You knew this would be an emotional game for the Wizards, and you had a good feeling that Antawn Jamison would do everything in his power to get the win for Washington.
And Abe Pollin’s favorite player since Wes Unseld did just that, scoring a season-high 32 points and pulling down 14 rebounds (also a season high). His 17 points in the third quarter were a big reason why the Wizards came back from a 46-45 halftime deficit to take the lead and win.
The unlikely hero of the night, however, was Nick Young. Young had been inactive on Saturday night, and had five DNP’s this season. But he came out tonight with the Wizards shorthanded with Mike Miller and Caron Butler out with injuries, he started and played a smart game on both ends of the floor. He scored 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, grabbed four rebounds and had two assists. And he held Andre Iguodala to 2-for-10 shooting from the field.
“He hit his first shot,and then he was alright,” Flip Saunders said with a smile. “More importantly, it wasn’t his offense, it was the defense. It’s probably not many times that anyone’s said we couldn’t take nick out because of the good job he was doing defensively. But that’s one of the reasons. His defense on Iguodala, he did a very, very good job. He tried to stay pretty basic, and he didn’t gamble a lot. Sometimes when you get into things defensively and you get that energy, it caries over into the offense. To his credit he played well offensively as well, made some good shots.”
One of Young’s most impressive plays was when he snagged a loose ball late in the game and falling out of bounds called timeout.
“He had good mental alertness, which is something we were looking to see,” Saunders said. “Sometimes when you go through a process where you don’t play for a while, and then suddenly you get out there, you start thinking, I have a choice, I can either change myself, or just go through the motions. To his credit, our last four practices, he’s probably been our best player. So, a lot of times how you practice carries over into games.”
Said Gilbert Arenas: “Yeah, you know like Nick says, he was put on the shelf in san Antonio so he had to dust the dust the dust off, but he came out. I told him, ‘I need you to score tonight. I need you to be aggressive since Caron’s not here. We need you to put up 20 shots if you have to,’ and he came out on fire. You know, Nick is one of those players, you’ve got to keep encouraging him, because one bad miss and he think he took a bad shot, he’ll shut down, but tonight I just said, ‘Hey keep shooting, just keep shooting, play like you’re at USC.’ “
But the 76ers still had a chance to win after they rained down six fourth-quarter 3-pointers, getting 11 points from Jrue Holiday and 10 from Louis Williams in the fourth. Gilbert Arenas had a turnover with 27 seconds left, and Philly had the ball on their end down just 108-107. But a 3-pointer from Williams over Arenas with 0.1 second left rimmed out.
Eddie Jordan said, “Maybe Abe’s spirit knocked that out.”
Brendan Haywood said, “I think maybe that was good defense.”
It’ll be a tough next few days for the Wizards, but they’ll get back to practice tomorrow and try their best to build on this win and continue to find ways to improve their consistency, which still was lacking at times tonight, particularly in the fourth quarter, when Philly outscored them 32-23.
But tonight, the Wizards were willing to take it any way they could get it, because tonight was all about winning for Abe.
“For those two hours, we gave it our all. It was another game, another imporant game, but you wanted to get the win for Mr. Pollin,” Jamison said, his lip quivering. “Every game we play from now on, you know he’s watching. Every game we play, he’s watching from a better place. … But we also know that now we won’t be getting that call or seeing him coming through the locker room, but that’s what we have to deal with.”