Well, this was almost as good of an opening effort as the Wizards could have hoped as they took on an — in Flip Saunders’ opinion — underrated Dallas Mavericks team without the reliable Antawn Jamison.
Brendan Haywood got it going with seven of his team’s first 15 points, Gilbert Arenas went to work and began scoring frequently while also setting his teammates up. Then in the second quarter, Andray Blatche scoring 10 of his 20 points. Then it was Randy Foye coming in and playing rather nicely with Gil, or Oberto doing the dirty work and setting his teammates up. Mike Miller was pretty quiet for the most part until late in the game when he had a big rebound and 3-pointer.
And in the words of Flip: “The last guy was Mr. Steady, it was Caron. Caron steadied us when we had Gil out of the game. He was efficient, he was aggressive with the ball, which we ran a lot of isolation type stuff so he could stay aggressive when Gil was out of the game. And he did a nice job defensively on Marion, who killed us at our place [in the preseason]. And I thought that Marion got some buckets, but he didn’t get all of them on Caron. I thought Caron fought him and did a nice job. He really keyed us defensively.”
Butler’s 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks got lost in all the Arenas, Blatche and Foye fireworks. But after getting burned a few times early on by Shawn Marion, he got hip to his counterpart’s tendencies and held him scoreless in the second and third quarters.
“A guy like Shawn Marion is so similar to Antawn, makes unorthodox shots. I was just keying in on where he was putting the ball, where he was turning with his left shoulder,” Butler said. “Fortunately, I got a couple blocks, and kind of got him out of a rhythm, attacking him and letting my offense be my defense on the other end, so that ended up working good for me. And coach challenged me, he said continue to stay aggressive on the defensive end and remember what I said, that’s your challenge on the defensive end, and I take it personally.”
After he praised Mr. Steady, which came after he praised every significant contributor tonight, Saunders was asked about Arenas.
“Well, what’s there to say about him? I think he did his talking on the floor tonight,” Saunders chuckled. “Gil Showed glimpses of why he’s got that unbelievable burst of speed and his ability to weave through people and score at the rim. I thought he ran our offense great as far as getting the ball to people. He had 29 and nine tonight. S I think that anyone that had any questions about where he’s at … he’s just going to continue to get better.”
Dirk Nowitzki lit the Wizards up for 34 points on 10-for-25 shooting from the field and 12-for-13 shooting from the line. But Oberto did a nice job on him. And 7-Day-Dray also had some nice moments guarding Dirk. Many times, the Wizards looked as if he was doing everything he could, but he kept knocking down tough shots.
“I said we’ve got to try to make him a volume scorer and not let him get quality scoring where he’s getting a lot of points on a few shots. And we made him work and Fab did a good job,” Flip said.
A few impressive stats of the night that don’t go in the traditional box score: Oberto’s plus-minus of +15 in only 17 minutes of play. Randy Foye’s of +16, Mike Millers of +12. Pretty good start for the Wizards…