- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009

Perhaps President Barack Obama should come to every Washington Wizards game and cheer for the opposing team.

Determined to put on a show for the first commander in chief to attend a Wizards game since Bill Clinton did in 2000, and motivated by the fact Obama had come to cheer his hometown Chicago Bulls, the Wizards put on arguably their best performance of the season in a 113-90 victory.

“We definitely heard the president was rooting for Chicago, so we wanted to show we were a good team and that we could beat Chicago,” rookie center JaVale McGee said. “It was definitely a good feeling. Win and play in front of the first black president.”

For only the second time all season, the Wizards - led by Antawn Jamison’s 27 points - had all five starters score in double figures. And for the first time this season, eight Washington players scored in double digits.

Washington also bullied Chicago on the boards, outrebounding the Bulls 53-37. The Wizards also outdid the Bulls 29-19 in second-chance points and shot 50.6 percent from the field while limiting Chicago to a 39.5 clip.

Jamison grabbed 11 rebounds and Dominic McGuire (11 rebounds, 10 points) recorded a double-double for the second straight game. Caron Butler and Mike James had 14 points apiece. John Salmons led Chicago with 25 points.

The Wizards took a 12-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game before going up by as many as 15 before the quarter ended with them in front 27-18.

The Bulls whittled away at the lead, however, and pulled within 42-40 with 3:24 left in the first half.

With 1:28 left in the second quarter, McGee provided a highlight-worthy play and a tribute to the president. Caron Butler tossed an alley-oop toward the backboard that appeared too high. But McGee snagged the ball with his right hand and threw it down, giving Washington a 49-42 lead. McGee saluted the president’s direction as he ran back down the court, and Obama applauded the play and gesture.

Twice in the third quarter, Chicago pulled within two points. With 6:50 left in the quarter, the Bulls cut the deficit to 62-60, but the Wizards went on a 19-5 run to lead 81-67 with 48.8 seconds on the clock.

The highlight of the run came on an exchange between small forward Dominic McGuire and Jamison at the 1:49 mark of the third quarter. A day after promising he would attempt a 360-degree dunk for the president, Jamison caught a pass along the baseline, went up and nearly rotated the full 360 before throwing down with one hand. The play gave the Wizards an 79-67 lead and drew a double fist pump from Obama.

“He’s a Bulls fan, so I didn’t want to whip everything out tonight. I gave him a little something, though. It’s cool, though, because the president of the United States a big basketball fan and we have a team here, and hopefully in the future we can be his second-[favorite] team and he can come see a lot of games. … I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’ve played in front of celebrities and important people, but to play in front of the president was definitely a special feeling.”

The Wizards outscored Chicago 30-16 in the fourth quarter before leaving the court to a standing ovation from their fans.

“We did a good job of closing today, and I’ve been screaming all season it’s about consistency,” Butler said. “You see us play like this, and everybody gets involved. Now, we’ve got another game [Saturday on the road] against Milwaukee and we’ve got to bring the same energy.”

Note - Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson, who has missed 25 of the last 27 games with a pinched nerve in his back, said before the game that his back has yet to improve despite nearly two months of treatment. Stevenson also said he is contemplating having surgery to repair the slipped disk that is pinching the nerve.

Stevenson said he recently saw a specialist and was told if he has surgery in March, he would be fully recovered by May.

“It’s not getting any better. I’ve gotta see. But it’s looking like it,” Stevenson said on whether he’ll have the surgery.

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