For those of you who were busy watching football all day, the Wizards played a game at Verizon Center Saturday night.
And they won.
Washington defeated Toronto 98-95 behind Nick Young who caught fire to the tune of 18 third-period points and were able to hang on at the end for their 11th victory of the season.
It was a better effort for the Wizards than what has been seen out of the team for stretches this season. It was not one of those games that required them to dig in with a lot of heart to pull it out nor did they have to overcome any mountain of adversity. It was just a win, a solid game where they kept themselves in it when they Raptors delivered their blows and execute well enough to come out on top. In the end it was a normal style win for an NBA basketball team.
That is not something the Wizards are used to.
“I think overall we did some good positive things and played well in spurts and Nick continues to play really well at home with a lot of energy,” head coach Flip Saunders said.
It was Andray Blatche Bobblehead night and the power forward lived up to the pressure of being being forever immortalized as a little plastic doll. He put up 17 points and 13 rebounds. It was his ninth double-double of the season. He has been a starter for a good portion of the season but with Rashard Lewis now acclimated to D.C. after arriving from Orlando in the Gilbert Arenas trade, Blatche has been coming off the bench. Blatche has also been nursing a sore shoulder so a few less minutes and the ability to have him off the bench is a good thing for Wizards and Saunders.
“What did he end up with? 17? He had a 25-point game but he missed four layups as far as in the first half,” Saunders said
It was a slow start for Blatche and Young who combined for 1-for-9 shooting with two points in the first quarter as Toronto took a 25-19 lead. At that point is was looking like it was going to be another dreary night at Verizon as two bad NBA teams duked out a doldrum mid-January contest. Young did not make his first basket until around the 8:00 minute mark in the second quarter but once he hit, it was on. He went for six points in the second on 3-for-6 shooting. Coincidentally, so did Blatche and the Wizards outscored the Raptors 28-17 to take a 47-42 halftime lead.
“I thought defensively we played well overall in spurts,” Saunders said. “I thought our bench in particular, Yi [Jianlian] and Al [Thornton] were exceptional tonight. They gave us a lift as far as offensively but defensively they did a good job with a lot of energy. Yi helped Andray really well. Andray didn’t really get going until the end when he hit some threes and hit some perimeter shots in the second half, so, I thought that really was key.”
Young, who finished with 29 points, took over at the start of the third. He was 7-for-8 from the field with two three-pointers as rookie point guard John Wall found him the ball. The Wizards have a tough time winning when Young does not score and it looked early on like that was going to be the case. Young averages 18.8 at home versus 13.3 on the road.
No wonder the Wizards are 0-19 away from Verizon Center.
“Right now he has an unbelievable comfort level as far as at home,” Saunders said. “We have got to get him to bring that killer instinct offensively with him on the road. He hasn’t done that yet. Except for the Laker game but for him that is like a home game going home with all his people.”
Young said it was all about the shoes.
“I don’t want to say my knee was bothering me. I was just missing. I came out too pumped and trying to get my knee going and all of that. It was the new Kobe’s I had on tonight, you know?” Young said. “I knew my shot wasn’t falling so I told myself to get some easy ones and once I seen the ball go in the hole, it was on from there.It is tough. It is coming off me being aggressive.”
Perhaps the best part about the win for the Wizards was the ability to close the game out. A lot of times this season they have had fourth-quarter leads and handled it like a four-year old who is overly fond of a puppy — clutch it so tight that it ends up running away. That is what happened against Minnesota the other night as Washington got blown away after having a late lead. On Saturday the Wizards executed toward the end of the night, got the ball into Young’s hands in the last few minutes for the clinching free throws and were overall composed. Saunders did substitue Wall for Kirk Hinrich in the last minute which helped, the coach said that Hinrich is one of the better ball-on-ball defenders in the league.
Part of the substitution may have also had something to do with the Raptors’ point guard. Jose Calderon roasted the Wizards all night and it was another example of an opposing point guard coming up with big numbers after going against Wall and the Washington guards. Calderon finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists against one turnover. In comparison, Wall had eight points, nine assists, three rebounds and five turnovers.
– Josh Howard missed the game for the Wizards with an injury and Hamady Ndiaye was inactive.
– The Wizards continued to struggle against opposing big men as Andrea Bargnani had 25 points and seven rebounds.
Four Wizards scored in double digits. In addition to Young and Blatche, JaVale McGee had 10 points and Lewis had 13 points. McGee also had 11 rebounds and six blocked shots extending his career-high for double-doubles to 11. His 98 total blocked shots leads the league.
For you viewing pleasure, here are some videos from the game. The first is the Wizards pre-game introductions taken from the WeLoveDC pressbox seat. The second is the entirety of Flip Saunders’ postgame press conference. Both were done using a Samsung Captivate and realtime online video streaming application Qik.