It's hard to say that anyone is back after just one performance, but Gilbert Arenas showed some nice signs last night that we may see Gilbert return to being the aggressive player we once knew. Just being aggressive won't unlock the pre-injury Gilbert Arenas, but it's an important step in the right direction. Even if his drives to the rim aren't generating points effectively (he was 7-17 from the field) his penetration, if not his passing, opens things up for everyone else. Gilbert's concerns about not freezing out his teammates are well-taken, but playing tentatively like he has does nothing to help the team or himself. Tonight we'll see if he can dial up the aggression again versus Brandon Jennings.
Gilbert Arenas broke out of a scoring slump by dropping his new pass-first approach. Arenas had 22 points and nine assists, Antawn Jamison had 30 points and 12 rebounds and the Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 106-102 on Tuesday night. "We’ve got confidence in him," Jamison said of Arenas, who was limited to just 15 games the past two years because of knee problems. "We know he’s going to find a way to get out of it and make us a better team and start being his old self again, too."
Saunders also has realized that he cannot keep Boykins off the floor to finish games. Three of the Wizards' past four wins have come with Boykins running the show down the stretch. This time, though, Arenas shared the floor with him. They both agreed that it was like their time together in Golden State, when they were the closers. "It relieves the pressure," Arenas said of sharing ball-handing duties with Boykins. "It gets me off the ball. It puts me back in my old mold where I was just a scorer. So every time I got it and I can go score. So I don't have to worry about anything." The Wizards are better when Arenas isn't worrying about anything.
"I decided today I was going to be aggressive," Arenas said. "When you average 29 and 6 assists and you average 20 and six assists, might as well play a little bit harder and be more aggressive. That’s what I tried to do today. I hit a three and from there I just picked my spots. I tried to score, got to the free throw line. and then from there, we just hit shots. We had 34 in the fourth, it was good for us.".
The response in the fourth quarter made up for the bad third and brought back memories of the days of the "big three". Along with Jamison and Arenas, Caron Butler was very much involved and included in his 19 points was a driving dunk on the baseline to give the Wizards much need breathing room at 99-94 with a 1:16 left. "We have had a couple of these wins," Saunders added "We just have not capitalized on them. We know the formula to win. Defend, execute offensively and control tempo of the game."
It’s The Little Things That Count: Flip Saunders was very critical of his team’s effort following the loss to Charlotte. The energy was at an all-time high in Toronto. In the first quarter Randy Foye made a nice save while following out of bounds and that led to a lay up on the other end. Jamison, Arenas and Andray Blatche all hit the deck going after loose balls. The Wizards topped the Raptors 10-2 in the steals department and won the fast break points battle 13-4.
More impressive than his offensive output, though, was Haywood's defense on Toronto's Chris Bosh, who needed 22 shots to score 22 points. After Haywood held him scoreless in the first quarter, Bosh went off for 18 in the second. But in the third and fourth quarters, Haywood clamped down again, limiting the power forward to four points on 1-for-8 shooting. "He had a great second quarter against us, and I knew that if I didn't do something, it was going to be a long night for us," Haywood said. "A lot of it had to do with our team defensive schemes, but I was just trying to cut off his left hand. And I tried to meet him at the rim with his right."
Nick Young earned yet another start for the Wizards, and logged 30 minutes in a highly contested game. Young however, played a very different role Tuesday night than he has in his previous starts. In this game he played the supporting role to the big three, where in the past he had been a more of a gunner. The 24-year-old scored six points on 3-9 shooting, he also added no assists and committed no turnovers. This is a role I could get behind.
There's little more satisfying than seeing your team come out on top of a thoroughly entertaining and well-played game. It's a feeling Wizards fans haven't experienced very often of late. However, if Antawn Jamison keeps playing the way he has recently, such satisfaction might become a much more frequent occurrence: Jamison had 30 points and 12 boards as Washington outlasted a very game Toronto.
The Wizards got good offensive production from their big 3, and a bigger boost from role players like Brendan Haywood (15 points, 9 boards and 3 blocks) and Earl Boykins (8 points and 5 assists.) This was one of the key differences in the end as outside of Jarrett Jack (18 points), the rest of the Raptors' bench was very quiet offensively, and as usual, the defence didn't exactly hold up.
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