A night after overtime victory in Atlanta, Washington beat the NBA’s best, providing their first victory against a winning team since early December. Unsilent Majority and I were courtside (both donning blogwear, of course) and damn near stormed the floor in the exalted closing moments (not really, but still).
It was that type of night at the Phone Booth, filled up as much for the visiting Celtics as for the home five. Boston fans were everywhere, sporting Patriots jerseys and caps and missing their team’s playoff game, which is weird. Regardless, they made some noise, noise that was ultimately drowned out by a “signature win” for a Wizards team holding onto the fourth seed despite their absent superstar.
It’s obvious now that what Arenas left behind is still solid. The remaining lineup features a determined, average-to-good veteran at each position. Antonio Daniels handles the ball, mad dashes to the rim and elevates his play during key moments. DeShawn Stevenson is “The Locksmith” with touch from three. Caron Butler improves annually and will factor into MVP voting. Antawn Jamison flat-out busts his ass to the tune of 21 and 11. Brendan Haywood, though infuriating to fans and teammates alike, may be the second-best center in the East.
That group’s effort is inspiring to watch, especially from up close. KG is lauded for his fierce determination (and deservedly so), but that intensity was matched by the Washington collective. All this energy and effort was more glaring in light of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen’s general malaise. A night after winning in New Jersey, Pierce especially seemed fatigued, spending much of the night holding his hips, chirping at refs and beefing with Tough Juice. That’s bad news for Boston, because if the Big Three aren’t there for them, no one is.
Washington has depth problems of their own, as, beyond Andray Blatche, the four guys coming off the bench don’t give much. Nick Young, love him though I may (and my “The City” t-shirt drew quizzical looks), is out of sorts at this early stage, and Darius Songalia and Roger Mason aren’t much of a factor one way or the other. Bulletproof, however, is the hope.
Blatche gets 19 minutes per game, and the day he doubles that is easily imagined. Fifteen-to-20 point, 10 board and three block averages are in his future, and it was much fun seeing him matched up against the idol, KG. The youngster didn’t disappoint, putting up nine, seven and two on the heels of a 13, eight and five performance. If the 21 year-old takes anything from this, it should be the realization of how close he is to not only becoming a starter but maybe even an All-Star. Pray he doesn’t go the way of Kwame.
That said, the game itself was enough to
savior savor. The first half was a push, with Boston pulling ahead in the third. Washington bounced back, and it came down to the final minutes, when the Post’s “Turning Point” occurred:
A three-pointer by AD gave the Wizards a 75-74 lead with 1 minute 51 seconds remaining, and Washington outscored Boston 10-4 from that point on.
Little does the Post know that the true turnaround came moments earlier, during a timeout when Arenas jerseys were being thrown into the stands by over-excited staffers. One flew our way, and The Maj got a hand on it. Getting another hand on it was an older fellow in front of us. Neither let go, and the duo crashed into a floor seat, tugging violently on the giveaway. Unsilent was not to be denied, and wretched the jersey away from the greybeard before holding it aloft and giving it to a kid seated next to us. A father thanked him, a shiner emerged and the Wiz’ run commenced.
All told, it was a terrific game, capped by DeShawn running the length of the court, dunking with authority and yelling in the teeth of the Celtics bench. A beatdown probably awaits when the team visits Boston for the second end of the home-and-home on Monday night, but they’ve done enough. Gil-less though they may be, soulless they are not. And, on most nights, that’s enough. This night, it was plenty.