MILWAUKEE — Caron Butler escaped injury free and victorious. Gilbert Arenas escaped victorious but bruised and toothless. And the Wizards as a team finally stuck to the script and executed the plays that were called for them down the stretch and won 109-97 to earn their second straight victory.
Butler put on a show for his Racine fans who where in attendance and was visibly pumped, yelling, pumping fists, pounding his chest after big plays. he was steady for the Wizards en route to his 25-point, 10 rebound night.
If you look at the box, it currently says 23 points for Butler. That’s because the official scorer made an error on the score-tying play that came with 6:46 left in the game. Butler knocked down a jumper to tie it at 86-86 and Jamison got laid out by Luc Mbah a Moute on the same play, so Jamison went to the line. The scorer gave Jamison the basket and the foul shot, but it was Butler who made the shot, and then Jamison made his free throw. The error has been pointed out and word from the Bucks’ PR staff is that the change will be corrected in the official box probably tomorrow. From that play on, the Wizards went on a 9-0 run that did the Bucks in. Washington scored down the stretch, but it was also their defense — forcing the Bucks to miss six straight shots down the stretch — that locked the win up for them.
“Everybody wants to always talk about the last shots that win the game, but it’s the four or five possessions that lead up to that shot,” said Earl Boykins, who scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. “We made seven shots, but in the past, we’ve also given up seven shots. But tonight, we got the stops and we got the win.”
What made the Wizards’ run even more impressive was the fact that they pulled off that game-ending run without Gilbert Arenas, who had paced them early on, and carried them in the fourth quarter last night against Philly.
Arenas — who jumpstarted tonight with 13 first quarter points and finished with 18 and nine assists — was injured just before that game-changing run when he drove the lane and collided with two Bucks players and was called for a charge although he went crashing to the court. He suffered a bruised left thigh on the play.
“I got kneed by two big men. I just ran into knees. I thought, ‘This hurts way more htan it should.’ I was a little tired anyways, so I figured I would just sit. Since I was sitting, they went on a run and there was no point in me going back in. Tonight was a great night for Earl. This was the second night in a row that the team won the game. Earl came in tonight and finished where I left off earlier in the game. That’s what we needed.”
During the collision, Arenas suffered a bruised left thigh and when he tumbled to the floor, he knocked out his left front tooth. Arenas said his Christmas Eve will be spent seeing a dentist, and also celebrating his daughter’s birthday.
But back to the game, the Wizards shot well, they defended for the most part, and they showed resolve by shrugging off that 9-0 run from the Bucks early in the fourth.
“There was a three or four minute span where we really got some stops,” Brendan Haywood said. “Caron hit some tough shots, we executed, we ran plays taht were drawn in he huddle. Basically we did what we should’ve done all season. We stuck witht eh script. Flip called a play and we ran it, we executed it, and we got good shots.”
This has to be the first time in forever — if not ever — that a team has won by 12 and finished with only one offensive rebound. But Flip Saunders said that was basically by design.
He instructed his players that as soon as shot was taken, two players were to clear out and get on the defensive end. This was to take away the fastbreak scoring opportunities that the Bucks like to create. Tonight they had only three, so I guess that strategy worked. But because of that, the Wizards were outscored 21-2 on second-chance opportunities.
From here the Wizards go home where they’ll have tomorrow off and then Christmas afternoon fly to Minnesota where they will play on Saturday. Flip Saunders is already headed to Minnesota. He was driving from the arena here in Milwaukee to his home in Minnesota, which is a five-hour drive, even though it’s snowing. Then he’ll have tomorrow and Christmas with his wife and kids before welcoming his players to Minnesota on Christmas for a get-together.
Well, I’m out. It’s snowing up here and I’m hoping I make it back to Baltimore tomorrow morning as planned. Hopefully they’re equipped to handle weather like this.
Merry Christmas to everybody out there!