- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

After the Washington Wizards dismissed coach Eddie Jordan on Monday morning, many of his players left Verizon Center feeling responsible for their leader getting the boot.

They believed it was them, not him, who hadn’t gotten the job done and that they were to blame for the team’s 1-10 start.

Tuesday night against the visiting Golden State Warriors, the Wizards channeled that frustration into a dominant performance and snapped a five-game losing streak with a 124-100 victory.

The Wizards recorded season highs in scoring and rebounds (54) and matched their season mark for assists (27), making interim coach Ed Tapscott a winner in his NBA coaching debut.

Washington scored 26 points off 20 Golden State turnovers. Wizards forward Caron Butler, who Monday was so upset about Jordan’s firing that he declined comment exiting the arena, led the way. The two-time All-Star scored a season-high 35 points to go with eight rebounds and six assists.

“The exit of Coach Jordan and everything kind of put a lot of things in perspective,” Butler said. “And guys just came in and rallied around one another and rallied around the new coach, accepted ‘Tap’ with open arms and went out there and gave an unbelievable effort. And you could tell a lot of the young guys came out motivated.”

The “young guy” who shined the brightest was Andray Blatche, who had struggled with consistency. Blatche came off the bench to record season highs in scoring (25 points), rebounds (12), assists (five) and blocks (five). Starting power forward Antawn Jamison added 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Jamison said he couldn’t pinpoint the change in Blatche.

“But I like that he’s here, and hopefully he’s here for a while,” Jamison said. “The biggest thing was he played with a lot of confidence tonight. He didn’t worry about if he missed a shot he was going to get sat down or yelled at. I think maybe for him the biggest key is a different voice in the locker room, but that’s the guy we’ve been waiting to see all year.”

Tapscott said he wanted to “pare down” the team’s rotation to eight or nine players to build a better sense of cohesion and chemistry. Tuesday night’s starting five consisted of Dee Brown, DeShawn Stevenson, Butler, Jamison and JaVale McGee. The main players in the rotation were Juan Dixon, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and Blatche.

Tapscott also employed more pick-and-rolls, which created greater ball movement and scoring opportunities for the Wizards, who shot 50.5 percent from the field. McGee contributed 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and a block. Brown had 10 points, three assists and a steal.

“It was a terrific effort by the team,” Tapscott said. “I am really happy with the focus and energy that we had throughout our roster. We shared the ball. We went through our forwards - our captains and our leaders. They did a terrific job getting the team focused and everyone on the same page. When you’re able to have a good team win like that and everybody shares the ball and everyone’s happy, this is something we can build on.”

Taking advantage of the Wizards’ size, Tapscott went extensively with a lineup that featured Stevenson at the point, Butler at shooting guard, Jamison at small forward, McGee at center and Blatche at power forward. That lineup played the majority of the second quarter, when the Wizards turned a 32-26 first-quarter lead into a 63-49 halftime advantage.

The Wizards’ best showing of the first half came during a 21-6 run that was capped with the highlight of night. With 3:04 left in the half, Butler grabbed a long rebound and led the fast break. Streaking upcourt ahead of him was McGee. Butler quickly pointed upward and lobbed the ball ahead; the jumping-jack rookie threw down a two-handed jam.

The play finally gave the Wizards’ faithful something to cheer for as Butler stood at halfcourt popping his jersey and Golden State called a timeout. The 63 first-half points marked a season high for the Wizards.

Washington continued to roll in the third quarter. Paced by 11 points from Butler and 10 from Blatche, the Wizards extended their lead to 93-72. Also aiding the cause were three blocks in the quarter from Blatche and six turnovers by Golden State.



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