CLEVELAND (AP)—Once he dropped in his sixth straight jumper, Drew Gooden spun around and looked over at Cleveland’s bench. Then, he placed his hands in front of his face and wiggled his fingers.
“That’s called making it rain,” Gooden said.
On Wednesday night, Gooden poured it on for the Cavaliers.
Usually a member of Cleveland’s supporting cast, Gooden co-starred with LeBron James by scoring 19 of his 24 points in the first half in leading the Cavaliers to a 109-102 victory over the Washington Wizards and a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.
James, playing on a tender left ankle, scored 27 points with eight rebounds and seven assists. He also helped the Cavaliers hold off a furious rally by the Wizards, who clawed within three points in the final minute.
But it was Gooden’s first-half flurry—he scored 15 points in just over five minutes—that energized the Cavs and pushed them to the commanding advantage in the best-of-seven series, which moves to Washington for Game 3 on Saturday.
Gooden normally doesn’t have many offensive plays called for him by Cleveland coach Mike Brown, who may have to rethink that philosophy after the forward came through on a night when James was clearly not himself.
Gooden’s performance came exactly one year after he had 24 points and 16 rebounds in Game 2 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Wizards. Cleveland lost that game before winning the series in six.
But the 6-foot-10 Gooden, who is growing out an 1980s-style ducktail hairdo, helped make sure recent history wouldn’t be repeated.
“He held down the fort for them in the first half,” Wizards forward Jarvis Hayes said. “And at the end LeBron did.”
The Wizards made it interesting in the final minute. They kept pecking away at Cleveland’s lead and capitalized on a few missed free throws and an ill-advised pass by Eric Snow to close within 105-102 on a 3-pointer by Hayes with 18 seconds left.
Larry Hughes then made four free throws as Cleveland closed it out.
James, who twisted his ankle in Game 1, still managed put up roughly his statistical averages from the regular season. And when the Wizards trimmed a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to six, James took control.
He scored 13 points in the final period, including nine in the final 5:14. But other than a two-handed dunk in the first half and couple of powerful excursions toward the hoop, James seemed to take it easy on an ankle he said is still sore.
“We thought we had a chance to win, but LeBron made a lot of great plays,” Wizards center Brendan Haywood said. “He showed why he’s one of the best players in the league.”
Once again, Antawn Jamison had to do it alone for the Wizards, who are without injured All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler. Jamison had 31 points but Antonio Daniels (11) was the only other Washington starter in double figures.
“We’re making steps,” Hayes said. “We just need to keep the train rolling.”
Hughes had 19 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 16 for the Cavs, who have only been up 2-0 in a series one other time in their 37-year history.
Before the game, James said he still had pain in his ankle but he didn’t expect to have any trouble playing on it. He gave Cleveland fans a few moments of concern when he didn’t immediately come out with his teammates for pregame warmups.
But moments later, he burst onto the floor and began testing his injury with some strong moves.
Once the game began, he wasn’t as assertive as normal, and the Wizards took advantage, opening a 43-36 lead on a basket by Jamison.
Gooden then brought the Cavs back by himself—after he got an icy stare from James, who was mad at him for not finishing on a pass underneath.
Gooden scored 15 points—and Cleveland’s final 11—in the last 5:45 of the second quarter, hitting six straight contested jumpers and scoring two three-point plays as the Cavs took a 51-48 halftime lead.
“I kind of got on him,” James said of his glare at Gooden. “I wanted him to be aggressive. After I got on him, he carried us.”
After dropping a 19-footer and getting fouled with 28.5 seconds left, Gooden screamed, made his “rain” gesture and bumped chests with James as the sellout crowd serenaded Cleveland’s No. 90 with a chorus of “Druuuuu.”
“Sometimes the basket is as big as the ocean,” he said. “Tonight, was my night.”
The last time Cleveland led 2-0 in a series was in 1992 against New Jersey. … James lent his vocal talents to a rendition of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” for a charity “American Idol” event. “It was absolutely terrible,” he said of his performance. “It was for a good cause though.” … The Cavaliers are 4-0 in series in which they win Game 1.