.

Haywood, who had an altercation with James in Game 1, could face further discipline for the intentional foul.

It was hardly the only physical play.

In the first half, Arenas was called for a technical foul and Cleveland's Anderson Varejao was given a flagrant foul after hitting Washington's Andray Blatche in the face.

The Cavs were already up by 15 points when Haywood was ejected, but they fed off the play and pushed their lead to 25 early in the fourth on a three-pointer by Daniel Gibson, who finished with 13 points.

The Wizards' problem in Game 1 was they missed shots the down stretch with a chance to win. They were cold again, but this time it had a lot to do with Cleveland's defence. Washington shot 38 per cent from the field, missed 11 free throws and was outrebounded 49-34.

The Cavaliers, who staggered into the post-season, played some of their best basketball in weeks to close out the second quarter.

With the score tied 36-all, Ilgauskas stepped outside to drop a jumper, triggering a 17-4 run that put the Cavs up 53-40 at halftime. Gibson made a three-pointer and three free throws in the spurt and Szczerbiak made a jumper and scored on a rare drive to the basket.

But Cleveland's defence was the difference. James kept Arenas in check and Joe Smith did a nice job on Jamison. Szczerbiak, a scorer not known for his defence, handled Butler, who still isn't right because of a hip injury.

As the Cavaliers left the court, James patted Ilgauskas on the back and Cleveland fans saluted the best chemistry they've seen in a while.

It didn't take long for the Game 1 testiness to return.

Not long after checking in, Arenas was called for a foul as he bumped Szczerbiak from behind. An instant after the whistle, Arenas gave Cleveland's forward a halfhearted elbow and was slapped with the technical.

Varejao then paid back Blatche for his Game 1 clothesline of James by clubbing Washington's big man across the face and was assessed the flagrant foul.

Notes: Washington coach Eddie Jordan's message to the Wizards before Game 2: "Play harder, play better, play with more intensity, play smarter." ... The Cavaliers are 6-0 in series when they win Game 1, including 3-0 against the Wizards. ... Washington fell to 2-13 in their last 15 playoff games. ... The Wizards are 0-4 in Cleveland this season. The lost to the Cavs on Feb. 22, when Cleveland dressed just eight players one day after its three-team trade with Chicago and Seattle.

 
 
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