Defying all reason -- no Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, an ugly game-one loss, facing Lebron in the playoffs -- I am still optimistic about the Wizards chances in this series.
Not "I think they're going to win" optimistic ... more like "I think they can win" optimistic, which is better than they're getting from most people.
For three quarters on Sunday Cleveland looked like crap. They failed to pull away from the Wizards, who seemed to botch every open, in-tight look that was giftwrapped for them by the Cavs' defense. Cleveland did pull away in the fourth and ended up winning by 15, but the game made me more confident that the Wizards can steal an early win in this series and keep themselves in it.
Unfortunately, an "early win" means tonight.
The task of any road team in a seven-game playoff series is to take one of first two games in the other team's building to wrestle away home court/field/rink advantage, so for the Wizards tonight is their opportunity. Their only opportunity.
It would be especially big because it would ensure that the series will get to at least a fifth game, which could be long enough to get Butler back in the lineup.
Caron had his cast removed on Monday but is supposed to avoid contact for a week to 10 days. Even on an ambitious schedule there's almost no way he's cleared to play in game four on April 30, but Caron prides himself on his toughness -- or is that tuffness? -- and based on no inside information or real facts at all I wouldn't rule out a game five or game six return even though Eddie Jordan apparently has.
And it's that type of irrational hope that sums up my optimism. If the Wiz can eek out a win in C-town tonight then win one of their two home games, they could get Butler back with the series not yet out of reach.
But if they lose tonight you can kiss all that goodbye and I'll start posting about the Orioles again.