- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2011

It was a historic night for the Washington Wizards as they defeated the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers 115-107 on Friday at Verizon Center.

At morning shootaround, Wizards coach Flip Saunders said that the team would need to rely more on an inside offensive game rather than a perimeter one, with so many back court players out.

Saunders proved to be right, as the duo of Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee led the way for the Wizards, along with a stellar night by Jordan Crawford who was filling in at point guard for John Wall.

Blatche tied an NBA season high with 16 offensive rebounds, out of a total of 19, and tied his career high in points with 36. JaVale McGee had 25 points, seven rebounds and eight assists.

As for Crawford, he posted the first triple double of his career with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Crawford’s triple double, added to John Wall’s triple double against the Rockets in November, make the Wizards the first team in NBA history to have two rookies score a triple-double in the same season.

Where Saunders was wrong was his feeling just prior to the game that his players lacked energy, but energy was exactly what the Wizards brought, sparked by a player who was in the D-League just two weeks ago.

“I’ll give our guys credit. A lot had to do with O’s [Othyus Jeffers] energy, and Dray’s [Andray Blatche] energy on the offensive glass. That was huge,” Saunders said.

“We had great individual performances tonight. Dray was great tonight. I though O did a phenomenal job for us. I told him he brought back the Julius Erving one hand pump fake,” Saunders said.

McGee’s improved performance has also been a huge help with so many injuries to key players.

“JaVale was great. The thing I said to JaVale was that what’s happening here over the last few weeks, he became more of a focal point in our offense. I told him, you’re going to get touches, but try not to do too many crazy things. Try to be a little bit more patient with the ball,” Saunders said.

Saunders was equally impressed with Crawford who didn’t miss a beat as Wall’s replacement.

“He had an average first half, but he comes out and he’s lights out in the second half,” Saunders said.

Maurice Evans, a seven year veteran and the team’s oldest player, was also impressed by his young teammates.

“You have to take your hat off to Dray, the way he played and opened up the game and kept us in it, and then Jordan just kept fighting and struggling early and he kept fighting in John’s absence and got the ball to the right people at the right times,” Evans said.

“As a team I think that everyone is growing and gaining so much confidence, and that’s what you want at the end of the year – a team that’s going to get stronger,” Evans said.

Crawford also saved his praise for his teammates.

“I just tried to provide a couple of point guard skills because John was out and tried to get my teammates involved and they did a good job of making me look good by making shots,” Crawford said.

Blatche said he’s glad to be having fun again.

I just went out there and competed and tried to be aggressive. I just hit the boards and tied to get this win. It feels good to be back,” Blatche said.

“The whole time I was out, I realized that you can’t take anything for granted.”

But Jeffers, who found out during morning shootaround that he had cracked the starting lineup – the first start in his NBA career - seemed to be having the most fun of all.

“I looked around and said, ‘are you talking to me?’ he said with a laugh when he was told he’d be starting. Jeffers says he knows he’s not a star in the NBA, so he’s going to make his way with hard work.

“I’m supposed to be working this hard and doing the things that other people don’t want to do,” Jeffers said.

“I’m trying to make it. Why not have fun while I’m here.”

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