It was a dream beginning for the Wizards who responded to the challenge of playing their third game in as many nights by outscoring the Magic in the first quarter 33-20. The Wizards closed the quarter on an impressive 16-2 run over 4:22 and made seven of their final nine shots. Off the bench Fabricio Oberto played a role in the Wizards late first quarter surge. Oberto not only challenged the Magic’s Dwight Howard but helped the offense with decisive passes and effective screens. In addition Andray Blatche scored 15 of his team high 32-points in the opening quarter.
Most of us who have watched this team all year long knew two things were going to happen after that first quarter. First would be that the Magic would get right back in the game, second that the Wizards were going to come back down to earth. Both happened and rather quickly. The Magic quickly went from being down by 15 to up by 6 and before you knew it they were up by 23. The game shifted and pretty much ended in the 2nd quarter.
"Unfortunately the games are 48 minutes and not 12," Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said, referring to Washington taking a 13-point lead at the end of the first quarter. "We played well early. I thought their bench came in the second quarter and changed the whole complexion of the game." The Magic got 48 points from its reserves, including a combined 34 from Brandon Bass and J.J. Redick, as the team continued its trajectory in the opposite direction of Washington. Orlando (47-20) has won eight in a row, extending its longest such streak this season, and after a shaky beginning against the Wizards looked every bit the team that is aiming to chase down Cleveland as the top seed in the East.
Shaun Livingston had 18 points and eight assists off the bench for the Wizards, who aren’t getting any kind of break in the schedule. They’ll spend Sunday traveling, then play back-to-back games at Utah and Denver on Monday and Tuesday to start a four-game road trip. Saunders called it "ridiculous" that his team will have only one day off at the end of that trip, then just only one home game before hitting the road again. "I guess it’s like that commercial," Saunders said. "‘Give it to Mikey. He’ll eat it, he’ll do anything."’
Among the few positives from the Wizards' 109-95 loss to Orlando on Saturday was the performance of guard Shaun Livingston, who had 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and eight assists. It was the second time Livingston has scored that many points for the Wizards, and he played season-high 30 minutes 54 seconds. Livingston was the preferred point guard ahead of starter Randy Foye because of his height advantage over the Magic's Jameer Nelson, who is listed at 6 feet. Livingston is 6-foot-7, and he was able to post up Nelson several times for easy baskets.
Of the Magic's 8 straight wins, this one is likely their least impressive, given that they let one of the league's least talented teams score 33 points against them in the first quarter in its third game in as many nights. Rashard Lewis picked up two quick fouls trying to check Blatche, which pressed Brandon Bass into duty much earlier than expected. He didn't fare any better against Blatche than Lewis did--Blatche scored 15 points in the first quarter--but he held his own on the offensive glass. The second unit's outstanding second-quarter play overshadowed any of the bad from the first quarter, and the starters re-grouped for a strong early third-period run which basically decided the game.
Blatche had a big scoring night (he shot 14 of 23) but Howard and Bass did a good job keeping both Blatche and McGee of the glass. The two combined for seven total rebounds. And three of Blatche's four rebounds came on the offensive end. It would prove difficult for Washington to score the upset when they were struggling to secure rebounds.