How to defend Lebron James

The Washington Wizards kept their season alive last night by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland, 88-87. The Cavs still lead the series 3-2.

Caron Butler led the way with 32 points and 9 rebounds. Butler made virtually every big play down the stretch including a game winning shot over Lebron James with 4 seconds left.

Cleveland still had plenty of time to steal the win and, based on past experience, most Wizards fans expected them to do just that. Specifically, we expected James to drive to the basket and either (1) make a shot, (2) draw a foul, or (3) dish the ball to Delonte West or Daniel Gibson, who would then hit a wide open shot.

But by playing a unique style of defense, the Wizards prevented all of these outcomes and thus lived to fight another day. Here’s what happened:

James drove past DeShawn Stevenson, as expected. The next line of defense was my man Antonio Daniels. He ran off like he was fleeing a crime scene. That left Darius Songaila who, as defenders go, is a pretty good shooter.

Songaila turned his back to James. James jumped into and over Songaila and missed his shot. The buzzer sounded. The Wizards waited for the refs to call a foul. Hearing none, they started to celebrate, all except Songaila who was nursing his back.

The Wizards hadn’t played enough defense to force James to pass to the open man, and their matador style deterred the refs from blowing the whistle. Yet Songaila induced enough contact to throw off James’ shot slightly.

Sometimes it’s better to be mediocre than good.

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