That's two games in a row that Nick has been tasked with defending the opponent's best player. On Tuesday, Nick helped the Wizards defense hold Andre Igguodala to 12 points on 2-10 (20%) shooting. Tonight, although NO one player can completely stop Dwayne Wade, Nick was a major part of the reason D-Wade scored "only" 18 points on 6-19 (31.5%) shooting.
And for the second game in a row, the Wizard's offense shot a good percentage (48.8%) and that helped their Defense. Dwayne Wade gets a lot of his points attacking in the open floor. As Flip Saunders said in his post game comments, "Tonight we shot a very good percentage, didn't turn the ball over too much - we were able to get our defense set, and not give him too many open lanes". The Heat were held to 41.8% shooting for the game and a number of the shots they did hit were semi-desperation contested shots, late in the shot clock. The Wizards dominated the boards, with Blatche (9 rebounds), Butler (7 rebounds), Jamison (13 rebounds) and Haywood (7 rebounds) doing the heavy lifting; giving the Heat very few second chance opportunities.
Another key to the win was the bench play. This was another game where Gilbert Arenas didn't play the fourth quarter. Flip was asked about that in the post game press conference - and he said it was simply a matter of Boykins playing well, and "I just thought it was best, you know Gil had sat, you don't want to sit him as long, but we were playing so well at the time after we went about 2-3 minutes, I thought it was best to let Earl finish and not even take a chance with Gil, from the standpoint of his knee tightening up and something happening." Boykins ended up with 10 points and 9 assists in 21 minutes, and keyed the Wizard's Offense in the fourth quarter. Andray Blatche scored 8 points and had 9 rebounds. JaVale McGee came in for 15 minutes and had 2 blocks and 3 rebounds - and didn't look out of position on defense even once. Flip Saunders spoke about a change in the Wizard's bench when he said "our guys off the bench have had very good mental alertness, and we haven't had a lot of mental mistakes". You know he's talking about McGee; so let's hope that means we'll see some consistent minutes for the exciting big man.
Another encouraging sign was that the Wizards pulled away in the fourth quarter. Butler, Jamison and Andray Blatche all hit big shots down the stretch, and Boykins and Young continued to hound the Heat on Defense; stretching a 3 point lead at the end of the 3rd quarter to 10 by the end of the game.
Most importantly, this game represents a building block; one more step in the right direction. Let's hope that we'll see more games like this one in the near future.