INDEPENDENCE — After teaming with Anderson Varejao for a spirited game of two-on-two against assistant coaches Chris Jent and Lloyd Pierce on Thursday at Cleveland Clinic Courts, Cavaliers guard Sasha Pavlovic pronounced himself ready to play against the Washington Wizards tonight in Game 6.
However, judging from the tone of Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, whose team leads 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, it’s probably not going to happen.
“It’s tough because Sasha hasn’t had any live action (since spraining his ankle on April 14),” Brown said. “It’s hard for me to say Sasha is going to be ready for playoff action like this.”
Brown didn’t totally rule out playing the 6-foot-7, 239-pounder, who was in uniform for the first time in the series in Game 5, but said “right now, it’s not at the top of my list.”
Pavlovic, who had a down season after missing all of training camp due to a holdout and then suffering two foot injuries, understands the reasoning, but vows to be ready if needed.
“I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m ready to play. It’s Coach’s decision. Whenever he calls my name, I’m going to go in and play as hard as I can and try to help us get a win.”
The two Cleveland players who have seen most of the action at shooting guard in the series, Wally Szczerbiak
(14-of-39) and Devin Brown (8-of-30), are shooting a combined .319 from the field.
Mike Brown said Szczerbiak will continue in his starting role, but added LeBron James may defend Caron Butler at the start of Game 6. Butler had 14 points against the slow-footed Szczerbiak in the first period of Game 5 en route to 32 for the night.
Not taking the bait
In an accidental, lighthearted way, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan guaranteed a Washington win in Game 6 during his press conference following Game 5.
“I think we are going to play great (in Game 6),” he said. “I’m not predicting a win, but I think we are going to play great (tonight) and then we bring it back here (for Game 7 on Sunday).”
Jordan caught himself and smiled at that point, adding, “I guess I am predicting a win if I say we are coming back here for a seventh game. I’m not boldly predicting a win, but I think we will play very well (in Game 6).”
A Cleveland television reporter repeatedly misrepresented what Jordan said to try and get Mike Brown and Cavaliers players riled up following practice on Thursday, but none of them bit.
Better without Arenas?
With a hobbling Gilbert Arenas sitting out Game 5 due to a pinched nerve in the back of his surgically repaired knee and supposedly done for the series, the Wizards got a monster performance from Butler, who had nine rebounds and five assists in addition to his 32 points.
“I liked the way Caron had the ball in his hands and made solid decisions,” Jordan said. “He’s strong enough and skilled enough to beat good defense. He’s smart enough and veteran enough to know when to make a play, whether he’s driving to the paint or drawing and kicking to his perimeter players. We’ve always liked the ball in his hands at the top of the floor. He made some great decisions (in Game 5).”
Butler’s best decision was not settling for a jumper and driving around James for what proved to be the game-winning hoop with 3.9 seconds to go.
“We heard all the quotes about how this series was over,” Butler said. “Obviously, this team has been through a lot this season, a ton of adversity. We’ve proven all the doubters wrong all season. This is just another opportunity.”
Washington made 13 turnovers in the first half of Game 5, but just one in the second.
• James is the first player to have at least 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in two straight playoff games since Larry Bird in 1984. The only other players to accomplish the feat are Oscar Robertson (1963) and Dolph Schayes (1959).
• If Cleveland and Boston both win tonight, Game 1 of their second-round series will be in Boston on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.