In my quick postgame recap of the game against the Charlotte Bobcats I wrote that "if the jumpers don't fall, this team doesn't win." The corollary to this of course is that if the jumpers do fall, then the Wizards are going to very pesky team to contend with on any given night.
And fall the jumpers did like raindrops on this wet D.C. evening. Led by Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young, the Wizards shot at a blistering 56.4% pace and 40% from the three point line. The rebounding also significantly improved, with the Wizards holding a 13 rebound advantage at the half which ended up being an 11 rebound advantage at the end of the night. Notable among those more active on the boards was JaVale McGee, who ended up with nine rebounds in 25:40 minutes of work. McGee's work was so impressive tonight that Flip Saunders singled him out for praise, noting that he would have reinserted McGee into the game to allow him a chance to close, but Toronto moving to a super small lineup prevented it from happening.
However, the story of the night belongs to the shooting, most notably that of Arenas and Young. Arenas looked like a completely different player than the one I witnessed in the Charlotte game. For one, some of his lift has returned and he is not longer flatting his jumpers. More importantly, Arenas at least twice drove to the basket and initiated contact to draw fouls. It of course wasn't at the rate of pre-injury Arenas, but I'd rather see him go hard to the basket for contact and risk not getting the call than driving and dumping a pass off to Armstrong that bounces harmlessly off the center's hands.
And then there was Nick Young.
At the bottom of the final box score that is given to the media there is a memo box which remarks on anything that happened during the game which should stand out. Tonight's memo read: WIZARDS - Young, ties career high rebounds (5). Which is ironic because it not only encapsulates Young's career, but is also wrong as Young set a career record with six rebounds.
I don't want rain on Nick Young's parade, because he was the obvious difference between the two teams tonight. In fact, I think Young got much better as the night went along, as he learned to pass off to his teammates as well as played consistent defense throughout the evening. It was an extremely solid performance from a very likable guy, and it seemed to invigorate both Young and his teammates. With that said, take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt and feel free to dispute it.....the shot selection was terrible.
On his first six possessions, Young didn't even look for his teammates, but went right into scorer's mode turning into the epitome of a black hole. Only when Young was double teamed was he finally forced to back off that mentality and dump off to an open Andray Blatche.
And you know what? It was awesome. Nick Young when he is one fire is one of the most exciting things to watch on the Wizards. Its like switching on "God Mode" in a video game and knowing there is nothing the opposing team can do to stop you. It also leads to problems. It leaves teammates standing around. It brings the offense to a screeching halt. Further, the Toronto Raptors are the worst defensive team in the NBA. They might be historically bad. They make our defense look like the Charlotte Bobcats. So, while I applaud Nick Young's performance, I also need to put the feat into perspective.
Further, they were bad shots. This was a night where those shots fell and it worked out and it was a happy ending for the team. What you hope to see from Young is that when he has to play a team with a competent defense (like Boston), will he play smart enough to look to make another pass rather than immediately start gunning? Because those fadeaway twos he takes are fool's gold. And that way lies madness.
But let's hear a little bit from Young:
On scoring and whether he sees it continuing:
Hopefully I'll continue to do the same I've been doing and continue to get the same minutes. In order to be consistent, you have to have consistent minutes.
On instructions on shooting and whether Flip gave him the green light
Um, nah. Y'know I've been doing this a long time. I'm just getting my confidence right and I've been doing this in practice and Coach was telling me to play my game.
So good job by Nick Young and let's hope this performance carries over.
Andray Blatche and Shot Selection
Andray Blatche has a good game tonight despite the fact that he aggravated his knee by banging it into a Toronto Raptor. Blatche also continued to be a great quote, though he took umbrage when asked about his shot selection during the game.
"My shot selection is always good. I don't think I did anything wrong tonight....Y'all are asking about my shots and I'm always shooting over 50%. I don't know what the problem with you is man. When you're shooting over 50% at my size its a good shot. Alright. You know what I'm saying? What do you want me to do? You want me to shoot 20 for twenty? I would loooooove to! I can't help it if I don't.
And he also had some words about his old friend Kevin Garnett.
On last year:
I didn't know about that situation. (laughing) It's old. Its last season. Its a whole new season. I'm going to go out there, I'm going to compete and do my job.
On whether he is going to talk back to Garnett:
I dunno..who? (Reporter: Kevin Garnett) I don't think I know nobody by that name to talk back to. I got nothing to say. I'm going to play my game and help my team win.
And Arenas was his old quotable self.
At this point in my life I'm just happy to play basketball again. Y'know so starting or coming off the bench I know I have to provide a spark and play the right way.
On the fans reaction and ovations:
Yeah, yeah. It surprised me. Y'know, I had a rough summer, so all the stuff I'm reading, I thought the fans were going to murder me...(pause for joke) because I was here with Kwame Brown (pause for laughs) so I was expecting the same thing and they tricked me a little bit. At the end of the day you have to move and be a great teammate. Y'know people are forgiving. I made a mistake and I think people want to move on.
- Trevor Booker got some burn tonight and after some initial hesitation appeared to play better. Booker was all over the court hassling the Raptors and being disruptive. I have to agree with Mike here think that Flip might want to consider giving some of Yi's minutes to Booker and see what he can do.
- Hilton Armstrong had four dunks. That is the state of the Raptor's defense.
- Kevin "Le Petit Bruiser" Seraphin made his debut and two of the most entertaining minutes in recent Wizards history. He scored his first two points, set several hockey check picks, looked RAW, and to top it off almost incited a brawl by putting Joey Dorsey on his can. Awesome.
- I feel bad for Toronto fans. Sonny Weems? A steady dose of Jarrett Jack? Over forty million invested in Amir Johnson? Yikes.
- John Wall will travel with the team. Flip still did not know if he would be available.
A happy locker room is a much more pleasant place to be around. Let us hope the team takes that positive attitude into Wednesday and pulls off a memorable upset against the Celtics.