JaVale McGee, Cartier Martin help Wizards end eight-game slide
The Wizards needed a game like the one they had on Wednesday night, when they played so well to end an eight-game losing streak -- against an opponent that obviously is struggling -- that their momentary lapses could mostly be overlooked. But JaVale McGee really needed a game like the one that he had, after taking his lumps nearly every time he matches up against a quality center. And Cartier Martin also needed a game like the one he had, as he offered a reminder of why he earned his roster spot in training camp.
Dwight Howard kicked him around last week, but McGee wasn't going to let Andrew Bogut do the same, although it started out looking that way. Bogut scored the first eight points for Milwaukee, making a dunk, a running hook, a jumper (aided by a McGee goaltend) and a layup.
"The way he came out, I thought he was definitely going to have 20, 24" points, McGee said afterward.
But McGee offered a hint that he was prepared to compete early on. Bogut blocked McGee's jumper, but McGee grabbed the carom, drove around Bogut and made a layup. It meant a lot to see McGee make a mistake, but make up for it with a more aggressive play.
McGee would continue to attack Bogut, box him out, and swoop in to keep his teammates from grabbing rebounds as well. The Wizards thrive off McGee's energy, but it has been absent of late, especially since he returned from his bout with the flu. But he grabbed 17 rebounds -- the most since grabbing a career-high 18 against Philadelphia on Nov. 23 -- and blocked three shots while providing a much-needed interior presence.
"He's a force in there when he wants to be, when he's active and into what we're doing," Kirk Hinrich said. "He rebounded the ball very well."
McGee also scored 16 points, rarely going outside of his game, and attacking the rim for layups and dunks. He did go a little overboard with his dribbling, which Flip Saunders had to remind him after McGee made the entire crowd gasp as he attempted to bring the ball up the floor, before eventually passing it back to Andray Blatche.
"JaVale was active rebounding wise, did some nice things offensively. I had to explain to him, when he started going on his dribbling exhibition, that's one of the reasons we lose on the road, because we get in close games and we do those things," Saunders said. "I tried to ask him, I said 'Why?' He said, 'I don't know. I can't explain.' I said you can't do that, because players lose trust as far as throwing him the ball in late-game situations and then you become easier for teams to defend against you, and put more pressure on you. That's probably the most glaring negative."
The Bucks handled the Wizards pretty handily in Milwaukee last month, as former Wizard Earl Boykins and Keyon Dooling provided some surprising production. But for some reason, neither player got much action at Verizon Center. That was largely because Brandon Jennings was back, without restrictions, after missing the outing while recovering from a broken left foot. But Boykins only saw the floor for the final 70 seconds, which is odd considering that he entered the game with a career record of 11-5 against the Wizards.
But after becoming a surprise playoff team last season, the Bucks didn't seem to have much going for them, as the Wizards easily built a 22-point second-half lead despite being shorthanded.
The Wizards were limited to just 10 players, with both Al Thornton (dislocated finger) and Yi Jianlian (sprained left ankle) forced to sit out, but the situation got a bit more difficult when Rashard Lewis's right knee began to stiffen up at the morning shootaround. Saunders was unaware how much Lewis could give them, and it proved to be little as he scored just three points on 1 of 5 shooting, and had hardly any lift on his two three-point attempts, both of which hit the front of the rim.
After the game, Lewis walked out of the locker room and said his knee "doesn't look good. Doesn't look good." He then shrugged and lifted his arms helplessly.
With the team needing a lift, Martin came through in the fourth quarter, as he scored 12 points, all from three-pointers, as John Wall consistently looked for him to hit shots from the corner.
"John has a lot of confidence in me. He knows I can shoot the ball, just from practice, playing with him, throughout the season," Martin said. "I'm confident always. I always feel like I can go out and make shots. The main thing is just go in when I have opportunities and keep shooting the ball."
Saunders said, "Cartier was huge" after Martin helped thwart a few mini-runs by the Bucks. Nick Young called Martin "the star of the night," but he did more than make a career-high five three-pointers while scoring 15 points.
Martin also was the most animated player on the bench, getting out of his seat when Young posterized Ersan Ilyasova and hopping up again when Hinrich sent a John Salmons shot into the front row. "Yeah, man. I see Kirk bring out the bunnies, bring out the hops," Martin said. "That was a nice block. I'm always rooting for all of our guys. He made a nice play. I'm off the bench, cheering him on."
Young also had an efficient offensive performance, as he scored 26 points in the first three quarters and didn't have to do much more than serve as a decoy in the final period.
"He's a tremendous scorer," Blatche said about Young. "It's starting to become second nature to see him do things like this. I want him to continue to get better."
Young had three-exciting dunks and three three-pointers, but jokingly complained that the NBA keeps overlooking his season, as he was left out of the slam dunk contest and the three-point competition.
"I got robbed," Young said. "I'm done with the NBA. I retired."
| February 10, 2011; 12:39 AM ET
Categories: Cartier Martin, Flip Saunders, JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis
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