Big, big win for both the Wizards and their faithful fans. Finally, the type of team that Ernie Grunfeld envisioned when he re-signed Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas to big deals over the summer.
The Wizards outdid the Cavaliers in nearly every major statistical category. Shooting percentage? Washington: 50.6. Cleveland: 47.0. Free throws: Wizards 26-for-30, Cavs 12-for-17. Rebounding: Wizards 42, Cavaliers 40. Assists: Wizards 27, Cavaliers 22. Turnovers: Wizards 7, Cavaliers 9.
At the completion of the first quarter, the Wizards held a slim 12-10 scoring edge in the paint. But in the final three quarters, they pounded the paint, outscoring the Cavaliers 46-22. The Wizards also torched Cleveland 20-9 on fastbreak points.
The Wizards join Boston and the Lakers as the only teams this season that have beaten the Cavaliers twice this season. Gilbert Arenas said of his hobbled team besting LBJ & Co. two times so far: “A broken clock’s right twice.”
It’s clear what a difference an All-Star point guard will do for you. Gil still isn’t himself shooting-wise (going 6-for-23 in his first two games back), but as far as being a playmaker? Pretty darn good: 20 assists and just one turnover the last two games combined.
This is some of what he had to say tonight:
On being a playmaker:
“I just want to flow through Antawn and Caron. They’ve been holding the ship down, so I’m not gonna come in here and step on their toes. I’m just come in here, get them the ball, get some of the young guys the ball, show them the right way to play basketball. … I don’t need to go out here and score 30 because everybody knows I can do that. Like I’ve said before, my worst day, I can probably average 10 and 10.”
On his shooting struggles:
“It’s just like in preseason, you come out in preseason and teams look rusty, it’s just getting that game speed, getting those game shots. When you first come in your first two shots will be on because you’re not doing anything. Then your body kicks in and then it gets tough because you’re going over and over.”
Tonight Gilbert logged 34 minutes and toward the latter stages of the game he was starting to limp a bit. He said he’ll wait and see how he feels on Saturday and also will wait and see how Javaris Crittenton feels before deciding whether or not he will play against the Heat.
Also obvious is what a difference a veteran center makes. Brendan Haywood after starting off a little slow found his rhythm and made his presence felt. Haywood said he still has a long way to go conditioning-wise, saying “My weight is fine, but I am SUPREMELY out of shape. I haven’t been this out of shape since high school!”
One other Gil note: You might have noticed he came out in white shoes in the first half, and then black in the second half. Gil said he just wanted to switch from white to black and go with the black shoes in the second half because they were already broken in. Not sure I totally understand it, but just another custom of is. In the past he’s switched shoes at half time if he had a bad first half. Tonight he had six points and four assists on 2-for-7 shooting in the first half. The second half saw him score five points but hand out six assists and grab four rebounds. Maybe it IS the shoes.
Haywood on the third quarter:
“We came out and we really wanted to have a good third quarter because we know how powerful they are in the third quarte. We saw what they did to Dallas. Dallas was up two in the third quarter and ended up losing by 30. We didn’t want to be that team, we wanted them to have to take it from us and everybody was playing as a team.”
Then he paused, started grinning and yelled out “THEN IT WAS THE WHITE KNIGHT! DARIUS SONGAILA, THE WHITE KNIGHT! BACK IN THE GAME! WHITE KNIGHT!!” Songaila sitting next to Haywood getting his shoes on and gave a fist pump and grinned. We actually saw a little emotion out of Darius in the fourth quarter. With the Wizards clinging to an 89-88 run, The White Knight — as he’s now been dubbed — rose up, scoring seven of his team’s nine points to help them gain a 94-88 cushion and force a Cleveland timeout. The whistle sounded as the Cavs called timeout following Songaila’s strong take and score and with his teammates celebrating and the backup forward/center — who finished with 17 points and six rebounds — was rather demonstrative as he headed back to the huddle.
“That was the whole thing. Guys coming back, a [National] TV game, it was a time right now to get fired up and I think we started a little flat but then things started moving and we got a little emotional and it showed late in the game,” Haywood’s White Knight said.
Also give props to Nick Young, who with 10 points reached double digits for the 12th time in the last 13 games. Tonight was tricky for Nick because he was on the floor with more offensive weapons than he’s accustomed to. But he did a good job settling in and playing in the flow of the game. He’s starting to relish his sixth-man role. Before the game Andray Blatche was trying to mess with him in the locker room and Nick said “Man leave me alone. And since you’re not starting tonight, don’t you be coming in corrupting my unit. The second unit’s been doing nice, now don’t you come in an corrupt my unit!” Later Nick was telling Blatche “I’m Ben Gordon, I’m Jason Terry! I’m anyone who’s ever come off the bench as a sixth man and is nice!” It should be interesting to see how Nick is used next season. He showed last night he can play alongside Gil, Jamison, Butler and Haywood. But his scoring punch could be needed off the bench.
Either way, for now, Gil says he’s looking out for Nick.
“Right now he’s trying to see where he fits into the equation,” Arenas said. “I’ve told him as long as I’m out there, I’m going to get him the ball. He doesn’t have to try to go out there and beat four players.”
Injury note: the Wizards have tomorrow of so Javaris Crittenton will be evaluated on Saturday. Jamison twisted his ankle in the fourth quarter and quickly left tonight, but Ed said he didn’t think it was too serious but that he held Jamison out late — which mildly upset the team captain — to avoid further damage.