Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Arenas, Wizards look impressive in season opener

Opening up the season in Dallas against a pretty good Mavericks team, the Wizards received help from both some old faces and some new ones. Gilbert Arenas scored a team-high 29 points and dished out nine assists, and Randy Foye and Andray Blatche combined for an efficient 39 points off the bench in a 102-91 win.

Even better than the win, though, is the fact that Arenas looked great. He wasn't tentative with the ball and attacked throughout the game, getting to the free-throw line nine times and slashing to set up others with good shots around the rim. He also shot an effective 10-21 from the field. If this is the Arenas that is going to come to play every night, the Wizards may indeed be ahead for a fantastic season.

Besides Arenas, Caron Butler chipped in 16 points and eight rebounds. He may have forced a few shots and didn't shoot the best percentage (6-17), but Butler seemed intent on attacking the rim, even with a talented defender like Shawn Marion hounding him for much of the game. Brendan Haywood didn't have the best offensive game (seven points on 3-10 shooting), but he played strong defense in the middle and also grabbed 10 boards. (He needs to work on that wild hook shot, though.)

With Antawn Jamison out for a few weeks, the Wizards were/are going to need other players to step up to help out the current big three of Arenas, Butler, and Haywood. Last night, Foye and Blatche did just that. Both shot a more-than-efficient 8-14 from the field and hit open jump shots throughout game, with Blatche scoring 20 points and Foye right behind him with 19. With the Mavericks trying to key on Arenas to force him to give up the ball early, it was important for others to hit open shots and move without the ball. Blatche and Foye were also the only two bench players for the Wizards to finish the game with positive +/- numbers.

With the Wizards' lead cut to 77-76 early in the fourth quarter, Blatche immediately answered with a 16-foot jumper to extend the lead to three, and Washington never looked back. Foye led the Wizards with eight points in the final frame, while Arenas scored six.

Other game notes:

- Washington outrebounded Dallas 46-42.

- The Wizards finished with 19 assists and nine turnovers.

- Fabricio Oberto and Mike Miller, who both received starting nods, combined for 11 points and only six shots from the field. Miller also grabbed eight boards.

- DeShawn Stevenson didn't score in 18 minutes but did grab five rebounds and collect three assists.

- The foursome of Dominic McGuire, JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Mike James contributed zero points in three combined minutes, with James and Young receiving the dreaded "DNP Coach's Decision" line.

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