Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Blatche shows potential in Wizards win over Warriors

Playing at home against the Golden State Warriors, the Wizards, under interim head coach Ed Tapscott, looked more like a 10-1 team instead of a 1-10 team as they defeated the Warriors 124-100.

The Wizards filled the stat sheet as they dominated from the very beginning. As a team, the Wiz shot over 50 percent from the field, hit 40 percent of their three-pointers, outrebounded the Warriors 54-40 (including 23 offensive rebounds), and tallied 27 assists, 12 steals, and 9 blocks. The defense, which seemed much more active, limited the Warriors to 6 three-pointers made (30 percent) and forced 20 turnovers.

Individual numbers were just as impressive. Caron Butler was the game's high scorer with 35 points; he also finished with 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Jamison scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Rookie JaVale McGee started the game off strong with an alley oop from DeShawn Stevenson immediately following the opening tip-off, and he finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds.

But the most shocking and welcomed performance was by Andray Blatche. In 29 minutes on the floor, a season high, Blatche looked comfortable on both offense and defense. In his most complete game as a Wizard, he finished with 25 points (11-18), 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and 2 steals. He only committed 1 turnover and played some strong minutes alongside McGee.

Jamison noticed a change in Blatche's production. "Maybe for him the biggest key is a new voice," he said, "a different voice in the locker room." Either way, Blatche looked like a completely different player.

Did the Wizards play with more energy because of some anger or frustration over the firing of Eddie Jordan? Probably. Did playing against the Warriors, a team that is allowing the second-most points per game this season (106.1), aid a rather stagnant offense? I'm sure it did. But the Wizards still played their best game of this still-young season, and Tapscott gave plenty of minutes to the young guys: McGee (20 minutes), Blatche (29 minutes), Young (22 minutes), and McGuire (17 minutes). McGuire's 17 minutes, a season high for him as well, came as a shock, but he didn't disappoint. He's not an offensive force by any means (2 points), but he did hustle on defense and managed to grab 5 rebounds and also finished with 2 steals and 2 blocks.

Tapscott also kept Thomas on the bench, which is where he should be unless McGee or Blatche gets in foul trouble or is injured. Thomas has played hard this season, but the Wizards just play better when he's not in the lineup. (For proof, check out his -29.9 Net48 total, the lowest on the team, on 82games here.) Tapscott also refused to play Songaila at center, another strong indication of how he will handle bench players' minutes.

The Wizards have two tough games coming up against the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, so hopefully Tapscott sticks to his guns and continues to hand out minutes to the young players, which he should do even if the Wizards don't play as well as they did yesterday.

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