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Wizards wait for scoring to come
In 0-2 hole, Wizards hope home court will give team an edge

 Washington's DeShawn Stevenson (right) has struggled on the offensive end for the Wizards.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Date published: 4/27/2007


WASHINGTON--The Wizards held a brief practice at the Verizon Center yesterday afternoon.

The session came one night after the team dropped into an 0-2 hole in its best-of-seven playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After practice, at the far basket, seldom-used reserves Calvin Booth, Andray Blatche, Mike Hall and Donell Taylor started a game of two-on-two.

At the near basket, DeShawn Stevenson got to work.

With assistant coaches Mike O'Koren and Wes Unseld Jr. feeding him the ball, Stevenson completed a vigorous shooting workout that lasted about 15 minutes.

Ernie Grunfeld, the team's president of basketball operations, stood near the scorer's table and watched closely.

Stevenson squared up from the top of the key and floated jumpshot after high-arcing jumpshot. He switched to the right side and did the same.

Sweat dripped from his face, which stayed stolid the entire time.

Stevenson, a 46.1 percent shooter during the regular-season, has made just 6 of 24 field-goal attempts in this series.

"I think it's a mental thing," Stevenson said. "I can knock down shots; I just gotta get comfortable out there."

And that is why he completed his shooting workout yesterday, hoping to find a return to normalcy. The shooting guard knows that if he does not turn things around--and fast--the Wizards could be swept from this series in four games.

Throughout the regular-season, Stevenson benefited from the presence of all-star point guard Gilbert Arenas, who drew defenders the way a vacuum draws dust.

But Arenas underwent knee surgery this month and will not return during these playoffs. And with Caron Butler sidelined after breaking his hand, Stevenson has transformed from an able role player to a player struggling to get on a roll.

"We're going to send him to Gilbert Arenas shooting school this summer and then we'll see how he comes back," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan joked. "But between now and then, hopefully he recaptures it."

Yesterday, Stevenson seemed more focused than alarmed. His teammates said they are confident he can revert to form.

"It's not like we're talking about 15 or 16 games," point guard Antonio Daniels said. "We're talking about a two-game stretch. Just as easily as he can go 3-for-12, he can turn it around and go 10-for-12, and then 10-for-12 again."

In Game 1, Stevenson's struggles were offset by the 18 points scored by forward Jarvis Hayes.

But in the 109-102 loss in Game 2, Hayes went just 2-for-13 and scored five points.

Jordan said that in Game 3, the Wizards will use screens to try to get better scoring chances for Hayes. He said they would also try to get him the ball in the post.

The Wizards chose to look on the bright side yesterday, pointing out that despite their struggles in Game 2, they were down by just three points in the final minute.

And the two shooters say they are ready to let sail.

"I think it's something where me and DeShawn are going to take it upon ourselves to be more aggressive," Hayes said.

Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442
Email: ahimmelsbach@freelancestar.com