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Wizards 120, Nuggets 91: A bright spot in a sea of finals

The Wizards have had some good wins this season, but tonight's win over the Nuggets has to be the most satisfying of them all.  I realize Denver was in the second leg of a back to back, but the Wizards were in control the entire way through and managed to hold a scoring juggernaut to only 91 points.

The Wizards took control of the game with a 10-0 run midway through the first quarter, turning a 5 point game into a 15 point one.  Gilbert Arenas hit two long threes, DeShawn Stevenson hit a long two, and Antawn Jamison added a layup after a Denver timeout.  The Wizards maintained a comfortable lead through the half and were up 12 at the break.  Denver opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run to cut the lead down to 4, but Stevenson hit another long jumper, Arenas hit 2 free throws, and Jamison hit a long three to push the lead back to 9.  The Wizards then blew in open in the fourth, going up by as much as 27.

Carmelo, I am your father

The biggest surprise of yesterday's game had to be the play of Brendan Haywood, who fought off the pain and put up 12 points and 13 boards.  More importantly, 8 of those boards came on the defensive end of the court.  My biggest problem with Haywood is that, for a guy who's 7 feet tall, he should be grabbing more than 3 defensive rebounds a game.  He's one of the team's best offensive rebounders, but Etan Thomas is a significantly better defensive rebounder, and that's where the Wizards need the two centers the most.  Tonight, he had 8 defensive boards, which was pretty solid.  If he could only do that every game, we wouldn't have a center problem.

Caron Butler was also a monster yesterday with 26, 9, and 7.  The Wizards stuck Stevenson on Carmelo most of the game, which allowed Butler to focus more on his offense.  More importantly, Butler took a lot of shots (20) and made 50 percent of them.  When he shoots more shots, the Wizards are a better team.

In terms of shot breakdown for the Big 3, tonight was a perfect example of how it should work.  Arenas had 21 shots, and while he did go a putrid 3 for 12 from long range, he still got to the line 12 times.  He was clearly option A.  Butler had 20 shots, and he hit 10 of them and got to the line 6 times.  Jamison shot only 15 shots, but was able to make 8 of them.  Interestingly enough, Jamison shot no free throws in this game, but that's okay when Arenas and Butler are getting to the line so much.  That's how it should break down every game.  Butler has passed Jamison as the second option talentwise.  It's only right that he gets more shots.  

See.  Look what happens when I get the rock!

On the other end, the Wizards let Melo get his and focused on stopping his teammates.  It worked perfectly.  J.R. Smith went 0 for 5 after I hyped him up in the pregame, and he only played 20 minutes overall.  Andre Miller went 3 for 14, and whenever Andre Miller shoots 14 shots, you know you're doing something right.  Nobody else scored more than 12 points.

I have to say, the Nuggets looked absolutely awful tonight.  I didn't think it was possible to play worse defense than the Wizards, but the Nuggets proved it to me.  It was like they were fielding a team of washed-up Dikembe Mutumbos with their defensive rotations.  I couldn't believe how many wide open shots the Wizards had in the game.  

On the other end, they had a horrendous offensive strategy.  The Wizards struggled to defend Marcus Camby and Reggie Evans, who combined shot 11 for 18.  Yet there was Andre Miller or Earl Boykins holding the ball and launching a horrendous contested jumper every time the Wizards collapsed on Carmelo.  And where was J.R. Smith?  I spend so much time hyping him up, only to see him go 0 for 5 in only 20 minutes.  I realize his defense was bad, but that Diawara kid wasn't really much better.  Smith's the only shooter on this team, and if he's not playing, teams can sag on Melo and force the Nuggets to shoot over them.  I really don't envy Nuggets fans like this one

Goddammit, only Andre is open!  I could shoot better than him left-handed

A couple other thoughts.

  • Jarvis Hayes was solid off the bench again, scoring 10 on 4 of 9 shooting.  9 shots is a lot, but there weren't many of those classic "shoot a contested 19 footer with 15 seconds on the shot clock" moments.  If he simply focuses on shooting good shots, Hayes can be a real asset off the bench.
  • Ivan Carter wonders whether the Big 3 is playing too many minutes, and I have to say I agree.  They're doing alright now, but an injury to any of them would be catastrophic, and the Wizards have guys like Roger Mason and Donnell Taylor that could use more PT off the bench.
  • Denver should go nowhere near Allen Iverson.  It's a horrible fit for them.
  • I really wish the Wizards had a guy like Reggie Evans.  Tell me why Eduardo Najera is starting over him again?  Evans has an insane rebounding rate and would do wonders for the Wizards' interior defense.  10 rebounds in only 26 minutes is pretty insane.

I've got a final Friday, so don't expect much from me tomorrow.  Until then, I'm going to celebrate the fact that, with 6 wins in their last 8 games, the Wizards are starting to really show their true potential.  Now if they could only beat Miami...