for this game

LeBron's triple-double helps Cavs oust Wizards

May 3, 2008 - 4:02 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- LeBron James had 27 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a series-clinching 105-88 victory over the Washington Wizards in Game Six of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Friday night.

It was the third career playoff triple-double for James, who put the finishing touches on a hostile series with a brilliant all-around performance.

"My whole game is always built around what the defense gives me," James said. "At no point during this game did I force anything. I let the game come to me. When they doubled me, I looked for shooters and guys knocked down shots. We needed to rebound, I got in there and mixed it up and grabbed some rebounds. When we needed some scores, I got in there and scored.

"I always try to see what is going on with their defense. There are a lot of things going on, and I just wanted to see what was going on and go from there."

In the conference semifinals, the Cavaliers will play the winner of the top-seeded Boston Celtics and eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, whose series is tied, 3-3.

But James did not do it alone.

Cleveland opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer by Wally Szczerbiak, a back-door alley-oop slam by James from Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a layup by Ilgauskas that gave the Cavaliers an 86-66 lead.

Szczerbiak, who had a series-high 26 points, hit a wide-open 3-pointer that gave Cleveland an 88-72 lead with 7:15 left.

"Shots fell for me, even a couple that I thought were in-and-outers," said Szczerbiak, who shot 9-of-18 from the field, including 6-of-13 from the arc. "My teammates have confidence in me and as a team, that's how we play.

"We've just got to continue to pull for each other, and I just think this was a big win for us as a team to close it out on the road and get some of the performances we did. I think it gave us good confidence rolling into the next series."

Daniel Gibson scored 22 points and Ilgauskas added 12 and seven rebounds as the Cavaliers eliminated the Wizards from the playoffs for the third consecutive postseason.

"When Wally came out and made those first two (shots), you could tell that he was locked in," Gibson said. "That's what this time of year is all about - understanding the moment and just being ready to knock it down. When I saw him make a couple, and then I came in and made a couple, we're a tough team to cover and it's really hard to guard LeBron when we have guys spacing the floor like that.

"A lot of my shots haven't been feeling very good, but tonight was just one of those nights when more of them were going in than were missing, and my teammates were looking for me. If I was going to turn it up and take it to another level, tonight was the night for it."

James grabbed his 10th rebound to secure a triple-double with 41 seconds remaining in the third quarter. On the Cavaliers' ensuing possession, Caron Butler drew a technical foul for grabbing James in the groin on a drive. Gibson made the technical free throw, and James added two more for a 79-62 lead.

"When we make shots from the outside like we did tonight - what Daniel did, what Wally did - we are a tough team to beat," James said. "You can pick your poison - you can play me 1-on-1 or zone up on the backside and let our shooters shoot it, and our shooters came through for us."

James, who said after Game Four that the Wizards were trying to hurt him but it wasn't working, apparently got poked in the eye by Brendan Haywood on a drive with 4:54 left.

The Cavaliers called timeout to help James clear his vision, and he returned from the huddle and calmly made both free throws for a 96-78 lead with 4:54 left.

"He's just a very gifted player," Szczerbiak said. "He does it all out there on the floor. He can create for his teammates, create for himself. His defense was tremendous. He got a lot of big steals. He just was locked in. He was not going to let us lose this game."

"We have LeBron on our team and there are 30 other teams or 29 who don't, and that's the biggest difference," Ilgauskas said.

Antawn Jamison collected 23 points and 15 rebounds, Butler had 18 and nine and Haywood added 13 and 10 for the Wizards.

"LeBron did a great job setting the tone in the first half as far as getting guys open shot," Jamison said. "Gibson played phenomenally well. He really came in and set the tone offensively. We got it going early, but they showed poise and composure and they found a way to get it done.

"For us, it's another roadblock, another stepping stone that we have to find a way to get over."

The Cavaliers led 79-64 after three quarters and were never seriously threatened thereafter.

After Antonio Daniels' two free throws gave Washington a 41-33 lead with 7:23 remaining in the second quarter, the Cavaliers went on a 15-0 run while the Wizards went five minutes without scoring. Gibson scored eight points and James added five during the spurt.

"We just kept going, kept playing, and wore them down with our bench," Szczerbiak said. "I thought Gibson and Joe (Smith) were huge off the bench. That was a big second quarter for us. If you can put points up early, LeBron's going to be there at the end and he's going to figure out a way to get his 30, so we just need contributions from everyone out there on the floor."

James was assessed a technical after the first-half buzzer for arguing with officials because no foul was called on Gibson's final shot of the half. Gibson appeared to get hit twice on the play.

Jamison scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting to give Washington a 31-27 lead after one quarter. Szczerbiak shot 4-of-7, including 3-of-5 from the arc, for 11 first-quarter points for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are starting to feel comfortable with one another after a midseason trade that brought Szczerbiak, Smith, Ben Wallace and Delonte West to Cleveland.

"Anytime the trade happens midseason, it's not easy," Szczerbiak said. "Four new guys integrating into the lineup, we're starting to get comfortable and we're starting to have fun.

"The bottom line is having some fun out there, too, not making it so much of a ... basketball should be fun. And tonight it was a lot of fun for a lot of guys out there."

The Wizards, on the other hand, must find a way to get past the Cavaliers.

"I thought it was a successful season," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "We ended up finishing fifth in the conference. Us and Detroit are the only teams to make consecutive playoff appearances in the last four years. That's good company.

"I felt it was a very successful year. In the history of time in the NBA, if it is true that you have to take your lumps and your beatings before you can make the next jump in the playoffs, then certainly we're on the brink of it."