- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sitting in his office at Verizon Center after his second practice as coach of the Washington Wizards, Ed Tapscott dug into a plate of chicken, green beans and macaroni and cheese, and savored it.

“Anything tastes good the day after a win,” said Tapscott, who earned the first victory of his NBA coaching career Tuesday when the Wizards routed the visiting Warriors 124-100. “Stale crackers can taste good after a win. Filet mignon can taste real bad after a loss.”

The mood at practice was also enjoyable for Tapscott and the Wizards, who snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 2-10. But at the same time, the coaches and players knew they couldn’t enjoy the win too much.

Southeast Division-leading Orlando, winner of nine of its last 11, visits Verizon Center on Thursday. The Magic represent a much stiffer challenge than the freewheeling Warriors. Orlando handed Washington its worst defeat of the season, a 106-81 thumping at Amway Arena on Nov. 8 in which Magic center Dwight Howard had 30 points and 16 rebounds.

“They have a different approach than Golden State, obviously,” Tapscott said. “They’re a four-around-one team. They’ve got Dwight Howard - Superman in the middle, who poses, obviously, a real game plan challenge - and then they space out very good shooters. They have one really good shooting threat in [Hedo] Turkoglu who can put it on the floor and drive on you with great size. And then they space out with other guys. Very few teams have a good 6-foot-10 3-point shooter in Rashard Lewis. They’re a big challenge.”

The Wizards worked on different looks defending pick-and-rolls to ensure coverage on the perimeter and making their opponents as uncomfortable as possible.

“The most important thing first of all is transition,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “Defensively, we can’t let certain guys get into a certain comfort zone. We can’t have Dwight blocking shots, dunking, Superman-ing all over the place. We can’t have Turkoglu just coming off screen-and-rolls, popping and creating shots for others, and we have to make things difficult for Lewis, and we have to make it difficult for their role players, too.”

Howard is focus No. 1, however. Much of that responsibility will fall on center JaVale McGee, who played limited minutes in the first meeting with Orlando but has since become a starter. Tapscott expects the rookie to have his hands full and won’t be surprised if he picks up a few quick fouls. So a heavy dose of Andray Blatche and Etan Thomas will be thrown Howard’s way.

Blatche had the best all-around performance of his career against Golden State. He played a season-high 29 minutes and totaled 25 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. The Wizards don’t expect and don’t want the fourth-year forward to focus on duplicating the effort. They will be happy if he brings a similar type of effort regardless of whether his shot is falling.

Thomas didn’t play in Tuesday’s game, but Tapscott said the 6-10 bruiser remains in his plans. He said Thomas’ minutes will fluctuate from night to night depending on the matchup.

“I said we want that rotation of eight plus two,” Tapscott said. “And that two will change depending on who we play. And Orlando is significantly bigger, so we’ll definitely need Etan. But either way, I want everyone to be ready.”

Notes - Hobbled point guard Antonio Daniels practiced Wednesday and said his right knee feels “pretty good” and he could do everything asked of him. The 11th-year veteran could be available Thursday. Whether he starts remains to be seen, however, as Tapscott has liked the rhythm the team has had the last few games with Dee Brown starting at the point. Brown scored a career-high 10 points and added three assists and a steal Tuesday.

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