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Newble is answer giving Cavs win
Sub is inserted to stop Wizards' Jamison late
By Brian Windhorst
Beacon Journal sportswriter
WASHINGTON - Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has taken heat at times this season, especially during the recent rocky road.
Friday night, however, Brown's strategic moves had a major positive impact. That and some old-fashioned execution in the fourth quarter enabled the Cavs to escape a trap game with the Washington Wizards with a 99-94 victory at the Verizon Center.
It matched the Chicago Bulls' victory Friday, keeping the Cavs (46-31) tied for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
With the score tied with six minutes to go, Brown countered a move by Wizards coach Eddie Jordan that struck gold. Missing All-Stars Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas because of injuries, the Wizards (39-36) depended heavily on remaining scoring stalwart Antawn Jamison to do the heavy lifting.
Jordan had moved Jamison to small forward in an effort to create a favorable matchup in the fourth quarter, and it was beginning to work. Jamison, who scored 21 of his 27 points in the first half, scored five quick points. That's when Brown made a switch, going with Ira Newble to defend Jamison down the stretch.
Not only did Newble's defense help quiet the Wizards' top gun, but he also made three big hustle plays on offense to carry the Cavs to the victory. Newble, who had missed three games with a sinus infection, executed a perfect backdoor cut for a dunk that gave the Cavs the lead, and he then came up with two big offensive rebounds to help them keep it.
The biggest came with more than two minutes to play, when he tipped a missed free throw out and LeBron James quickly took advantage by driving to the basket for a dunk. It was the end of a four-point possession for the Cavs -- both baskets coming by James -- that enabled them to take control of the game.
``I just try to bring energy when I get out there on the floor,'' said Newble, who had nine points and five rebounds in 16 key minutes. ``I've watched Anderson Varejao change the game by just getting a finger on the ball, and I've tried to learn from him.''
All this talk of Newble isn't meant to depress James' actions. He had an off shooting night, going just 7-of-23, but a night after not being able to deliver late in a loss to the Miami Heat, he was clutch. James scored 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and he made 6-of-7 free throws to help hold the lead. James is 16-of-17 at the line in the fourth quarter of the past two games.
``I'm just going up there and not thinking about much,'' James said. ``If I'm going to be in attack mode, I've got to be able to go up there and make them.''
All those positive feelings in the fourth quarter were needed because the Cavs did not perform well early. They have not been a good team on the second night of back-to-backs this season, and despite the Wizards being depleted, the Cavs allowed them to shoot 57 percent in the first half.
If it wasn't Jamison getting clean looks, it was Antonio Daniels -- who had 18 points and 12 assists -- breaking them down off the dribble.
But the Cavs were able to refocus in the second half and string together defensive stops. The Wizards shot just 43 percent after halftime, but more importantly, the Cavs were able to control the tempo better. When the Wizards score fewer than 100 points, they are just 5-20 this season.
With defensive intensity from Newble and others, including Varejao, the Cavs were able to make that trend hold.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had 18 points, and Larry Hughes, who made 7-of-9 free throws in the fourth quarter on the way to 15 points, also contributed.
``I thought we came out flat mentally, and they got what they wanted, and Antawn Jamison had his way early,'' Brown said. ``Effort and focus is what we needed in the second half to win, and we got it defensively.''