Hawks 113, Wizards 95
I know Gilbert Arenas and Mike Miller were both in their hotel rooms sick, but that didn't mean that the rest of the team didn't have to show up. The Wizards were understandably shorthanded without their starting backcourt and with Antawn Jamison sitting at the end of the bench and wearing a suede brown sport coat. But the team was out of this game before the start of the second period. It was mostly an eyesore the rest of the way, as the Hawks led by as many as 25.
"I told the guys afterward, I hope we got some conditioning, because from the standpoint of things that we worked on, there was no carryover," Coach Flip Saunders said. "The thing that was disappointing, I thought this was a good opportunity for some guys to step up and say, 'Here's what I can do.' And no one, I don't think anyone, really did that."
"As I told our guys, I don't determine who plays, they do," he said. "Depending on how you play, you can make my job easy. Based on tonight, they can make it easy."
Randy Foye got the start at point guard in place of Arenas and finished with 19 points and six assists, but it wasn't a performance that he will be really happy about. In the first seven minutes of the game, Foye had two turnovers and got his shot blocked by Al Horford. The offense never really seemed to be in sync. Caron Butler was extremely aggressive, as he scored 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting in the period, but the other starters --- DeShawn Stevenson, Andray Blatche and Brendan Haywood -- essentially sat around and watched Butler and Foye.
"I thought the first quarter, we never got into the flow," Saunders said. "The ball was sticking with too many people."
Foye had a nice lob to Haywood that brought the Wizards within 22-14, but the Hawks closed out the period with a 13-4 run and led 35-18. Foye is likely going to start the season as Arenas's primary backup at point guard, but last night, he appeared more comfortable when he was asked to score, not making decisions.
The Wizards got an offensive rebound with 29 seconds remaining in the third period and Saunders and the rest of his staff wanted the Wizards to run down the shot clock. They started shouting, "One! One!" Foye perhaps didn't hear them, since the shouts came from the other side of the floor. But Foye quickly took an ill-advised three-pointer with 22 seconds left and Saunders lowered his head. Saunders put Foye back for the start of the fourth quarter with Mike James playing point guard and Foye seemed to find his groove.
I asked Foye afterward which position he liked to play more. "I like playing both. I like point guard more," Foye said. "It's not too tough [balancing shooting and setting up teammates]. You got to get everybody flowing a little bit. You got to get guys like Caron going, got to get guys like Dray touches early on so they can get accustomed and when they start making shots, you can go back to them. But in this offense, it's always be aggressive first. If I come off a screen and I'm open at the foul line, I'm going to take it. It's all about making the right read."
Haywood, back after missing the past two games with an ankle injury, had seven points and 10 rebounds, but his presence may have backfired for the Wizards. The Hawks didn't have much interest in attacking the rim early as they just camped out and shot three-pointers. The Hawks made their first four three pointers and finished 8 of 14. "They was hitting threes, but at the end of the day, you want to force teams to beat you from the outside," Haywood said with a shrug. "But I felt all right. Wind didn't feel bad. I thought I'd feel a little winded, but I felt good, even though we lost."
Nick Young bounced back from his poor shooting performance the past two games to finish with 15 points on 5 of 11 shooting, but he was disappointed with his overall performance. Saunders pulled him aside a few times, after he missed a few defensive assignments and another time when the Wizards were on a two-on-one break and he ran to the three-point line. "We was missing some key players, so it was an opportunity for us young guys to get out and show we can step up, but things didn't go our way tonight," Young said. "I just need to be more aggressive, really and staying with the ball. It's learning things. I need to learn more."
The only person who seemed to be really into the game was Saunders. At the start of the fourth quarter, Fabricio Oberto was called for fouling former Maryland product Joe Smith. Saunders cursed, saying that the foul call was horse manure. He was immediately handed a technical foul. "If I got a tech every time I said that, I wouldn't coach a game in this league," Saunders said.
But Saunders provided more entertainment afterward. When Hawks guard Mo Evans missed the technical foul, Saunders channeled his inner Rasheed Wallace and shouted, "Ball don't lie!" The coaches on the bench chuckled.
Smith went up and missed the first free throw and Saunders shouted again, "Ball don't lie!" Smith missed the next free throw and Saunders shouted, "Ball really, really, really don't lie!" Sam Cassell nearly fell out of his chair.
Saunder said he hopes that his team can come with a stronger performance in Philadelphia, where they will again be without Jamison, Arenas and Miller.
"Gil's out. Mike's out. Antawn wasn't there. Right now, we're trying to find our way," Haywood said before joking, "Curse of the Wizards. Injuries and sickness always plague us."
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