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Wizards Play With Fire But Beat Trailblazers 83-79

If the Washington Wizards had a recipe for victory, it would look a little something like this:

  • Mix one part coming out listless in the first half;
  • Add a furious third quarter comeback;
  • Throw in a pinch of desperately holding on in the fourth quarter.

As a recipe, it could use some work. I'm sure that many of us are the bachelor diet, the one in which we cook the same thing night after night because we can't be bothered to open up a cookbook or think of something new. The food sustains us, and occasionally makes us happy, but sometimes you just want to break out of the rut and try something different.

Wizards victories are a lot like those aforementioned bachelor's dinners. The team allow the game to dictated to them throughout the first half, only to stiffen up in the second and mount a comeback. Sometimes the recipe is a disaster, like in Toronto where the Wizards dug themselves too deep a hole. Tonight the recipe was a success, though I wouldn't mind changing it up a bit in Phoenix.

If tonight had a secret spice it was the defense. The Wizards held the Blazers to 10 points in the third quarter allowing the Wizards to claw themselves back into the game. The defensive intensity was needed because the Wizards were ice cold most of the night and were saved in part by the fact that the Blazers left the jumpshots in the locker room before they came out for the second half. Special mention in the defensive effort should go to both Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. Blatche has been a much maligned figure here for the last week, but he definitely ratcheted up his defensive effort against LaMarcus Aldridge. I will excuse the eight million offensive rebounds that both he and McGee gave up to Aldridge in the fourth quarter because they were visibly spent by the end of the game.

JaVale had another solid game, though he his habit of getting upfaked returned for at least one game. (Please do not get upfaked by Sean Marks again.) JaVale also did a fairly poor job on the defensive boards in the fourth, but again, I attribute that to running out of gas from the frenetic comeback. I like the progress that is being made and Flip is rewarding JaVale accordingly.

So we will take this win to the bank and deposit it. It wasn't pretty, but as I said in the post game thread, not many wins will be this year. Before I sign off for the night, let us look at two issues that were the talk of media row and the post game.

Gilbert Arenas Coming Off the Bench

Obviously, this was the move that had every blogger and beat rider in a tizzy leading up to the game. Was it an admittance that Arenas and Wall can't play together? Was Arenas being held back as the trade winds continue to swirl?

Actually, Gilbert asked to come off the bench.

Flip's take:

Y'now he's talked a lot, he's been talking a lot with Sam and he mentioned to me earlier in the year and he mentioned to Sam that he wanted to come off the bench. He thought that he could have more of an impact for the team at that point. I think when reality came around for us to do that, I don't know if was so sold on it at that point, y'now. (Laughs) But he came in, and especially with Nick being out...we had offensive firepower off the bench we could match up with their guys and get some points in that second group.

Arenas' take:

If I have a rhythm I just come off the bench, bring a spark, y'know whatever is lacking, and it worked tonight...

On the role of coming off the bench:

I don't mind right now. y'know right now we're searching for something that works for us. We still have plenty of games left....Kirk in training camp deserved that spot. He played well and he's still playing well. It wouldn't be fair if coach put me in the starting lineup because he hasn't done anything wrong.

On playing with John Wall:

We were out there. Y'know we were out there .You know right now we are trying to find a rhythm that fits us right now.

Well, I'm torn. Gilbert Arenas coming off the bench obviously reduces his trade value. It also increases the chatter about how Arenas can't play with Wall. In the first half the critics looked correct as Wall and Arenas took turns trying to penetrate, much like Wade and James. It looked dysfunctional and the offense ground to a halt. In the second half they played better off of each other, but there are obviously still many kinks to work out. Speaking of which....

On John Wall's Frustration:

At the end of the game John Wall looked visibly frustrated and we saw body language that may have alarmed some Wizards fans. Wall looked so disconnected towards the end of the game that Flip Saunders had to ask if he was alright.

Flip on whether John Wall looked disconnected:

Yeah he did. Don't know why. He did. I'm sure he's disappointed in how he played as far as that. Like I said, this is a man's game...when you're in situations and you're out playing and you have teammates, sometimes it's not your night. But somebody else has got to carry you and you have to be all in for the guy who is carrying you.That's what this league is about. That and matchups. I'm sure he will be fine.

Wall's response:

Um, basically frustrated with not making shots. But as a leader you have to keep your head up and keep helping the team out as much as you can. My facial expressions were saying I wasn't into it, but I still was. But it still floating through my mind the shots I missed and the easy opportunities that we had. I still think I was out there playing out there as hard as I could, I just wasn't as effective as I usually was.

I'm not going to blow this out of proportion. Wall is a rookie and it's normal to be frustrated with a bad performance. I think playing the Blazers was uniquely frustrating in that he was first matched up against Andre Miller's "old man game" and then had to match up with Patty Mills who is a burner much like Wall. Poor decision making and uneven outputs are going to part of the learning process for Wall, but at least he acknowledged that he was bummed out and didn't brush aside the question or bristle at the concept of having a down night.

That's it for tonight. Check back tomorrow for a link wrap and some more interview goodness. Enjoy the afterglow of a victory and I will see you all tomorrow.