Winning the right way
Larry Brown became known for repeatedly urging that his teams play "the right way." Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards did that last night against the Chicago Bulls and the result was a 113-103 victory that extended Washington's home winning streak to seven games. Here's what I mean by "the right way": Arenas was suffocated by Kirk Hinrich and Chicago's excellent help defense (they rotate as well as any team in the league) almost from the opening tip so what did he do? Well, after getting hit with an early charging call that came when he put his head down and tried to drive through three bodies, Gilbert basically played like a true point guard by moving the ball to open teammates and the shots he did took were generally good ones.
Before the game, Chicago Coach Scott Skiles said the key to winning would be holding Arenas, Jamison and Butler below 70 points and you didn't have to be Red Auerbach to know that Skiles would build his defense around crowding Arenas. Remaber, Skiles was a point guard in this league for a long time and he still thinks like one. The Big Three totaled 64 points but Washington won anyway because DeShawn hit some big shots, especially there at the start of the second half, and the bench outscored Chicago's reserves 32-30. Antonio Daniels played perhaps his best game of the season.
That's how you beat a team like the Bulls on a night when Hinrich snapped out of a recent slump by going for 33 and when Ben Gordon did his usual off-the-bench thing by dropping 25.
Judging by some of the postgame comments to my game story on the site, some of you were wondering if something was wrong with Gilbert. Someone even suggested that he was trying to prove a point. No. The flow of that game was such that other guys where knocking down shots, Butler consistently had a mismatch and Gilbert didn't need to jack up 25 to 30 attempts. When the Wiz did need Arenas, he was there, stroking that big stepback J over Hinrich to give the Wiz a nine point lead with 5:44 left, making a 19-footer that gave the Wiz an 11-point advantage with 3:42 to go and then the kill shot: a three pointer that pushed the lead to 14 and broke Chicago's back with 3:08 to go.
Gilbert's been on such a roll this season that we all tend to forget what's important: winning. Last night, I thought he played one of his better games by NOT playing into Chicago's hands by jacking up a ton of off-balance Js and by not going right into the teeth of that defense where he would have picked up charging calls and turnovers. Earlier in the season, when the Wiz started 0-8 on the road and Gilbert had a complex about the refs, he would have done exactly that and they would have lost a game like last night's.
By the way, word out of the lockeroom is that Darius Songaila is progressing nicely and the Wizards plan on getting him back onto the court for some type of practice work as soon as two weeks from now. The key will be getting him between 25-30 games before the playoffs so he'll have a comfort level with his teammates and have his legs under him.
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