Cavs, James Falter at End vs. Wizards

6/21/2008, 12:25 a.m.

Was it a walk? LeBron James wants the NBA to take a closer look at what he calls his "crab dribble." The move, James insists, does not constitute traveling. A referee disagreed Sunday [Jan. 4 at Verizon Center].

James was whistled for taking an extra step while driving for a potential tying layup with 2.3 seconds left, and his Cleveland Cavaliers lost 80-77 to the Eastern Conference-worst Washington Wizards despite wiping out a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

"Bad call," said James, who compiled 30 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. "We all make mistakes, and I think I got the wrong end of the bargain. I watched it 10 times after the game, and it was clearly a good play."
Without raising his voice or getting particularly animated, James dissected the game's key sequence in extensive detail - even pointing out that he felt he was fouled as he released the shot, which went in. His biggest beef, though, was with what he considered a misunderstanding of the way he moved to the basket.

"You have your trademark play, and that's one of my plays. It kind of looks like a travel because it's slow, and it's kind of a high-step, but it's a one-two just as fluent as any other one-two in this league. I got the wrong end of it, but I think they need to look at it - and they need to understand that's not a travel," James said. "It's a perfectly legal play, something I've always done."

Indeed, Washington's Caron Butler - who scored 19 points and guarded James most of the game, including on that closing play - remembers that same move, without an official's call, from one of the teams' recent playoff meetings.

"I definitely knew he traveled, but I didn't know they were going to call it," Butler said about what happened Sunday. "That was one of them situations in which a great player made a move, good officiating, and they called the call. And I was like, 'Oh, man, there is a God.' "

That was hardly the only contentious moment in a game between teams that faced each other the past three postseasons, with Cleveland winning every series. There was some trash talk between James and injured Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson, who was out with a bad back and sat on the sideline in a burgundy velvet jacket and bow tie. There was the homemade sign held by a Wizards fan that showed James with a blue tear on his cheek and "Crybaby" written in place of "Cavaliers" on his white headband and blue shirt.

Oh, and there was the ejection of Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, who ran nearly the length of the court to protest an offensive foul call against James with about 6 1/2 minutes left. The Cavs were down 70-54 early in the fourth quarter, then 71-58 after Butler made one of two technical free throws when Brown was tossed for all his pointing and yelling.