WASHINGTON (AP) -- In an attempt to inspire the crowd and their teammates, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler were introduced with the Washington Wizards' starting lineup. Arenas gingerly limped down the steps and across the court on his surgically repaired knee as the crowd went wild.
Nice try, fellas. Game 3, once it started, followed the script as Games 1 and 2.
The undermanned Wizards rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit, but again couldn't finish the job in the final period. The Cleveland Cavaliers, mastering the art of doing just enough to win, held on for a 98-92 victory Saturday to take a 3-0 lead in the first-round series.
LeBron James had his best game of the series with 30 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are one game away from sweeping a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 24 points and eight rebounds, but the most glaring statistic was the Wizards' 6-for-20 shooting in the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers led by seven after Ilgauskas' jumper with 2:45 to go, but the Wizards were back within three after Etan Thomas made one of two free throws with 37 seconds left. Cleveland responded with the big basket -- James fed Sasha Pavlovic for an open 3-pointer that pushed the lead to six with 25 seconds to play.
The Wizards had trouble getting a good look on their next possession, and the game was essentially over when Roger Mason missed a 3-pointer.
Antawn Jamison scored a career playoff-high 38 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Wizards. Antonio Daniels, who drove more aggressively to the basket than he did in the first two games, finished with 20 points and 13 assists.
The Wizards had hoped the comforts of home would give them the final push needed to beat the Cavaliers, even though Washington hasn't won at home since March 28 -- a skid that's now reached seven games.
Game 4 is Monday in Washington.
The blowout everyone had been expecting in this series seemed finally ready to happen Saturday night. The Cavaliers outhustled, outrebounded and -- without Arenas and Butler in the game -- out-talented the Wizards to take a 61-44 halftime lead.
Ilgauskas scored the first eight points in a 23-10 second-quarter run, with six of his points coming after offensive rebounds. James hit a pair of 3s to get the lead to 13, and Cleveland simply outran Washington down the court for two easy dunks by Pavlovic in the final 30 seconds of the half. Cleveland had a 29-15 rebound advantage at halftime.
But the Wizards, showing the spunk they had in Games 1 and 2, didn't give up. Jamison scored 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting in the third quarter. Jamison and Jarvis Hayes combined for 19 points and Thomas ripped rebounds with authority in a 21-4 run, with Jamison's putback tying the score at 65 midway through the quarter.
But the Wizards couldn't finish. They went 4 1/2 minutes without scoring during the fourth, allowing the Cavaliers to go on a modest 6-0 run that gave them the lead for good.
Scores are posted at the end of each quarter.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Cavaliers 26 35 16 21