There was so much about last night’s game that reminded me of last Tuesday’s home opener.
A marquee match-up: this time around it was a Yao vs. Yi Chinese face-off.
A game after a notable embarrassment: a notably terrible practice that caused Coach Saunders to flip out.
An energy about John Wall that excited the crowd.
Well I suspect every game will have that sort of anticipation.
What was also the similar to last Tuesday’s opener was the result: a win for the Wizards and another achievement for rookie John Wall. However that’s where the similarities end.
Unlike the nail biting shoot-out of last week, the Wizards took care of the Houston Rockets through an efficient offense and staunch defense. The 98-91 victory was also John Wall’s first career triple-double (19 Pts, 13 Ast, 10 Reb.) It only took Wall six NBA games to earn his first triple-double, a feat that was all too familiar for another person in attendance: Magic Johnson. He earned his first triple-double in five NBA games. Johnson gave pep-talk to the team prior to the game and it appears his words have done a bit more than inspire a struggling Wizards team.
The Rockets, 1-5 entering the game, was ranked 2nd in the league in points scored with an average of 112 points. However Houston also gave up a league leading 112.67 points as well. The game had shoot-out all over it. The night was also an exciting match-up between Yao Ming of the Rockets and Yi Jianlian of the Wizards. The Wizard’s tagged the night as, “Asian Heritage Night,” and the Chinese community both locally and globally put their sights on the game to watch two of China’s finest go head-to-head.
Unfortunately much like the John Wall vs Evan Turner match-up of last week, last night’s showdown was more of a bust. Yao left the game early in the first quarter with a strained tendon in his left leg after taking a charge from JaVale McGee. Yi didn’t seem to miss Yao at all, he put up a solid line of 13 Pts, 4 Blks, 7 Reb. Every shot he drained caused riotous cheers in the arena including a slam dunk in the 3rd quarter. He certainly made it his night as well.
However the win can’t be attributed to Wall, Yi, or any single Wizards player. The team as a whole worked smoothly on offense with five players reaching double-digit points in the game. Both Al Thornton and Andray Blatche earned top scorer honors with 20 points apiece. Blatche was given the ball early in the game but contributed best through his rebounding, leading the team with 11. Thornton continues to be an surprise performer this season following up his 23 points against Cleveland with another 20 point game. In the post-game press conference Coach Saunders continues to describe him as an unnoticed player, however with more games like this, it won’t be long til everybody in Wizards Nation know who he is.
Gilbert Arenas was originally listed as questionable with a sore knee but entered the game off the bench but languished going 2-9 for 5 Pts. He did have a key assist with a perfect set-up pass for a John Wall Alley Oop slam in the 2nd quarter. Coach Saunders acknowledges that Arenas still needs to get into game shape and he remains quiet with his new role saying in the locker room that, “he’s fine” with it.
It took more than a well-powered offense to tame Houston, keeping team that averages 112 points a game to only 91 is quite a feat. JaVale McGee and Yi provided plenty of blocked shots and Wall stole the rock six times. Throw in disciplined play that didn’t allow many turnovers, the Rockets were unable to top the Wizards despite a game-high 31 points from Kevin Martin and 24 points from Luis Scola.
Looks like that extra practice on Monday made perfect as the Rockets couldn’t keep up with a well oiled Wizards machine.
- Despite scoring double-digit points, Kurt Hinrich’s six turnovers was a glaring red mark on the game, no other player earning more than two.
- Wall is fast. Very fast. He will be a great player as long as his mind can catch up with his legs.
- The secret to John Wall’s success? Watching tapes of John Stockton. Audio: Coach Saunders on inspiring Wall
- Apprently Gilbert Arenas hasn’t hurt his knee since 2008. Audio: Arenas – Knee (Sounds like he doesn’t want to talk about his knee anymore- good thing because it has gotten him into nothing but trouble.)