Wizards 94, Heat 84
Just scrolling down the box score from Friday's game, a few things stand out. First, Nick Young had more shot attempts (23) than Antawn Jamison (20) and Dwyane Wade (19) and Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler combined (16). Second, Wade only attempted seven free throws. And third, the Wizards had 23 assists and 12 turnovers.
From those numbers, it's pretty easy to glean how the Wizards (5-9) snapped a six-game losing streak to the Miami Heat, including the past four in Miami, and won consecutive games for just the first time since Feb. 20.
That time on the shelf, and not suiting up at all against the San Antonio Spurs has provided the necessary jolt to Young -- especially with the team counting on him to deliver with Mike Miller out with a strained right calf, Butler easing himself back while nursing a sore right ankle, and Arenas admitting that he has yet to fully regain his rhythm after missing so much time the past two seasons.
Young was back to dusting himself off, as he scored a season-high 22 points and handing out five assists. About the only thing Young didn't do well on Friday was shoot the three ball, as he missed all three of his attempts from long distance. Young said he played with "courage" on Friday, which translated to controlled aggression.
"I told him, until I get a rhythm where I can play consistent basketball, I need him to score. I need him to be aggressive. I need him Tawn and CB to be the scorers in that starting group," said Arenas, who had just nine points and five assists in 27 minutes.
But he did some smart things with the ball, especially late in the third quarter, when the Heat scored nine consecutive points and got within 63-62 when Wade made two free throws. Instead of settling for some fallaway jumper, Young responded by driving to the basket and converting a nifty reverse layup.
"Nick did another very good job," Coach Flip Saunders said. "Not only offensively, but defensively. He used his length, he got in front of him and contested every shot. Nick has made good progress this last week defensively."
Young helped contain Wade -- who looked unusually listless on Friday night -- to just 18 points on 6 of 19 shooting. Young helped tire Wade by running around on offense, and he also didn't give up much room for Wade to get to the basket for dunks and fouls. It's easy to forget sometimes that Young has an especially long wingspan of seven feet. But he has used it to his advantage against Wade and Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala, who shot just 2 of 10 mostly against Young on Tuesday. It was only the second time this season that Wade was held below 20 points. You cannot forget that he scored 81 combined points the first two games.
The Wizards wore black tape on their uniforms to recognize Abe Pollin, who was buried earlier in the day. Young said the team will continue to use him as an inspiration for the rest of the season. "We wanted to change our momentum," Young said. "We lost AP, so we wanted to Come out there with a chip on our shoulder every game."
For the second time this season, Earl Boykins played the role of fourth-quarter closer. Boykins played a nearly flawless fourth quarter as he had six points, six assists, three rebounds and zero turnovers as the Wizards extended their lead to 14 points with 3:39 remaining. He finished with 10 points and nine assists in just over 20 minutes.
As I said earlier, the Wizards valued the ball on Friday as they only had 12 turnovers. The last time the Wizards were in Miami, Arenas set a franchise record with 12 turnovers, with seven coming in the second quarter alone.
This game also showed what a difference it makes to have Jamison back. He had game-highs with 24 points and 13 rebounds. He also surpassed the 16,000-point mark for his career and moved Jack Marin for 11th place in the Wizards' all-time scoring list with 8,020 points.
But with Jamison in the fold, Coach Flip Saunders is also able to do some tinkering with his lineup. He used Jamison at small forward a lot, with Andray Blatche at power forward and either JaVale McGee or Brendan Haywood at center. That lineup paid off, as the Wizards grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 26 second-chance points. This came one game after the Wizards had a season-high 19 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points.
"That's one thing about this team. It's numerous things we can do. We can play small, we can play big," Jamison said. "But Dray has been doing a good job, making it tough offensively and defensively. We know what Brendan has been doing. To have me post up and stretch the defense. I just like our intensity. You got three guys that can move and make it difficult."
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