OK...so last night everybody's taking the sheets off of their beds and dejectedly tying them into nooses. Now tonight everybody unties the nooses and turns them into togas for a big party. Welcome to life with the third-youngest team in the history of the NBA.
This effort was as impressive as any we've seen all season, and we've seen some nice ones. I'm not sure the odds could have been stacked any farther against us. First Lamarcus has to sit out with his ankle problem. Then on the final play of the first quarter Brandon Roy collapses to the ground, straining his groin, and is basically done for the night. (One good thing that came out of this was that in the Gameday Thread our own AnntheFan proclaimed herself an expert on pulling groins...whatever that means. You learn something new every day.) So, setting the scene...no first round star center (as has been true all season), no high-scoring power forward, no All-Star guard. All three of the Big Three are down. We have zero post presence, nobody with any more consistency than Joel Przybilla and Steve Blake, and nobody left in the game who has averaged more than 13 points this season. Somebody sound taps, right?
Wrong. We ended up winning three of four quarters in this game and tying that fourth one. We shot 49% to their 36%. We got 17 offensive rebounds (that's about 2 games' worth) and obliterated them on the glass 55-36. We had 28 assists on 39 made buckets and 10 blocked shots. We were the stiletto heel and they were the grape. (Two snaps up.)
This makes, what? Our fourth blow-out of the season? I kind of like how they feel. And they're a lot easier on the blood pressure.
Of course we had any number of individual efforts contributing, but the most impressive thing to me was that it was never a one-man show out there. We won this game running our offense, playing smart, sharing the ball, covering for each other, and working hard. This wasn't a "dump to Travis and watch" game, though instinctively it should have been. In fact Travis had 5 assists. That shows you what kind of night it was. It's not like the Wizards are winning Defender of the Year trophies, but we've made bad defensive teams look pretty good before. Like, say...LAST NIGHT. Tonight we played with confidence instead of consternation, hustle instead of hubris, with pride, poise, passion, and panache instead of pathetic, pedestrian, passive, ponderous, pique-producing, perniciously pre-pedagogical paralysis.
Two things struck me about this game: how well we were prepared and how well we adjusted. Knowing we didn't have Lamarcus to anchor the post we started the game by taking advantage of what Travis could to at the power forward position: cut and move. The fluid, passing offense made his into an immediate asset instead of a liability. It was smart not to just force him into Lamarcus' plays. Second when Roy went down we started concentrating on down screens, curls, and transition plays, all of which favored our remaining personnel. We're going to talk about the players in a second but we shouldn't gloss over the fact that this game was well-planned and well-coached from the opening tip. We got a ton of mileage out of our players and possessions tonight.
--It's not an accident that Jarrett Jack got the victory horn camera shot and the post-game interview tonight. This was probably the best game we've seen from him all season. When Roy went down, he stepped up. His energy level doubled and he started setting guys up in places they could score. He grabbed a couple of rebounds in that second quarter as well. Then towards the end of the period he started driving and scoring...a trend he would continue through the second half. There wasn't a second of confusion after we lost our star and nobody stood around staring, wondering who was going to lead. Jarrett just stepped up and did it. And he did well. His final line was 17 points on 7-10 shooting, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. That's pretty close to a Brandon night, which was exactly what we needed.
--With apologies to the great Buster Poindexter, Martell Webster was feeling Hot Hot Hot tonight. He led the team with 23 points and most of those were jump shots...some that stretched the limits of credulity. When a guy takes a side dribble, leans, fires from 21 feet and finds the bottom of the net he is ON. Martell was 9-14, 4-6 from distance, and played 37 minutes while looking like he belonged there. One of the big questions when Roy went down was where our scoring would come from. Martell quashed that query immediately. Bravo, sir!
--Travis Outlaw was the other big scorer with 20 on 8-16 shooting. He looked more relaxed and played within himself and the offense tonight. You didn't see as many of those six-dribble, turn-around, pressured jumpers. He cut smart, caught the ball where he could score, and made the Wizards pay for their defense. He also had 6 rebounds and 5 assists. We didn't get killed on the boards entirely when he was in! Travis has had more noticeable games--ones that left you shaking your head in awe--but this was one of his most professional games.
--Joel Przybilla MURDERED the Wizards on the glass. He was the main reason they never made a credible run. They were never sure they could get a rebound and thus never got the chance for easy buckets. He had an incredible 8 offensive rebounds and 17 overall. To put that 17 in perspective, it was more than the Wizards' entire bench plus starting guards put together. He also did a decent job covering the middle on a night when we assumed nobody else could. He had 6 turnovers but we were forced to use him a little more than we usually do on offense. He also hit 4-7 free throws.
--Steve Blake took up the slack on some of the dirty work Brandon usually does. He only took 3 shots for 5 points but he got 7 assists and 6 defensive rebounds.
--Channing Frye scored 10 points in 16 minutes and added 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. He was also 4-4 from the line. That's a line to be proud of. You didn't notice him standing out as peculiar which does a lot to recommend him on a night when the level of play was generally excellent. He was a part of this victory instead of an asterisk.
--Raef LaFrentz spent some quality time on the court tonight! He scored 6 points on 3-7 shooting but more importantly bagged 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 19 minutes. Those are kind of old Raef numbers. It had to feel good to contribute.
--James Jones took a prodigious 9 three-pointers tonight, connecting on 3. One was the all-important chalupa bucket though. He kept the ball moving with 3 assists himself.
--Brandon Roy had 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists during the one quarter he played. Nice enough.
--Sergio Rodriguez and Von Wafer got some cigar minutes tonight. Neither hit a shot but each notched an assist.
One-Sentence Game Summary