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Posted at 12:27 AM ET, 12/30/2010

JaVale McGee keeps Roy Hibbert in check

By Gene Wang

The Washington Wizards got robust defensive efforts all around in last night's 104-90 victory. over Indiana, but none was more impressive than starting center JaVale McGee's performance against surging Pacers counterpart Roy Hibbert.

In addition to scoring 16 points, sinking 8 of 10 from the foul line, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking 4 shots, McGee made sure Hibbert was never able to establish a rhythm, rendering the second-year player who starred collegiately at Georgetown a virtual nonfactor.

Hibbert finished with five points, four rebounds and five personal fouls in a season-low 15 minutes, far below his averages of 30 minutes, 14 points and 8 rebounds that have made him a top candidate for the NBA's most improved player.

"I was really proud of JaVale," said Wizards assistant coach Randy Wittman, who was filling in for Flip Saunders while he attended to a family emergency. "He came in tonight and played Hibbert as good as we've seen leading up to this game and watching tape on him."

Keeping Hibbert in check was a major focus for the Wizards after he had scored in double figures in four of his past six games. One of Hibbert's best games during that stretch was a 17 point, 14 rebounds effort in a 99-89 loss to Boston on Dec. 19. He also had 14 points and 10 rebounds in a 104-90 loss to Memphis on Sunday.

Hibbert played no fewer than 25 minutes in any of those games and never had as many as five fouls. Last night Hibbert had three fouls by halftime and picked up two more in the third quarter.

"I was watching film on him," McGee said. "So I was definitely just seeing what he does in the post, and I was trying to front him every time so he really didn't have a lot of touches in the post. That was the game plan, just stop Hibbert and go out there and try to work as hard as we can on defense, and that's what we did."

By Gene Wang  | December 30, 2010; 12:27 AM ET
Categories:  JaVale McGee  
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Next: Refreshing turnaround for undermanned team

Comments

"I was really proud of JaVale," said Wizards assistant coach Randy Wittman "He came in tonight and played Hibbert as good as we've seen leading up to this game and watching tape on him."

Randy,

Complementing a player to the press...I think we found our interim coach...if Jerry can fire Wade then Ted can fire Flip for the betterment of the Wizards organization.

Thanks Santa, your gift came a few days late but that's okay since you answered my only Christmas wish, sorry forgot about the bag you left in my stocking...it was some good stuff...now I know how you get your reindeer to fly.

Posted by: bulletsfan78 | December 30, 2010 1:52 AM | Report abuse

Gotta agree bulletsfan78. It was refreshing to not only get a decisive victory, but also hear the Randy Wittman praise Flip Saunders resident whipping boy. I can only imagine what Flip's comments would be in the same scenario:

Flip - Javale did some good things out there, still making some of the same mistakes I've spoken to him about though. Javale's problem is not his ability to perform as he did tonight, his problem is providing focus and energy on a more consistent basis. I want him to look at somebody like Kevin Garnett and emulate his energy, intensity and consistency. That's one thing, I never had to urge KG to do -- he brought those intangibles on a nightly basis.

Posted by: bazookajoe1 | December 30, 2010 2:18 AM | Report abuse

I think you guys are completely wrong. Flip is probably using the same mind game on Javale as he did on Nick, and I think we can all agree the Flip's motivational techniques on Nick. Even Nick himself said so.

"Young clashed with Saunders at times last season, as the two had different opinions about how he should play. 'I think he was hard on me,' Young said. 'I think he was tough love, trying to make me get more hungry, more focused.'"

Posted by: JustinChuck189 | December 30, 2010 2:28 AM | Report abuse

I think you guys are completely wrong. Flip is probably using the same mind game on Javale as he did on Nick, and I think we can all agree the Flip's motivational techniques worked on Nick. Even Nick himself said so.

"Young clashed with Saunders at times last season, as the two had different opinions about how he should play. 'I think he was hard on me,' Young said. 'I think he was tough love, trying to make me get more hungry, more focused.'"

Posted by: JustinChuck189 | December 30, 2010 2:29 AM | Report abuse

I knew people would be on here ragging on flip just cuz we won without him. We woulda won either way. Nick young is ballin!

Posted by: bbachrac | December 30, 2010 2:41 AM | Report abuse

Is the DC curse the never-ending negativity of interested but unpaid parties?

Pfft! You do nothing. You contribute nothing. Must be on the dole, or close to it.

..................

A great victory for the team!

Individual performances all across the board made it so.

Keep that spirit alive, Wizards!!


Posted by: zengomi | December 30, 2010 2:46 AM | Report abuse

I think Javale's right -- fronting Hibbert, using his quickness, was the correct approach. In the past Roy has been able to get the Wiz big men (not just McGee) on his hip and turn towards the basket.

But the real key seemed to be just getting big Roy off the court. Hard to beat on you if he's on the bench with fouls. If Hibbert had avoided foul trouble, the Pacers may have been able to make an adjustment.

Anyway, outstanding effort.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 30, 2010 5:05 AM | Report abuse

Wittman's take, from USA Today:

"...I don’t want to make a number but the last four, five, six games, whatever it is, of playing and competing against some really good teams, with a chance to win and just haven’t been able to close games out. We did the same thing. That’s what I tried to relay to those guys in the huddle. We’re here again and we got to believe that we’re going to close this out."

Posted by: Samson151 | December 30, 2010 5:11 AM | Report abuse

This just in: Ted Leonsis says that in support of relieving the Federal budget deficit, the Wizards' will move all remaining games to Verizon Center...

Posted by: Samson151 | December 30, 2010 5:17 AM | Report abuse

So JaVale actually watched tape of an opposing player? I thought he just played video games (Atari). Whatever Wittman did to get JaVale to watch tape should be continued when Flip gets back. 'Cos we know his play in the past hasn't reflected that he did any homework on his opponents.

Posted by: tundey | December 30, 2010 6:00 AM | Report abuse

There is no doubt the team has the tools. Martin had a big night for him, and there is no reason he shouldn't be having more nights like this. He can shoot, pass, defend, and plays with a high motor. He is locked on the bench under Saunders. MCGee is given some praise and he plays like a star. The team comes together, for the deflator is not at the game. We Win, decisively. Some defend Saunders, some feel he cant do the job. More characteristics of failure can be mentioned, than examples of success. Bottom line, team is not following him.

Posted by: 1bmffwb | December 30, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

I thought AB played really well last night. I liked his shot selection much more-- he attacked the rim, showed some grit inside and actually had two emphatic dunks (when he did take jumpers--more of them were close to the top of the key rather than falling away close to the baseline). He has very good court vision and last night actually used it. I would be very hesitant to trade such a talented 24 year old who is getting significantly better every year. There have been some exasperating recent hiccups, but perhaps they are serving as a permanent wake up call. By the way, I love Trevor Booker effort out there!

Posted by: audacitea | December 30, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I thought AB played really well last night. I liked his shot selection much more-- he attacked the rim, showed some grit inside and actually had two emphatic dunks (when he did take jumpers--more of them were close to the top of the key rather than falling away close to the baseline). He has very good court vision and last night actually used it. I would be very hesitant to trade such a talented 24 year old who is getting significantly better every year. There have been some exasperating recent hiccups, but perhaps they are serving as a permanent wake up call. By the way, I love Trevor Booker effort out there!

Posted by: audacitea | December 30, 2010 8:48 AM | Report abuse

The wizards beat the pacers.

Remember they are the Pacers.

Not NY,Miami,Boston or Orlando.

This team Stinks!

Posted by: shamken | December 30, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

We all know how bad the Wiz have been over the last few years. I think that the current team is much better, and is a lot closer to a winning season...maybe next year.
Nick Young has finally become a scorer, and a defender. This team needs at lest one more good 3 pt. shooter. They play good teams well, but go through a scoring drought...and the other team either pulls well ahead, or the Wiz, loose the lead...which causes them to choke going down the stretch.
JaVale has become a good center...they need to build the front line around him. He is a freak athlete for his size.

Posted by: blazerguy234 | December 30, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Without a bonafide "star" on the roster, I think we all should appreciate the effort lastnight. Although it was "The Pacers" in the NBA any team can be beat on any night. So a win is a win.

I also think that not having KH in the game helped. He has become a ball hawk lately. I also like the rebounding and defense that RL brings to the game versus GA when he was here.

Nice coaching job also. I pray that Flip's mom gets better, but it would be nice to see how the interim coach does if he was able to run things for a few more games...

Posted by: TEliasB | December 30, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

What happened to Al Thorton? It looked like a coach's decision not to play him. Is he losing his spot in the rotation? Or just a poor match up against the Pacers?

Posted by: rdskns1975 | December 30, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

...and Mcgee still only played less than half the game. What a bunch of BS!

Posted by: bobilly1 | December 30, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

What was the Pacers coach thinking when he kept Hibbert in with 4 fouls early in the 3rd quarter? Even Phil and Steve were confused about this move. Great game and great flow, this team did not looked panicked like they usually do, they looked comfortable. I think Flip overthinks the rotation and the game. Wittman said it right just play the game, sometimes you just gotta take a step back and just play ball. They looked like a team, everyone was working together swinging the ball around and moving most of the time I see them just sitting around watching whoever has the ball play 1 on 1 with defender, most of the time it's Blatche who does this.

Posted by: newschoolbullets | December 30, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

McGee was smart. He stole Hibbert's inhaler before the game started.

Posted by: fearturtle44 | December 30, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

There is two things that are major in this game. 1) Flip did not coach it and 2) The absence of Kirk Hinrich.

One has to wonder if those two things are a measureable contributing factor to this 14 point win over a good Indiana team.,/i>

LarryInClintonMD.

Well, since with Flip and KH both present they beat Charlotte by 33, I guess we can conclude....um, nothing. Except that Indiana, like most mediocre teams, struggles on the road.

Friday will be an interesting test, running it back with the same team, but on their home floor.

About half-way through the game, I was about to reluctantly praise the gritty hustle of Josh McRoberts, but then he confirmed my original sense of him (and Duke players in general) by the cheap shot he threw on Wall. I doubt much will happen as a result of it, but hopefully the league will assess an after-the-fact flagrant foul That play was totally bush league.

By far, my fave quote of the night came from Chris Miller's post-game interview with Nick Young.

(paraphrasing)

CM: So I noticed you guys ran some non-traditional lineups when Wall sat down for a breather, and had some other guys play PG. I notice you didn't volunteer...

NY: (Big laugh and smile) Nah, I like playing shooting guard.

Cracked me up (laughing with Nick, not at him). At least the kid knows his game.

Posted by: ts35 | December 30, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Watching the game last night, the team looked totally lackluster through about half-way through the 3rd quarter, but they turned up the energy, especially on defense. They also went through a serious stretch of not hitting jumpers (I think AB fell in love with that 20fter from the top of the key). But their increased energy extended to both ends.

Great game from Nick. He didn't shoot well for the game (10-26), but he started hitting shots when it counted and obviously put the work in on the boards. Very good game from McGee. He was very active and shutting Hibbert down inside and getting Hibbert in foul trouble was a difference maker for the game.

AB finished the game fairly well, but I was disappointed in his play through long stretches. When he's being covered by someone like Tyler Hansborough, who's giving up at least two or three inches, I'm not sure why AB is settling for his J, especially early in the fourth when he was missing and the team was struggling from the perimeter.

Larry was trying to make some kind of point about not winning with plodding big men, by mentioning guys like Kareem, Hakeem, etc. But all of those guys made their living around the basket. You don't have to have 'plodders' but you do have to have inside scoring.

Posted by: ts35 | December 30, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"I can only imagine what Flip's comments would be in the same scenario:

Flip - Javale did some good things out there, still making some of the same mistakes I've spoken to him about though. Javale's problem is not his ability to perform as he did tonight, his problem is providing focus and energy on a more consistent basis. I want him to look at somebody like Kevin Garnett and emulate his energy, intensity and consistency. That's one thing, I never had to urge KG to do -- he brought those intangibles on a nightly basis.

Posted by: bazookajoe1"

Brilliant!

Posted by: zxhoya | December 30, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"I can only imagine what Flip's comments would be in the same scenario:

Flip - Javale did some good things out there, still making some of the same mistakes I've spoken to him about though. Javale's problem is not his ability to perform as he did tonight, his problem is providing focus and energy on a more consistent basis. I want him to look at somebody like Kevin Garnett and emulate his energy, intensity and consistency. That's one thing, I never had to urge KG to do -- he brought those intangibles on a nightly basis.

Posted by: bazookajoe1"

Brilliant!

Posted by: zxhoya | December 30, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Some of you should be ESPN insiders. You are just as fickle and twice as wrong.

Posted by: ged0386 | December 30, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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