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After the Wizards gave up a 9-3 run to start the second half, Flip Saunders decided to pull a page out of the playbook of a college coach who works at a university that rhymes with "puke." Normally, these are just desperate ploys that show just how bad things have gotten; it's rare that you ever see a full swap have any actual impact on the game being played. Typically the bench can hold serve against the other team, so long as they are not left out there too long. Typically, it does not make the game any closer, as was the case last night as the second team was outscored by three in their time on the floor.
Usually, the hope is that the benching will fire up the starters to play better when they are re-inserted and that the added passion they play with will make up for the time they have lost while riding the pine. Last night, the ploy payed off in spades. It was an unconventional move from a conventional coach, but it worked. As Mike has already mentioned, the move lit a fire under Caron and Gilbert, which carried them through the final quarter toward the victory.
While the Wizards bench could not reclaim the lead, it was clearly the answer. In just six minutes of the third, McGuire grabbed four rebounds while Young and Boykins each added eight points to help limit the damage from a quarter in which the Wizards were outscored 35-25. "We knew we were messing up," Butler said of the mass substitution. "We needed a boost and they (bench players) provided a boost. It was about energy and effort. Nick was making shots and Dom was giving the energy."
Saunders’ motivational tactic worked, but he didn’t like the fact that he needed to use it. The starters returned to the court to start the fourth and the Wizards went on to outscore Philadelphia 33-19 in the final 12 minutes. Washington only had a 26-24 advantage in points in the paint after three periods. They finished the game with a 44-28 advantage. And much of that can be credited to the persistent driving of Arenas. Philadelphia’s defense is pretty bad, but that shouldn’t take away from how relentless Arenas was. Totaling 31 for the game, ten of Arenas’ 12 fourth quarter points came in the paint. The other two came from the free-throw line, also courtesy of penetration into the lane. Caron Butler’s emphatic dunk on two Sixers to put the Wizards up 96-90 was the result of a Gilbert drive.
There's changes, and then there's changes -- and just like David Bowie, Wizards head coach Flip Saunders obviously felt like engaging in some strange fascination, fascinating everyone on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center. Saunders grew tired of his starting five's performance after the Sixers took their first lead of the game midway through the third quarter, and proceeded to substitute them all. At once. Saunders wanted to fire up his regulars; and it seemed to work, as subs Earl Boykins and Nick Young brought a spark. "Guys were pissed, mad. I said, 'you can be mad at me, but you aren't half as mad as I was with the effort,'" Saunders said he told his players. "That got the biggest applause of the night, taking [the starters] out."
Arenas and Butler combined to score 22 points in the fourth quarter, but the Wizards were perhaps rescued by earlier efforts off the bench, which contributed 42 points. Boykins had 18, Young had 13 and Blatche 10. After the game, Young sounded as if he was a bit fired up about Saunders's decision not to give him back the starting shooting guard job. "We had to step up," Young said about Saunders's third quarter move. "I just got to bring it every game. I can't be considered as a streaky player. The young guys went out there to prove a point. We are somebody on this team and we can step up at any time. It shows a lot of confidence in the coaching staff to take out all the main guys and put in the young guys. It showed that we're a team and we got a lot of weapons."
Arenas missed practice Monday with a sore hip but he showed no ill effects against the Sixers. Agent Zero picked up right where he left off on the west coast, opening the game on a personal 7-0 run, finishing with 15 in the first quarter. After going nearly silent in the second and third quarters (4 points), he came back to life in the fourth pouring in 12 of his game high 31 points. It’s amazing that he was able to top the thirty-point mark while only attempting two free throws. While he did knock down three of six from downtown it was his aggressiveness attacking the basket that gave the Wizards a 44-28 advantage in points in the paint. Over the last five games he’s averaging 29.4 points, 6.6 assists and 5 rebounds.
"I just kept the confidence that I had going coming from the West Coast," Arenas said. "All it takes is a couple games to get somebody going. I found it out west, and hopefully I keep it going." It was a much-needed win for the Wizards, who had lost seven of eight - including three of four on the West Coast trip - and immediately returned to the road for a three-game trip that starts Wednesday night in Milwaukee.
Antawn Jamison, who let’s face it, had a bad game, didn’t comment on the benching, but he did talk about a collision with Haywood for a fourth-quarter defensive rebound that had him dragging down the court well behind the rest of the team: "I’m used to it by now. We’ve played 30 games. Out of 30 games, he’s found a way to tweak my shoulder in 25 of them. It’s just him being aggressive, going for the rebound. He said he didn’t know it was me, but it’s a good excuse. It’s him being aggressive. I like it. He was going for the rebound, but I’m going to have to find a way to counteract it, find a way to prevent that from happening again."
"We had a horrible defensive fourth quarter," a frustrated Jordan said after his team's record dipped to 7-21. "Horrible, horrible. . . . I mismanaged one possession. I called for a foul when we were down three with a 10-second differential. I made a mistake there, too, but overall, horrible fourth-quarter defense." The stat sheet for the quarter displayed some ugly numbers: The Wizards scored 33 points. The Sixers scored 19, none in transition; committed seven turnovers; and received a grand total of zero field goals from their starting lineup.
Even though my numbers are a little down this season, I know I can be an effective player for the Wizards and do whatever I’m asked for. I still can give you 20 points, 7 rebounds and some assists while guarding some of the best players in the league. I know I can do that. I’m not concerned about the trade rumors. I’ve been traded a couple of times before in my career. That did nothing but give me extra motivation. Look at my track record… Every time I was dealt, I had better years with my new team than I had with the old one. You don’t want to get traded, but you can turn it into a positive. I know I did.
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Wiz get a much needed win, but it's only a baby step. 105-98 over Sixers.
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Jupiter McGwire as gravity grave!!!! Agent Sedgwick as the closer!!! Nick Young as cousin Oliver!!!! WIZ WIN!!!!