TORONTO — Antawn Jamison had said yesterday that this game would show what the Wizards were all about. Would they put Saturday’s behind them and play with maturity, or would they continue to slog along?
They proved resilient, weathering an off third quarter — a quarter in which they shot 31.8 percent from the field, had only one assist, and got outscored 23-17 — to come out strong in the fourth quarter and outdo the Raptors 34-25.
First it was Arenas, actually showing some aggression and scoring 12 points (eight of his team’s first 14 fourth-quarter poitns) on 4-for-6.
“I decided today I was going to be aggressive,” Arenas said. “When you average 29 and 6 assists and you average 20 and six assists, might as well play a little bit harder and be more aggressive. That’s what I tried to do today. I hit a three and from there I just picked my spots. I tried to score, got to the free throw line. and then from there, we just hit shots. We had 34 in the fourth, it was good for us.”
Also in the fourth, Jamison got going again, Butler had a big baseline jam to kill some Toronto momentum, Haywood (aside from stinking up the joint at the foul line) had key blocks and rebounds. Little Earl had four assists in the fourth. And Andray Blatche had a slight of a Seven-Day-Dray moment when he knocked down two foul shots when the pressure was on (he would’ve missed those last year).
This is the way they were supposed to be able to play together.
“I think obviously our disposition changed, sense of urgency went up, and knowing what’s at stake, you can’t keep letting these games fall by the wayside,” Butler said. “And having everybody back healthy and Gil had a good rhythm, carried us, Twan did some magnificent things in the fourth quarter to carry us. Everybody participated. Brendan did a hell of a job on Bosh, making him take difficult shots, Dray made the key free throws down the stretch. It was a real quality win. We can celebrate it for a couple more hours then get prepared for Milwaukee.”
The Wizards purposefully got off to a faster-paced start to get everyone involved and to help prompt more aggression, and it worked.
Butler said his ankle felt the best tonight as it has in the last few weeks, and that comfort he had moving around, along with Arenas and Boykins looking for him, was a big reason for his quick start.
Biggest negative of the day was Brendan Haywood’s 1-for-8 showing at the foul line. He hasn’t been as good as he was two years ago when Dave Hopla was around, but tonight he was terrible and really, really struggled.
“Boy did I?” he said. “It’s one of those nights, man, where you just miss a couple and then it becomes mental. That’s one of the areas that I’ve taken pride in and feel like I improved. So normally I get to the line and I feel real comfortable and then I missed my first four and then it’s like you’re checking over everything in your head instead of doing what you normally do and in practice every day. So, hopefully this is a one-time thing and I won’t have any more problems, especially tomorrow.”
Another negative was Randy Foye, who didn’t look good at all out there. You have to feel bad for him. It’s pretty obvious that he’s not sure what his role is, and the uncertainty and lack of comfort is translating into him forcing things. The thing is though, you really can’t make an argument for more playing time for him with Flip having so much confidence in Boykins that he has him in games down the stretch. Randy’s a good dude, though. Here’s to hoping he gets things figured out somehow.
Tomorrow the Wizards return home where they play host to the Milwaukee Bucks at 7 p.m. THAT will be the real test for the Wizards, who are traditionally bad in back-to-backs. But if they are indeed making improvements, tomorrow should be a good showing out of the Wizards rather than a Saturday-like effort.
“We know it was upsetting and it also was in response to being on a back-to-back, and we get the chance to rectify that tomorrow night because Milwaukee’s been sitting there all day waiting for us,” Flip said. “Now we have to go in there and have the same type of concentration. I told our guys, now we’ve won three of the last four and two on the road, so hopefully we can build on that.”