Wizards 89, Rockets 87

Just a really solid win by a team that has had its heart broken time after time in the fourth quarter all season and was playing without it's leading scorer. That said, the Rockets didn't show up tonight. From the opening tip, that looked like a team that saw an opponent with a bad record and just coasted.

Actually, don't take my word for it. Tracy McGrady (who coasted the ENTIRE game and is a shell of his former self, the one who once dropped 62 on the Wizards): "We just thought that we could really turn it on in the fourth quarter and win this game against a team that doesn't really show that they are a good team. It really backfired on us."

Yes it did.

-The Wizards won because Antawn Jamison was a real stud tonight. Season-high 30 points, 12 rebounds and three assists and he didn't back down when Rick Adelman tried to get physical with him by putting Ron Artest on him.

-Andray Blatche played some very nice position defense on Yao Ming, including the last play. If you recall Houston's win at VC in November, Yao hurt the Wiz by making hard moves to the basket but Blatche and Etan Thomas really stayed home and made him take a lot of jump hooks. He missed some very makeable ones and had he made a few, the outcome could have been different, but he missed.

-Ed Tapscott said the team's plan was to stay at home on the outside shooters on that last play and it worked. Yao caught it, looked around and then tossed up a contested jump hook.

-People in Houston are not happy with this club. The Rockets are 20-12 but judging by the fans at the game, the chatter on sports talk radio and the overall vibe, you'd think they are 12-20. Tonight did not help.

Keys to the game:

-Key stat: the Wizards finished with a 44-30 edge in paint scoring.

-MVP: I'd go with Jamison but Blatche and his defense as huge. Plus, the guy came back after getting his nose cracked by an accidental Jamison elbow. "Antawn got me," Blatche said. "Everyone thought it was Yao but 'Twan got me."

- Turning point: How about that huge, 22-foot shot from the corner by DeShawn Stevenson with 1:12 to go. When he took it, I was thinking: "No way this goes in." It did and gave the Wiz a three-point lead. On the next possession, Stevenson drove, drew a foul on Yao and made the one of two free throws.

By Ivan Carter |  December 30, 2008; 12:44 AM ET
Previous: Wizards (5-23) at Rockets (20-11), Butler out (left ankle) | Next: Butler Update

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EJ would have doubled Yao and left Brent Barry wide open for a corner three.

Posted by: twigmuffin | December 30, 2008 1:14 AM

Nice to see Ivan actually giving Andray some credit. Another solid performance. Shocking what consistent minutes will do. And don't forget McGuire's continued rebounding presence. He took a hard shove from Artest on the last play but still kept him away from the ball.

Posted by: what5 | December 30, 2008 1:39 AM

Big win for the team tonight. Its crazy to have a guy who can score 0 points and still play a good game. I think moving dmac to the starting lineup is just what this team needed. Bulletproof is an NBA player now. We may be out of the playoff hunt but we are ready for gil to return so this NEW team can learn how to play together.

Posted by: AWizinLA | December 30, 2008 2:29 AM

A few observations:

- I agree with those who are giving Blatche his props. He seems to be playing with more consistent energy and has serious skills. I think he would be even better at the 4.

- Nick Young is a nice talent, but to me, he looks out of sync. Nick seems to be running a different offense than everyone else. The ball will move around on offense, but when it gets to Nick, he wants to start dribbling and break down his man for a shot. I think that's why he's not in at the end of the game. I can't fault Tapscott for that decision.

- 0 pts for McGuire? Who cares. Dude is a baller and freaky athletic. Plays bigger than he is. And a stud defender. Just develop that shot young man (Bruce Bowen anyone?), and you'll play in this league for a long time. He got the ball several times on that left wing and was left wide open. Championship teams have someone in that spot who can hit that shot.

- That said, Houston played poorly tonight. McGrady is an assassin, but plays like he is held together with duct tape. Landry and Battier are the energy guys, but even they got outworked tonight. Yao played tough, but was just off.

- MOST IMPORTANT: Jamison's comment after the game was the key, in my opinion. When the Wiz were losing, it wasn't just that they lacked the talent on the floor. They got outhustled and lacked energy. Like Jamison said, the Wiz must outwork their opponent. That has nothing to do with talent. If you outwork the other team, you will win at least half the time.

Posted by: Good2bOK | December 30, 2008 6:29 AM

Nice win...two in a row...how about that?

Must be said, ETap has called two really nice games. He went big at times...I don't think DSong played the 5 for more than a few mins. Personally, I was nervous about going with Stevenson down the stretch, but it worked out and I'm not complaining.

Posted by: cedric_lockhart | December 30, 2008 7:04 AM

Good2bOK,

NY is a scorer. And with Gil out, he's the only player on the roster who can consistently create his own shot (well, he and Mike James). Not even Caron Butler is built to create his own shot; he can do it in a pinch, but he's much better working within the framework of the offense.

NY is what he is, but this is the NBA, and you need a guy like that on your team. It was great to see his shot falling tonight, and his team defense looks much improved.

Keys to the improved play, in my mind, have been the development of the 'next three' of AB, NY, and DMac.

Blatche has played excellent ball over the last 2 weeks, but what's most striking to me is how he's rapidly picking up interior defense, learning how to clog the lane, using leverage to keep his guy from getting position and back him down, playing solid on-ball D without getting cheap fouls, and being in position to provide help defense. The dude is ballin right now. We all knew he could score and rebound, but the other things he's bringing have been really key over the last 3 games.

And also DSteve understanding that his shot isn't falling, so he's taking less of them and helping the offense flow, while chipping some good team D. Big shot down the stretch though, hope that's a sign.

I'm seeing posey when I look at DMac. DMac has that type of athleticism, he just needs a consistent jumper, which will come, especially with Hoopla on the coaching staff. The guy is a monster. I saw his defensive potential last year, but I thought it would take another year or so to develop, so he's surpassed expectations over here. But what amazes me is that he's playing like a five year vet!

Good to see Critt get some floor time, but you can tell he has lots of work to do in understanding our offensive and defensive sets.

Also saw some nice lineups during the course of the game. No slow small ball, AB got a few minutes at the 3 with ET & DSong, NY and DSteve, and it was very effective defensively against Houston's bench, and the offense flowed thru NY and AB, with DSong chipping in his 19 footer.

Nice game overall. I smell .500 ball from here on out. Not good enough for the playoffs, but it looks to me like they've turned the corner.

Posted by: jones-y | December 30, 2008 7:25 AM

Really great win last night, they played really hard. Dominic McGuire really is making a difference with his passing and rebounding and if the Wizards could just put together a little winning streak...

Posted by: rachel216 | December 30, 2008 7:39 AM

I don't disagree with you about NY, jones-y. He is a scorer. But he needs to do it within the offense. Opportunities will be there. He also needs more of a presence on defense. Doesn't have to be a huge stopper, but has to rotate and defend with more urgency.

Also agree about D-Steve. He is jacking up noticeably fewer shots. On that last shot, he didn't have many other options.

About DMac, I'll see Posey when I see him start hitting a shot. Even so, DMac is MUCH more athletic than Posey. He plays taller than he is. He and JaVale play up in the stratosphere above the rim. Very good piece.

About JaVale, I'll concede that he has plenty to learn, but he needs to play more. What he lacks in understanding of the offense and some defensive smarts, he almost makes up for in athleticism.

Also, while Blatche is showing us something, am I the only one who thinks that he has LOADS more potential than he is showing? He looked gassed about 5 mins into the game. With a good diet and personal trainer, he could be putting up 18 & 10 on a regular basis. He's got significant skills, but only flashes of fire. Great to see him jumping around at the end of the game after a DEFENSIVE stop on Yao. Hope that's a step forward.

Posted by: Good2bOK | December 30, 2008 8:25 AM

Ever since Dray called himself out after the Indiana game, he has been a different player. After that game, Dray said that he must not be trying hard enough because he only got two rebounds. That is the first time I ever heard Dray relate his effort to results and I think it was really important. His statement was a little bit of a non sequitur because some nights, effort just doesn't equal results but he hit on the most important fact when he said that: it is all about results. Dray has been earning a spot on the floor to start and down the stretch night in and night out since that game.

Posted by: jonathan30033 | December 30, 2008 8:37 AM

"First off 'raise the bar for nba players'?? WTH are you talking about...the guy is averaging a 20 and 10! There aren't many guys in the league which have his leadership qualities in the league, and his work ethic. I'm not claiming hes the best player in the NBA but he's definitely a great player and a great captain. I think a lot of the credit to this team coming out and fighting every night despite their record is a testament to his leadership and Caron Butlers.

How often in the NBA do we see bad teams give no effort and not care. If the Wizards can beat New Orleans tomorrow...we may have something going here...

Posted by: insanity999 | December 30, 2008 1:04 AM "

WTH are you talking about?

I was referring to your silly quote that MeTawn:

"He might not be a Michael Jordan, but he's very talented, gives you 100%, and the consummate professional that never quits.

Posted by: insanity999 | December 29, 2008 11:02 PM "

If you're paid tens of millions of dollars, the least that is EXPECTED out of you is giving 100% and being a professional that never quits.

Posted by: DC_MAN88 | December 30, 2008 9:27 AM

You know I've never really responded to the negative comments about Jamison. I've always considered them petty and showed a lack of understanding of what it takes to have a successfull team. A successfull team has many pieces. AJ has been one of the most successful players in the NBA. His value is magnified with the right fit of players. Because the Wizs have struggled in keeping the right fit players on the floor in their right positions its makes all their players look bad.

Championship Teams rarely have their best players playing out of position. 'Keith The Silk Wilkes' never had to play power forward. AJ reminds me of him. Wilkes was a scorer who played in character, was asked to consistently score, and not play as a defensive power forward. Those of you who keep casting Jamison as a Defensive Power Forward are missing the boat. He is a scoring three.

LarryInClintonMD

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 30, 2008 9:31 AM

Good2bOK,

The Wiz offense can bog down at times, and when it does, the value of guys who can create their own shots becomes overwhelmingly apparent. As he matures (and when Gil comes back to open up the floor), he'll learn to look for his opportunity from within the offensive framework, but really, creating his own shot is his strength, and there is no reason take his strength away from him.

In fact, I think that may have been a part of the reason that ETap's strategy of trying to get NY to play from within the offensive framework backfired. ETap took the cuffs off, and a few games later, NY is back to himself.

And last night, NY did very well on the defensive end, not stellar, but he understood the rotations, stayed with his man thru picks and screens, and was, for the most part, in the right place on the floor on defense. His man-to-man defense needs to improve, but his team D was solid.

I'm very encouraged by the play of NY, DM and AB!

And looking at the standings this morning, we're only 7 games out of the 8 spot (currently Chicago at 14-17). There may be hope yet!

Posted by: jones-y | December 30, 2008 9:33 AM

AJ does what he does VERY WELL, and is an asset to this team (and I would have said that even if he didn't go 30-12 in last night's win). Like Larry, I've been puzzled by AJ's detractors.

Blatche looks like a different guy, showing greater intensity. The beginnings of a new habit for life?

Tapp's Aristotle quote ("We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.") is a good one. I recommend that he make a habit of putting it before the team daily (maybe more as the occasion calls for it). Once on the dry erase board doesn't do it. Someone might say "these guys are pros being paid fortunes; they shouldn't need such counsel." But they're human. All humans need reminders and counsel.

Posted by: 7snider7 | December 30, 2008 10:01 AM

Also, we consistently have AB the 5, instead of the 4, because we don't want to sink or swim with JM.

I would start JM at 5, AB at 4, AJ at 3, CB at 2, and MJ at 1. The first player off the bench would be Dom for JM. 2nd player off the bench would be JD for MJ.

I think this set would increase our defensive intensity and also maximize our scoring. If Etaps wants a 7-Man rotation, which I would not use, that would be it.

It's obvious why a 7-Man rotation won't work, because it leaves players out that can and need to contribute to facilitate success for this team.

LarryInClintonMD

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | December 30, 2008 10:02 AM

Agree with the point made by Good2bOK about Nick Young appearing out of sync. As talented as he is, his game is not well-suited for this offense. If they haven't already, the coaching staff should create some special "Nick Plays"--where they run him off screens or try to clear a side and let him take it one-on-one. He also is a gifted mid-range shooter, but he takes too many threes. They need to meet this young man half-way, because he's a great talent but not very smart with the ball in this offense.

Posted by: jweber1 | December 30, 2008 10:31 AM

Ivan-

You need to get on twitter. Ask Cindy B to show you. Even the Cap's have a twitter guy. Add that and you can chat with us even more!

Progress is slow but steady. McGuire is most impressive lately.

Posted by: Levelheadedskinsfan19 | December 30, 2008 10:41 AM

The recent play of DM is a further indictment of Jordan. Last season and the beginning of this season JM hardly ever gat any PT . Now trhat he is allow on the floor he can at last show his considerable talents.

This win was impressive because it came despite the refs who in the fourth quarter were determed that the Rockets win this game.

Posted by: browneri | December 30, 2008 11:09 AM

Note to Larry in Clinton Md. Just a bit of revisionist history about Keith Jamal Smooth as Silk Wilkes(UCLA) Wilkes was no chump on defense if you played for the Wizard of Westwood(John Wooden) like Wilkes did then you played D or you didn't see the court. Wilkes was an excellent defender during his pro years in addition to being very difficult to defend if you remember he shot his jumper from an awkward position,it looked like he was holding the ball behind his head and at 6-7 and slight of build he was still a good rebounder,Jamison plays hard no he is not a defensive stopper but he makes up for it with smarts and a better than average offensive game.

Posted by: dargregmag | December 30, 2008 12:13 PM

Mcguire getting minutes has changed the energy that the squad plays with, defensively he is a force by himself, makes his man work hard for every shot, durant dropped 25 but was gassed by the 4th and couldn't make anything but a dunk, lebron going for 18, not all of which was on dom, he covers some mistakes and makes everyone better with his constant reliable man to man work, he is a flat out ridiculous rebounder and help side shot blocker and does well confusing the passing lanes. And despite not being a factor scoring at all, he makes us better offensively with his quicks, he keeps the ball rotating very well, will snag some extra possessions and his ability to make plays by finding the open man is impressive from a guy who just started getting time as a hustle man. Keep it up, there's a bright future in it. And Blatche has really shown what an NBA player needs: reassurance, confidence building, a little slack occasionally and most importantly minutes. Feed Nick the minutes too, the young ones are the answer, Javale included. How might a 7'6 wingspan rookie center improve with dom, and blatche...hmmmm....I'm not sure, you think maybe our other defensive presence and piece of size and athleticism might help also? there is room for javale to get at least 20 a night, it will help us continue to put good defensive efforts up night in and night out. Nick young not getting back into the game in fourth quarter was horrible coaching, in the third he really seemed to find a rhythm, he should have played like 8 minutes in the 4th, instead he got 0 and a lineup with dom and the deuce almost cost us the game because the offense cannot handle two guys who aren't a threat to score at the same time, and deshawn loses that war, so dom and nick should of been out there. also thought juan should of got some more time, the key being deshawn played way too much (1-3 fg, 3 pts,2 assists in 23 mins), especially when considering he played the entire fourth, good coaching early turned into bad coaching late.

Posted by: bford1kb | December 30, 2008 12:53 PM

I agree wholeheartedly that jamison's value has increased tremendously since tap has begun to use a proper defensive lineup with blatche and dom getting big time, that being said, blatche is definitely out of position and has much room for improvement at the four but he is still manning up huge right now at the 5. As for aj he's always been the best man you could hope to have in the locker room, he's the most intelligent player i've ever seen on the floor in washington and offensively he is as dynamic as just about anyone his size,(dirk, bosh, durant, prob a few more). Larry your lineup is spot on, we've needed that very rotation all year but i'd make sure nick got his minutes as well as juan, i'd have no problem putting juan in first as a litmus test for the night, give him a few minutes and if he's right he stays, if not then he gets another heat check in the third, with juan the first 5 minutes usually shows you what he's gonna give you on a given night, he should of played more last night and in general over the course of our zero guard production season thus far. Song and etan would fight for time too, 25-30 between them. To get our best team out there Javale has to play.

Posted by: bford1kb | December 30, 2008 1:13 PM

Really good shooters in high school, AAU, and college seldom are asked to be complete players. Nick Young at USC rarely had to play defense or distribute the ball...just shoot; which he did well enough to merit the 16th pick. And, of course, he was The Star all the way up to now. This is the time for him to figure it out and learn to be an NBA Player, not just a shooter who turns the ball over and doesn't defend. The clue will be to watch his turnover totals, shooting percentage, assists, and maybe even steals someday.

Posted by: joe2chase | December 30, 2008 1:18 PM

It was just a bad team playing good against a good team playing bad.

10 point lead going into the 4th and I'm wondering if they can score more than their usual 18 points.

The Wizzies always have a hard time putting teams away.

I agree that more plays should be run to free NY up.
DS gets PT because he moves without the ball and gets open for his 16-18 ft. shot. If NY could do this he'd get at least 20 a game. He did play some D last nite. Except for the dumb foul at the end of 1st half.
These type of things can happen only if a player learns from them.

Posted by: VBFan | December 30, 2008 5:27 PM

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