LeBron James has been the bane of the Wizards' existence in the playoffs for several years. The travels, the whining, the game-winners, the intense competition each time these two take the court; it's enough to stir some powerful emotion each time LeBron steps on the court. Although LeBron gets the last laugh each season, the Wizards play LeBron and the Cavs tight.
On the other hand, Dwyane Wade destroys everything in his path when he takes on the Wizards. Save for two losses in 2007 when he and the team limped to a 15-67 record, Wade was undefeated against Washington.
Until last night, that is.
Wade had his second-worst shooting performance (6-19 from the field) and his second-worst scoring total (18 points) this season. As was mentioned in last night's recap, Nick Young was a huge part of slowing down The Flash. But we must remember that it takes a true team effort to slow down any superstar, so kudos to the whole team for limiting someone whom they had no success slowing down in the past.
The first key to slowing Wade was going right at him. The Wizards figured rather than let Wade simply concentrate his efforts on the offensive end of the court, make him play some defense as well and wear him down. Another key was Nick's length. He's three inches taller than Wade, which helps, but the kid's also got a 7-foot wingspan! Those long arms made it difficult for Wade to get comfortable looks at the basket. And Young didn't even have to foul often to limit his counterpart.
Young has earned a third chance and has taken the opportunity seriously. In his last two games he has scored 20 and 22 points, and for the first time in his career, has shown a true commitment to defense. That defense was on display tonight as he put together a masterpiece against the Heat's Dwyane Wade. Wade was held to 18 points, his second lowest total on the season. Perhaps most impressive however is that Young stopped Wade from doing what he does best, getting to the line. Wade only attempted seven free throws on the game, five of them not coming until the game was well in hand in the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I told him, until I get a rhythm where I can play consistent basketball, I need him to score. I need him to be aggressive. I need him Tawn and CB to be the scorers in that starting group," said Arenas, who had just nine points and five assists in 27 minutes. But he did some smart things with the ball, especially late in the third quarter, when the Heat scored nine consecutive points and got within 63-62 when Wade made two free throws. Instead of settling for some fallaway jumper, Young responded by driving to the basket and converting a nifty reverse layup.
But while Agent Zero struggled to find his rhythm, Wade also looked flat. (Perhaps he was still fatigued after the Heat's dramatic win over Orlando on Thanksgiving eve.)
Wade, continuing a recent stretch of erratic shooting, finished with 18 points on 6-for-19 accuracy. Young, starting in injured Mike Miller's absence, scored 22. ``I wasn't getting calls I thought I should get,'' Wade said. ``It's schemes -- lot of double teams, lot of picks and rolls. We've got to find a better way to get me the ball in different positions.''
The Wizards had blown a double-digit third-quarter lead, and the hosts needed only a 3-pointer to tie the score as the fourth quarter opened Friday night. But there was a scowling Jamison at midcourt, clapping, barking - anything he could think of to motivate his teammates. The Wizards responded with a charge and won 94-84 for their first victory against Dwyane Wade and Co. this season. "I said early in the year that that was something we missed," coach Flip Saunders said of Jamison, who missed the first nine games of the season with a partially dislocated shoulder. "Some of these games might have been a different story, not only with his leadership but also his ability to make tough shots. He's emotional, and he's going to be there when you need him."
Midway through the third quarter Jamison reached 17 points by wiggling in position to tip-in a missed jump shot by Young. With the basket the Wizards went up 61-53 and Jamison reached 16,000 career points. Jamison along with Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan, are the only active players with at least 16,000 career points and 6,000 career rebounds.
Similar to the win against Cleveland, it was Earl Boykins instead of Arenas who got the call to close out the victory for the Wizards in Miami. Boykins provided the spark for a bench that outscored that of the Heat 24-4. He finished the game with 10 points and 9 assists en route to a +17 +/- rating. In the closing minutes Boykins hit a leaning jump shot that iced the game and cued a "dagger" from Steve Buchantz.
How about Earl Boykins? 10 points, 9 assists, ZERO turnovers in 21 minutes on the floor. It’s not even that Arenas had a bad game, although his numbers (9 points, 5 assists) were well short of what he’s used to. It’s just that Boykins was that much better down the stretch. Can’t wait to see how this plays out, but it seems like the way that it should is Arenas should be on the bench until his shooting percentage goes up or his turnovers go down, plain and simple.
The Wizards wore black tape on their uniforms in honor of Abe Pollin, the franchise's longtime owner who died on Tuesday at age 85 and was buried earlier Friday. Following an emotional week that included a spat between Arenas and Caron Butler, they won their first game within the Southeast Division after losing twice to Miami and once to Atlanta. They will host the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday night at Verizon Center.
Best of the Twitterverse
If you're wondering why this game's version is short, Mike Jones has the answer for you:
Twitter / Michael Lee
Flip's starting to like Tawn at the 3. He's got him in there with 7-Day Dray and the JaValevator.
Twitter / Agent Dagger
Screw Miller and Foye, Boykins is looking like the best acquisition in years
Twitter / Chase Hughes
Nick Young has tied a career high with 5 assists (3/2/08)
Twitter / George V. Panagakos
Arenas only scores 9 -- first game without double-digits scored this season for Gil
Twitter / Wizards Extreme
Wiz victorious against the D-Wade show. 2 in a row, I'll take it