Rust is natural. If you take someone away from something that they do on a regular basis for an extended amount of time, it takes sometime to get back into that rhythm. That's just the way things work, unless your name is Antawn Jamison.
Not only was Jamison thrown back into the starting lineup, but expected to carry the team as they slumped through most of the first half. If it weren't for his 21 points and 8 rebounds in the first half, the Wizards would have faced a much, much more formidable deficit heading into halftime. You tend to forget about these things when the team ends up winning by 17, but without Jamison's spectacular first half in his first game back from injury, the Wizards would be staring at a 2-8 record this morning. Antawn didn't waste anytime helping out where the team needed him to help out. That's what team captains do, and that's why he was so sorely missed when he was out.
After watching Antawn Jamison in this win, I'm convinced that every player should develop a cold after deeming themselves ready to return to action. That way, you don't feel as if you're coming right off the shelf, rather, you feel as if you've been waylaid by something else (a cold) that is easily overcome. Jamison fit right in, in his first game of the season, only turning the ball over two times in 38 minutes, pouring in 31 points in various styles and pulling in 10 rebounds (six offensive).
Before the start of the season, Jamison threw out the "C" word, saying a championship "is all I'm playing for." To keep that goal fresh in his mind, Jamison has an 8-inch-by-10-inch, framed color photograph of the Larry O'Brien Trophy hanging in his locker. On the wall that borders Jamison's locker, which is just outside the trainers room, is a poster-sized image of the trophy, also framed. "We need a little championship aura in here," Jamison said last week. He also said he plans on ordering a copy for all of his teammates' lockers.
"Sometimes you don’t realize the little things," Jamison said. "One thing I’ve noticed lately is our energy level has been down, whether we miss a couple of shots or make a run, guys run to the huddle with their heads down and that’s something that I knew that I could come in and change that and just move that ball form one end to the other, another added weapon for them to really key in on. I’ve been sitting down for what seems like forever, so I had a lot of energy. I knew it was going to be different from what we’ve been doing." Jamison kept shooting, and kept barking at his teammates and eventually Mike Miller responded with back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Antawn Jamison made his return Wednesday night and helped lead his Wizards to a 108-91 victory over Cleveland at the Verizon Center. The Wizards powerforward helped spark the Wizards with 31 points on 12 of 22 shooting, and10 rebounds. Jamison helped fill a void tonight that the club had strugled to fill all season. They had been missing the man on their team who keeps the club together when things get rough. When no one else can seem to put the ball in the hoop, grab the rebound, or make the defensive play, Antawn has been there. He was there tonight.
But the Wizards weren't focused on anything except the win, which ended Cleveland's five-game winning streak and marked just the 11th time that Arenas, Jamison and Butler started a game together since April 4, 2007, when Arenas first injured his left knee. "It's great to have us all out there together," Butler said. "That's been the talk for years, 'When is the Big Three going to be out there together, along with the new additions?' Antawn was great tonight. He kept the energy going. Gilbert did some spectacular things. I thought DeShawn did a great job of slowing down LeBron. "This is what we expect. We expect to win games. That's what happened."
The stat sheet will show that Arenas shot 6-for-22 from the field, and even in person, there were times when he forced the issue and tried to shoot his way out of his slump. In the first half he shot just 1-for-9, and he had six points. But in the second half, he played a bit better and found his stroke. Even Arenas noticed this inconsistency, "I just can’t find two halves to match right now. I just gotta get it together…I had one bad half, and I figured the second one would get better." What will not show up in the stat sheet is his solid defense on Mo Williams. Williams who is widely considered to be the second best player on the Cavaliers squad scored just six points in 36 minutes.
Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler have struggled with their shots all season, and it was no different on Wednesday night, as Arenas and Butler combined to shoot just 12 of 38. Any other night, the Wizards probably would've succumbed to the LeBron James one-man show. But on this night, the Wizards had Antawn Jamison to fill the gaps, and he did that and more, as he scored 31 points with 10 rebounds, keeping the Wizards competitive in the first half, until Arenas was able to wake up in the third quarter, scoring 14 of his 18 points, and Butler was able to take over the game completely in the fourth, scoring 13 of his 19 points.
The one guy whose role has emerged is Mike Miller. He came into the Wizards very accepting of whatever capacity that they wanted to use him. It’s pretty clear that role needs to be substantial because not only does Miller make shots, he makes hustle plays and smart plays. But – and this remains a concern – his left shoulder still looks mighty banged up.
Stevenson allowed James just six of his game-high 34 points in the final period, tying him up with a blocked shot on a fast break with three minutes, 22 seconds, a play that ended with Caron Butler alone at the free throw line after James argued the call. James then responded with two huge dunks with the game basically decided, only to injure his left wrist on the first. "He came in very professional and played ‘meat and potato’ basketball," said Wizards head coach Flip Saunders of Stevenson. "He didn’t give them any antics. He just put his nose into it and played solid defense."
Caution yourself against classifying this win as "season-saving." Yes, the rotations were better for Flip Saunders, the defensive commitment in the second half was more noticeably solid, and there was fun to be had on the floor even in tense moments. But there are miles to go before the Eastern Conference can be called out for sleeping on the Wizards; specifically within a Wizards west coast road trip with games against Oklahoma City and San Antonio over the next few days. They still have injuries, they still have trust issues, they still have quite a few problems. But this game can serve as a memory to the Wizards of what injury-free, focused basketball looks and feels like. Rivals can be vanquished, stats can be compiled and expectations can be met. Before tonight’s game, the Wizards were on the verge of implosion for reasons that they couldn’t fully control. They were headed for self-destruction, but allowed experience and trust to make a big game smaller than their team objective.
The Wizards showed a lot of poise in not panicking after digging a deep hole early and fighting their way back to a blowout win. It was certainly easy to see the impact Jamison brings to the team and they found a way to still score 108 points despite not shooting the ball particularly well. So they certainly deserve all the credit for coming up with the win, but you have to believe the Cavaliers feel frustrated that they never made any kind of adjustments and let this game slip away out of their reach. This will be one they will want to forget about as soon as possible.
Wizards head coach Flip Saunders didn’t go so far as to call it a "statement game", but the team’s 108-91 defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wed., Nov. 18 at Verizon Center might have been the best victory of the season. The Wizards are now 3-7 on the season, and for the first time in what seems like years, guard Gilbert Arenas, and forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, the so-called "big three" were on the floor together, and healthy.
Now that the big three of Arenas, Jamison and Butler are in full force, the Wizards have no more excuses. I understand, the team still has to adjust to Flip Saunders’ system and all the new faces on the roster like Mike Miller, Randy Foye and Earl Boykins. Even Arenas, who basically missed two seasons, is still trying to find his chemistry with the team again. Bottom line is Washington has enough talent on that roster to finish in the top five of the East. The ball movement looked a lot better last night and maybe this win can get their confidence up. If the team can get comfortable in the offense in the next 10 games and the team escapes any more injuries, than this team has no excuses why they shouldn’t be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. But even with injuries, it shouldn’t be an excuse. Last year, Orlando and L.A. made the Finals with some of their key guys hurt, so why can’t Washington do that?
The Wizards carried a 75-72 lead into the fourth quarter, and with Arenas and Jamison watching from the bench, Washington blew the Cavaliers away. Boykins and Butler led Washington on a 25-8 charge that ballooned a three-point lead into a 100-80 advantage. In the quarter, Boykins had nine points and two assists, and Butler scored 13 points. "We said from the beginning that depth will always help you," coach Flip Saunders said. "I told our guys in the locker room that if we have a group that's playing well, no matter who it is, we let them play it out. In this league they are all good players. Given the opportunity and in certain situations they can all play well."
You can really see the impact of not having Andy Varejao and Shaq. The Cavs are getting hammered on the boards. This is something Mike Brown is also I'm sure making a big point of in the locker room. Brendan Haywood has 10 rebounds already and the Wiz have 13 second-chance points. The Cavs gave up 23 last night. They didn't have a game where they allowed more than 14 before these last two nights.
"Once I get a million followers, I’ll do it," Arenas said after his Washington Wizards beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-91 Wednesday. Asked why he picked that number, he said because it’s "so far-fetched." When someone pointed out to Arenas that the way people tend to accrue followers is by tweeting, he replied: "I’m trying to do the opposite."
Best of Twitterville
Twitter / Michael Lee
Gilbert just said he won't make another shot until he gets one million followers on Twitter.
Twitter / The BF gang
Dear Cavs fans: That was a really bad call on DeShawn. He wrapped him up. See, #Wizards fans can admit when there's a bad call.
Twitter / Truth_About_It
My eyes could be deceiving me, but I swear I just saw Mike Brown go over & lick LeBron's wounds.
Twitter / Mike Jones
Second guest student pep band of the season, and once again, a rendition of Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind. WE'RE IN DC PEOPLE!
Twitter / Jack Kogod
LeBron not joining team huddle, busy glaring at section 112. Can't imagine why.
Twitter / Bob Sumner
Enjoy that highlight, Lebron. This one is over like your hairline. Guess you will have a hard time hoisting Cris at Lima wit that limp wrist
Twitter / Agent Dagger
Lebron is considered dominant because his size proposes ridiculous match up problems...could say the same for Boykins?
Twitter / wizznutzz
BOYKS!!! The Bunson Burner gone all BRAISE on the Cavz. MOIST HEAT.
Twitter / Marcel Mutoni
Pretty sure each of the Wizards dancers could post up Earl Boykins with ease.
Twitter / Brian Windhorst
Wizards 108, Cavs 91. DeShawn Stevenson is MVP without taking shot, just by getting in LeBron's head.
Twitter / John Krolik
Well, then. Crap.
Twitter / Ric Bucher
For anyone thinking tonight's outcome would be different if Shaq were playing: Wizards consider Z a tougher matchup for Haywood.
Twitter / We <3 DC
Oh I'm sorry, Bron Bron, did we break your concentration? Love, the Wizards
Twitter / Andrew Sharp
Gil throws his jersey as he leaves the court. Good to have the real gilbert arenas back. Also: !!!!!!!!!!!
Twitter / Jon Lewallen
Come on ESPN, at least let me enjoy the Wizards win before throwing it to SA-Dallas. Mark Jackson makes me sad inside.
Twitter / Wolf Blitzer
Wizards WIN. 108-91. Enough said.