I missed "Dagger!"

Box score.
Game flow.
Post recap.
Times recap.
Les Bullez.
Hornets 24/7.
Agent Bog.
Ball Don't Lie: The Washington Wizards care.
Mac G.

Highest plus/minus: DeShawn Stevenson (+19).
Lowest plus/minus: Andray Blatche (-20).

Wow.  That was totally unexpected, not just because of the result, but how we got there.

The obvious surprise was DeShawn breaking out for 33 points, but there was one other that slipped under the radar, beneath Steve Buckhantz's "Dagger!" and DeShawn's "I can't feel my face" routine.  

Last night was one of those games where you get so frustrated with Andray Blatche.  He has so much potential to dominate, but last night, he was a step slow, unassertive, and generally a drain on the team.  Normally, Eddie Jordan would have stuck with him, refusing to even consider an alternative way of playing his guys.  But this time, Eddie made a stroke of genius, deciding to start Dominic McGuire for Blatche to begin the second half to go along with the four starters (Daniels, Stevenson, Jamison, Haywood).  D-Mac was the key tonight.  As jvflail said, McGuire picked up Chris Paul beautifully on pick and roll switches, and he also  provided a source of energy on the offensive end.  

It's hard to look at Chris Paul's 10-14, 22 point, 8 assist line and say "Wow, Taser did a great job shutting him down," but that was the case.  D-Mac's third-quarter appearance resulted in the Wizards cutting into the Hornets' lead by six points, and while Paul had a couple nice moments, he was mostly neutralized on pick and rolls.  The defense leveled off a bit when Taser went out, but the Wizards were still in the game thanks to Stevenson's offensive explosion when Taser checked back in at the 5:22 mark of the fourth quarter.  From that point on, Paul attempted just one shot, had 0 assists, and one turnover, at a time when he has consistently closed out games for the Hornets this year.  Why?  The Hornets kept running the same screen and roll, the Wizards kept switching McGuire on Paul, and McGuire cut off Paul so effectively that Paul was forced to give the ball up, and he rarely got it back.  All this because Eddie Jordan gave McGuire a vote of confidence by starting him in the second half, even though Blatche has shown lots of promise since Caron Butler went down.  Simply put, it was a genius move, and for once, Eddie outcoached his opponent.

As for Stevenson, there's really nothing I can say that properly illustrates his performance.  He was simply incredible, scoring at will on Mike James and coming up with answers whenever the Wizards needed them.  His ability to drive by two defenders on that last play and then step back to elude the shot blocker was, to put it bluntly, Gilbert-esque.  

Before we get too carried away, however, let's remember that we got lucky in many respects.  New Orleans shot just 54 percent from the line, and Peja Stojakovic missed a number of wide-open looks.  We also benefited from a brain fart by Byron Scott, who kept Morris Peterson on the bench for most of the fourth quarter even as Stevenson was torching the shorter Mike James.  But even so, I would have been proud, because our effort was excellent, our coach made the right decisions, and we were right there even as Jamison shot 3 for 16.  

Just two days ago, I was questioning the team's concentration level, but that is certainly not the case now.  Kelly Dwyer said it far more eloquently than I could:

These guys really care. They're not out to pad their stats with 45 Gilberon Butnas points sitting on the pine, they're not giving up on the season or looking for excuses, and they're not working within the confines of an offensive system that is easy to pick up. And yet, night after night, the team tries to move its feet defensively and work to execute coach Eddie Jordan's offense.

Being a fan of this team is officially fun again.

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