When he told his players that leading scorer Caron Butler would be out for last night"s game against the Toronto Raptors with a strained left hip flexor, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan stressed the need for team energy to fill the void.
"Your skills won't come to the floor unless you have the energy, your concentration level's up and you're on the same page as everybody else on both ends of the floor," Jordan said. "It's physical energy, mental energy, and that's when your knack — your strength — will show up."
The Wizards heeded their coach's message, summoning enough energy to erase a halftime deficit, shrug off a fourth-quarter enemy charge capped by a game-tying 3-pointer and defeat the Raptors 108-104 in overtime last night at Verizon Center.
The energy came from veteran forward and team captain Antawn Jamison in the form of 24 points and 20 rebounds.
It came in the form of 19 points and eight rebounds from third-year forward/center Andray Blatche, who started for Butler and went on scoring sprees in both the first and second halves.
And still the energy kept coming.
DeShawn Stevenson scored 20 points, including five 3-pointers. Antonio Daniels finished with 15 points and five assists. Roger Mason Jr. added 13 points off the bench.
Brendan Haywood finished with nine points and eight rebounds, and seldom-used rookie forward Dominic McGuire contributed 10 rebounds and two points.
"It's big for our confidence as a team," said Mason, whose team overcame the loss of Butler's 29 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals a game. "To win without [Gilbert Arenas] and Caron, it says a lot about our players, says a lot about our coaching staff and the kind of talent we have. It's a great feeling."
Washington trailed at halftime 50-46, but Blatche took over early in the third quarter and sparked his team.
First the 6-foot-11 Blatche scored on a reverse layup to give Washington a 51-50 lead, Daniels added a layup and Blatche knocked down a 3-pointer. The next trip downcourt, Blatche crossed over Toronto's Carlos Delfino and swooped into the lane to drop a shot over the outstretched hand of Chris Bosh. Then Blatche hit a long jumper to give Washington a 60-50 lead with 8:15 left in the quarter.
The play capped a 14-0 tear by the Wizards and whipped the fans into a frenzy, with Butler standing at the end of the bench, bouncing up and down and waving both arms.
Washington held an 88-77 lead with 4:10 to play, but Toronto — led by 37 points from Bosh and 23 from Jose Calderon — closed out regulation with a 18-7 charge capped by Anthony Parker's high-arcing 3-pointer at the buzzer that tied it at 95-95.
"We talked about do we wanna foul him, and I said no," Jordan explained. "It's only a catch and shoot, so if you're fouling on a catch, the guys already in the motion, [and] you can't risk that judgment call by the official. ... It was a heck of a shot over three outstretched hands."
The Wizards, who on Sunday rallied to force overtime but couldn't hang on against Milwaukee, did the opposite last night. They outscored Toronto 13-9 in overtime thanks to 3-for-3 shooting at the line and a tip-in from Jamison, clutch 3-pointers from Stevenson and Mason and 2-for-2 shooting at the line from Daniels.
The victory was a crucial one for the Wizards (24-19), who leapfrogged the Raptors (24-20) for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Last night at Verizon Center
SEEN AND HEARD
The Wizards had a bit of star power on hand for the game. Among the celebrity sightings was former Maryland star and current San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Also in attendance was the newest member of D.C. United, midfielder Marcelo Gallardo.
We need him for the next 40 games, not the next three.
— Wizards point guard Antonio Daniels on the need for Caron Butler to take a cautious approach with his strained hip flexor
BY THE NUMBERS
21 First-half points by Toronto forward Chris Bosh, who scored six unanswered points late in the second quarter to give his team a 46-36 lead with 3:05 to play, its largest of the half.