Wizards 104, 76ers 97
The fourth quarter has been about the flameout for the Washington Wizards in their past four losses to Minnesota, Memphis, Oklahoma City and San Antonio. In those games, the Wizards led by one, were tied, or trailed by one in the fourth quarter, only to lose by double digits as they were outscored by a total of 129-90 in the final period.
So, when the Wizards trailed by just two headed in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers, it was easy to assume that they would repeat the trend. It looked like they were headed for a fifth consecutive loss when back-to-back dunks by Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert dunked to gave the 76ers a 90-86 lead with 5 minutes, 52 seconds left in the game.
But Nick Young scored eight straight points in less than two minutes -- a three-pointer, a three-point play and a pullup jumper -- to give the Wizards the lead for good. They closed the game on an impressive 18-4 run as the Wizards defeated Philadelphia and former coach Eddie Jordan for the third time this season.
Young came off the bench to score 21 points and when asked if his performance was the result of making his first shot of the game, Young shook his head no. "It had a lot to do with my hairdo," said Young, whose new style was described by someone as what would happen if you rub your head on a crocodile. "I twisted it up for the new year. It's our good luck charm right now."
The Wizards played their first game of the season without center Brendan Haywood, who came down with a stomach ailment on Monday. Wizards Coach Flip Saunders inserted Fabricio Oberto at center, giving him his 13th different starting lineup this season. But with Haywood sidelined, the Wizards' focus on defense in practice the past week played out to gruesome results in the first half, as the Wizards trailed 58-44 and allowed the 76ers to shoot 61.5 percent.
"I didn't even yell at them," Saunders said. "I told them I was disappointed that we weren't matching the intensity and the intelligence that we've played with in our previous four practices. I told them, with our team, there is no magic formula. When we play with energy, we can play with anyone. When we don't play with energy, we're bad."
Young scored nine points in the first half, and played well enough that Saunders started him in the second half, instead of Andray Blatche. The Wizards trailed 72-56 with 5 minutes 23 seconds left in the third quarter, but the Wizards went on a 24-8 run to tie the game at 80 on an Oberto layup.
Jamison and Gilbert Arenas were the catalysts for the turnaround, as they combined to 28 points in the third period, when the Wizards outscored the 76ers 34-22. "The hook shot, the I don't know what you call it was working all day," Young said. "He came out, halftime, with a motivating speech, and he came out and delivered."
"We got to continue to do the things we did tonight. We've been doing a great job making a came out of it for 40, 42 minutes, but it's all about 48 minutes," said Jamison, adding that the Wizards were able to come back from an 18-point deficit by "doing the total opposite of what we was doing to get in that hole. More attacking the rim. Doing a great job as far as being patient. We didn't panic at all. We did a great job of being poised."
The Wizards were able to overcome the absence of Haywood and help Arenas play despite constant taunts and heckling from the Philadelphia fans. I addressed what Arenas had to say about the scene in my game story, but I left out a comment that he had for the Rev. Al Sharpton, who blasted Arenas in the New York Daily News http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/2010/01/05/2010-01-05_sharpton_urges_nba_to_get_stern_on_arenas.html and called for swift and harsh punishment because the "culture of violence that has perpetuated professional sports."
In response, Arenas said, "It's kind of funny how people like him are supposed to be for the people, make a comment like that when he hasn't really heard anything. He's just reading the paper. For a leader, especially a black leader to make a comment like that, I don't think it's fair."
Arenas was asked what he wanted for his 28th birthday on Wednesday, when the Wizards will face the Cleveland Cavaliers. "A win," he said.
January 6, 2010; 12:19 AM ET
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