Wizards rebound

Washington walloped the Cavaliers, 108-72, to slice the series lead to one.

WASHINGTON (AP) — LeBron James went up for the shot and had the ball stripped cleanly by Caron Butler, who went the length of the court for a dunk that gave the Washington Wizards a 29-point lead.

That’s right. No contact on the play. Even James couldn’t call it “Hack-a-Bron.” James was beaten on the play and he knew it, much the same way his Cleveland Cavaliers beaten soundly by the Washington Wizards, 108-72 on Thursday night.

Maybe it was the haircuts. Maybe it was Soulja Boy sitting on Row 1. Or the sight of Colin Powell in a Wizards “White Out” T-shirt. Or just the comfort of being home. Or the inspiration of having Gilbert Arenas in the starting lineup, even though he limped out of the game in the first half and might be done for the series.

Actually, there were plenty of reasons the Wizards routed their playoff nemesis in a party at the Verizon Center. DeShawn Stevenson and Butler found their games. James didn’t have his. And, yes, those 15 first-half Cleveland turnovers had a lot to do with it, too.

Stevenson had 19 points, Butler scored 17 — highlighted by an incredible layup move in the first half — and the Wizards shot 52 percent and took themselves off the ropes by cutting Cleveland’s lead to 2-1 in the first-round series.

One game after setting a franchise playoff record with a 30-point win in Game 2, the Cavaliers set another team postseason mark by losing by 36. The margin of victory also set a Wizards franchise playoff record.

Washington also will play host to Game 4 Sunday, when coach Eddie Jordan’s players will have the confidence of knowing they aren’t destined to be forever hexed by James and Co. Cleveland had won eight consecutive playoff games against the Wizards, including a first-round sweep a year ago.

The Wizards took control with a pair of 9-0 runs in the first half in a remarkable turn of events after Cleveland’s 116-86 win in Game 2 Monday. They led 49-33 at halftime, and the Cavaliers never threatened to make a game of it in the second half.

The Wizards tried to force James, who scored 32 and 30 points in Games 1 and 2, to shoot more from outside, and it worked for the most part. Booed heavily every time he touched the ball, the Cavaliers All-Star couldn’t get into a flow before the game became a blowout.

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