Wizards 112, Timberwolves 100

Much of the postgame talk around this game has centered around Andray Blatche and his fantastic defensive effort on Kevin Garnett.  As a newspaper guy as well as a blogger, it's always cool when someone picks a different angle and runs with it in your typical game recap, as Ivan Carter did with the KG/Blatche battle.

However, after Garnett scored on Blatche early in the first quarter and punctuated the basket by yelling, "Now I'm going to bust your [butt]," Blatche swapped admiration for determination and responded with a seven-point, 12-rebound effort that helped the Wizards open the second half of the season with a 112-100 win over the Timberwolves."

However, to be completely honest, this didn't strike me as the biggest story of the game.  Watching this one from section 418, it didn't even strike me as the third or fourth biggest story of the game.  Blatche played well, and he's been playing well for a couple games.  Last night, he was a phenomenal +16 when he was on the court.  But the bigger story was Gilbert Arenas.

The box score will tell you that Arenas was just hitting his shot.  He shot 24 times, and went 1 for 8 from three.  But what I saw as an observer was a player who's starting to understand that he's an incredibly tough player to guard when he's attacking the basket.  Early in the game, Arenas was shooting all jumpers, and he was struggling.  But once he realized that Randy Foye, Mike James, and Marko Jaric couldn't guard him, he attacked the rim.  He split double teams for layups.  He attacked a one on three and got another layup.  Once he was getting easy shots, the jumpers started to fall, and when he wasn't scoring, he was drawing all sorts of blocking fouls.  It was exactly the type of offensive game we haven't seen from Arenas in over a month.

I was also incredibly impressed by DeShawn Stevenson.  He hit 9 of his 11 shots, most of those on spot-up jumpers.  He also hit some big shots down the stretch, particularly the fadeaway over Ricky Davis to make it a 10 point game.  It wasn't his best defensive effort of the year, but throughout the game, I kept thinking where the Wizards would be without him.  That's pretty incredible considering that he's working on a veterans minimum contract.  The Wizards are going to have an interesting decision with him in the offseason.

Going back to Blatche, I think it was more Garnett's lack of aggression than anything.  There were a number of times where Blatche was caught on screens and Garnett got the ball in great post position.  Instead of going right up, Garnett paused and shot fadeaways that either missed or went in.  It was as if all he cared about was showing Blatche up individually on every play.  Garnett was also lazy on the glass, allowing Blatche to corral 12 rebounds.  Garnett finished with 26 and 13, but I barely noticed him.  I'm not sure that's Blatche's doing more than Garnett's own.

The rest of the Timberwolves stink, by the way.  Coming into the draft, Randy Foye was my favorite player, but he looked more like another William Avery.  Mike James is your classic selfish shoot-first point guard, except he's also certifiably crazy.  Mark Blount lurked on the perimeter all game, and there were about 3 times where, instead of swinging the ball to the open man, he shot a contested 20 footer.  Ricky Davis scored a lot of points, but gave up a lot too.  Marko Jaric, Rashad McCants, Trenton Hassell, and Mark Madsen are D-League material.  Randy Wittman somehow devised a scheme where Ricky Davis got more shots than Garnett.  They're going to fall, and they're going to fall hard.

Other random observations, since my out of town friend and I were actually there.

  • We get there early, so we go in and see Brendan Haywood shooting free throws.  My friend tries to shout at Haywood at the top of his lungs, but he doesn't notice.  Haywood then ends his warmup with a fadeaway three-pointer from the corner.  It goes in, naturally.
  • My friend goes up to a guy doing some raffle and tells him I'm a blogger.  I give out the url, and he says he'll check it out.  If you're here, feel free to say hi.
  • On our way up to the seats, we see an army booth with a mascot.  My friend gives the mascot a salute, and he responds by giving us a brochure and a flyer.  He didn't even salute back.  And you wonder why they're looking for soldiers.
  • Minnesota comes out of the locker room, and before they get into their layup lines, Mike James dribbles to the top of the key and shoots a wild left-handed hook shot that clanks off the backboard.  In a related story, Mike James has played for 7 teams in 5 years.
  • We tried twice to move down to the lower level, where there are a million open seats.  We're turned down each time.  My friend tries to argue for us, saying that I'm a blogger.  No dice.  Somehow, I'm not surprised.
  • There was a guy sitting two rows in front of us who was wearing headphones or something.  At the first commercial, the dance team comes out, and he suddenly stands up and cheers at the top of his lungs.  He did it again later in the game.  For the rest of the game, he sat down, and we didn't hear a word out of him.
  • The stadium atmosphere was really dead.  We've made a lot of progress, but there's still a long way to go to make this a premium home venue.
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