CLEVELAND -- The Washington Wizards came into Cleveland like a lion and left like a lamb.
The Wizards are famous for their swagger but not for their postseason play. That dynamic has shown up thus far in their series with the Cavaliers; Washington trails 2-0 after the Cavs smacked them 116-86 on Monday. The Wizards, who were humbled in crunch time by LeBron James in Game 1, were outplayed by the Cavs in every category in Game 2. That had their captain trying to send a very different message after the game.
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."
The Wizards had no shortage of confidence, gliding into Game 2 in cruise control. Coach Eddie Jordan said before the game that it was the most important one of the series -- for the Cavs. Despite missing practice with a sprained right wrist on Sunday, Gilbert Arenas was in his normal jolly mood after shootaround Monday afternoon; his wrist was wrapped, and he was taking one-handed shots from half court against teammates for money.
Then Game 2 began, and the Wizards were outplayed and outcoached, losing to the Cavs for the eighth straight time in the postseason over three seasons. It's the longest such streak in the NBA since 1997. And it just might have been a sobering moment for the always-proud Wizards.
Jamison said he and Caron Butler, as captains, needed to do a better job of "controlling this team." Jordan said he did a "horrible job" of having his team play "with intensity, discipline and organization."
"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."
The monster would be James, who is on his way to becoming a certified villain in D.C. He didn't do it with any last-minute heroics this time, just 39 minutes of dominance. He had 30 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists, and he appears to be totally unfazed by the Wizards and the way they're playing him.
"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."
He wasn't the only one who got it done. Cavs coach Mike Brown was red-hot, too, piecing together some quality matchups. He moved James to guard Arenas, with the idea that James' length would make it hard for Arenas to get off shots. Because Arenas' knee is still recovering, he is not as effective getting to the basket. With James on him, Arenas was rendered ineffective, shooting just 2-of-10.
At the other end, Brown was able to gain an edge when smaller players guarded his extremely tall starting lineup. Wally Szczerbiak (15 points), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (16 points) and James (especially when Arenas tried to guard him) easily converted hoop after hoop as the Cavs shot 52 percent.
The Wizards' frustration was manifested in the third quarter when Brendan Haywood shoved James as he flew toward the basket for a dunk. Haywood was ejected, and in a perfect capsule of the night, the Cavs made the play work against the Wizards, turning it into a five-point possession.
There is still time for the Wizards to correct themselves, but it will take quite a turnaround in both play and attitude. The Cavs, meanwhile, after playing probably their best game of the season on the two-month anniversary of their massive trade, seem to be in quite a groove.
"We're worried about going over our scouting reports and watching game film, getting in tune with the game plan," Szczerbiak said. "We're not getting caught up in anything else."
Brian Windhorst covers the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Akron Beacon Journal.