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Wizards 144, Suns 139: A how to guide on streakbusting

In order, the reasons why the Wizards beat the Suns last night.

1.  Gilbert Arenas: This is self-explanatory.  He was unconscious, and it didn't matter who the Suns put on him.  Eddie Jordan did the right thing and fed him the ball, riding the hot hand.  

1a.  Caron Butler:  It's easy to say this when Butler gets 32 points and 10 huge ones in overtime, but there's a lot more to this.  Butler is the only member of the Wizards' offensive attack that operates independently of Arenas.  Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog discovered a while ago that Butler's point production is not tied to Arenas.'  He scores around the same amount of points, no matter whether the team wins or loses.  When you have a streaky scorer like Arenas and a team that takes after him, having a consistent 18-20 point scorer like Butler is invaluable.  You never have to worry about him, and he has the ability to step his game up and go for even more.

3.  Eddie Jordan and Mike D'Antoni: One day later, and I'm not sure whether I can attribute this point to good coaching on EJ's part or bad coaching on D'Antoni's part.  In the fourth quarter, the Suns came back because the Wizards had no answer for Amare Stoudamire.  The Suns ran Stoudamire off a pick and roll with Nash for two of the biggest plays of the game.  In each game, Nash curled right off Stoudamire's shoulder and fed it back to Amare at the perfect time for huge slams.  Then, after Brendan Haywood fouled out, Stoudamire was matched up with Jamison, and Amare took advantage with that huge reverse slam to put Phoenix up three.

In overtime, however, Stoudamire only got two shots.  The first was nearly identical to the one to end regulation.  He caught it on the lane, spun baseline on Jamison, and got a three point play.  The second one came off a rebound.  All this time, Stoudamire was on Jamison, and the Suns didn't take advantage.  However, the Suns did run that screen and roll a number of times, and the Wizards defended it well.  At the same time, the Suns had chances to get it into Stoudamire.  On one play, Nash had the ball on the left wing, and Jamison fronted Stoudamire with no backside help.  Instead of lobbing it over Jamison's head for an easy slam, Nash dribbled back up top.  Getting the ball to Stoudamire in the post never was an emphasis for D'Antoni.  

With all this in mind, I guess this reason includes a bit of both coaches.  Jordan turned Nash into a scorer and got the Wizards to defend the pick and roll effectively in overtime, but D'Antoni also never looked for Amare in the post. For now, we'll stick them here.

4.  The gold jerseys: Just kidding.  I was making sure you were paying attention.  

4.  The rest of the Wizards: After the Lakers game, Arenas was asked why the Lakers didn't send multiple guys to stop him.  His answer was that the rest of the team, particularly Jamison and Butler, would make the Lakers pay if they did that.  The same thing happened tonight because guys like Jamison, DeShawn Stevenson, and Jarvis Hayes were hitting the open shots.  I honestly remember only one time when the Suns sent a double-team at Arenas, and that happened at the end of the third quarter.  Whenever Stevenson's man would cheat off him, Stevenson made him pay.  Jamison had a bigger game against Sacramento, but still had a decent game tonight.  Hayes hit a couple big shots, including that three at the end of the fourth to bring the Wizards to within one.   Arenas deserves a lot of credit for his game, but the rest of the Wizards made it easier for him.  Arenas always was matchup up one-on-one because the Suns were afraid of doubling off the other guys.  

5.  Steve Nash: This ties into number 3, but the Wizards did a great job of turning Nash into a scorer, especially at the end of the game.    Nash did have 12 assists, but only one came in the last 10 minutes of the game.  There were countless examples where Nash prematurely launched a jumper instead of trying to feed Stoudamire.  The most glaring example was his miss at the end of regulation.  Nash had a small window, but there were 7 seconds on the clock and Jamison was still nearby to contest the shot.  Had Nash tried to feed Stoudamire or Shawn Marion, the Suns would have definitely scored.

6.  The gold jerseys:  Seriously.  The Wizards are now 4-1 in them this year.

500.   Calvin Booth: His 3 minutes were huge.  

999.   The Suns' flight delay: Come on, the Wizards were on a back-to-back too.  It happens.  

So it's settled.  That was a huge win, and 3-1 on that road trip was much more than even I expected from this team.  With Orlando stumbling a bit and two easier games against Memphis and Charlotte, the December 29 contest against the Magic may very well be for first place.  A month ago, I would have been shocked to say that.  It tells you how far this team has come in a short amount of time.