Wrap Up Report: Wizards lose a heart breaker to the Miami Heat 95-94
It was such a downer, it was like someone just kicked me in the stomach and you can't catch your breathe. The momentum and everything about the team was anything but positive. In the stretch, the Heat made 6 free throws as the Wizards turned the ball over and did everything that you shouldn't do in a game, they did it in the final minute of the game. Miami were down most of the game too. Wizards could have put it away but Josh Howard missed some key free throws in the end which Flip said, "He's (Josh) beating himself up for missing those free-throws thinking that could have pretty much locked it in there."
With Gilbert being traded, his locker room was cleared and replaced with the name "Wizards" instead of his name plate.· Funny how the Verizon Center screen had Rashard Lewis as one of the in-actives before the game started.· I don't even think Rashard is even in Washington until Sunday possibly.
Besides the trade, fans and media forgot that there was a basketball game going on tonight.· Tonight was the return of Josh Howard.· A man that the Wizards need badly on the floor and it showed. He came in and had a game no one expected but were happy with (other than the outcome). "I felt like a deer in headlights," and Josh explained how he was nervous, "My heart rate started going up and all that, I tried to down play it as long as I could, I got over it." Howard finished up with 13 points and 4 rebounds. The players and coaches call him the vocal leader, "It's different for me, I haven't done this in a long time, as far as being vocal, I can speak, it's a constant reminder, just give these guys the right opinion."
With John Wall still out with an injury and Gilbert gone, there was no doubt that today was Nick Young's team.· He has this swag that we have never seen before.· Confidence can do wonders, especially for Nick. Nick had his moments on defense as he forced LeBron James missed badly with an air ball as Nick played great defense on him. Nick Young finished with 30 points with 13 of 23 shooting. I asked Nick after the game if this was a dedication game to Gilbert Arenas, his mentor, he smiled and told me, "Na, I know he was watching, hopefully, he will give me a phone call talking about taking his spot."
Nick Young and Kirk Hinrich played heavy minutes and it showed during the game as fatigue settled in. Nick played 45 minutes and Kirk basically played the whole game with 47 minutes and 54 seconds to be exact. Ernie Grunfeld, before the game had a press conference who went over the draft, said that the Wizards would look for a point guard to back up John Wall and Kirk Hinrich.
Tonight's crowd is exactly how it should be every Wizards game.· They were into it from the tip off to the end of the game.· Wizards fed off the energy from the crowd. I asked Andray about the crowd, "Tonight was the best crowd, they were loud and into the game from the start to the end, they had our back, they were cheering for us, they were booing them, they gave us confidence and energy." Verizon Center needs to rock like this all the time so the Wizards can feed off of them.
LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, THE WIZARDS PLAYED DEFENSE! Not only did they play defense, they played it on one of the best players in LeBron and a top 5 team. Grant it, LeBron did have 32 points but he earned every point. There was only one point of the game where he was wide open for a three and it was on the side in the first half. Nick Young had the duties of covering LeTravel James along with Al Thornton.
Instead of being What Gilbert Wore? It is now What Did Josh Howard Wear!?
What I Saw/Heard
* I didn't see or hear from Gilbert (drums) OK, bad joke.
* JaVale McGee lead the huddle pre-game and that's probably the raw yet athletic high flying center. The reason why I call him the high flying center is because he tried jumping over James Jones and was called for charging but when he did it, I couldn't stop laughing out of shock. JaVale almost did it from the free throw line. He had Nick wide open on the wing, it pissed Flip off and he brought him back to the bench.
* LeBron doing his powder thing before the game makes me hate him even more.
* Washington Sports teams are now 2-19 in the month of December.
* This guy ate a 9 lbs burger, the whole stadium won a free burger at BGR Restaurants.
* Saw some of the funniest signs at this game, like this one:
Per the Washington Wizards PR Department, Post Game Quotes:
WIZARDS COACH FLIP SAUNDERS
On the Wizards:
“We played hard, that’s how we have to play. We played hard, we executed and we got shots that we wanted.”
On losing it in the last minute:
“They come down the stretch and they make six free-throws in the last 25 seconds and we come up and we miss three, and we leave those on the board. You can’t make an excuse being young and doing things that can cost you games. Especially when you’re playing a team like them, the game is not over until the end. They got two of the best closers in the game, in LeBron and in Dwyane.”
On the extended time that Kirk and Nick were in the game:
“Our guys played hard. I think that we had problems getting the ball in at the end. Kirk played 48 minutes basically. You know the guys playing tired, he’s so tired moving, and Nick played 45. So they are trying to move to get to the ball, were they as quick as maybe they could have been? Nick maybe not, but I can’t fault their effort on that.”
On how he felt Josh Howard played in his first game back from injury:
“I thought he played pretty well considering he played against the best power forward in the game, or the best small forward in the game. He was matched up and he played his 21 minutes and gave us a lot of things. You know I’m disappointed for him because he’s beating himself up for missing those free-throws thinking that could have pretty much locked it in there. But he did a nice job, a nice job overall defensively while he was in there and gave us good leadership.”
WIZARDS PRESIDENT ERNIE GRUNFELD
On Rashard Lewis:
“We think Rashard is going to really be able to help our frontcourt with his experience, his versatility, his ability to stretch the defense. He’s a 39 percent career three-point shooter and when you have a point guard like John who likes to penetrate and is a distributor, you need people who can stretch the defense. He can play on the outside, and can also post up if you have smaller players on him. He’s a two-time all-star. He made the all-star team two years ago. He comes from a winning environment and we’re real pleased to have him on our ball club.”
On trading Gilbert Arenas:
“We spent a lot of the time together. Gilbert was really the first player I signed when I got here almost eight years ago. He did a lot for this organization. But I think it was time for a change. This will be a good opportunity for him to go to down Orlando to revitalize his career. We’ve said along that we’re rebuilding and that we’re going to do it with youth and that John was going to be a focal point of that. I think this allows that to happen much easier. It also gives some of our other young players an opportunity to play. Nick Young is going to get extended minutes now. He’s had an opportunity to play and has played real well. He’s shown that he can take advantage of the time he’s gotten and now he’s going to be even more of an opportunity to show what he can do.”
On Arenas’ legacy:
“Gilbert was one of the best players in the game when we had him. He averaged 28, 29 points a game for three straight years. He was second-team All-Pro when we signed him to his new contract. Unfortunately, he had some injuries that he couldn’t help, that nobody could help. Of course, we had that incident last year which we felt like we needed to make changes with that team that we had assembled. At the beginning of last year, as we said many times, we felt that we had a very good team and most people picked us to be one of the top teams in the East. It just never came together. Then the decision was made to rebuild. This is just the final piece of the puzzle that was with us for the last seven, eight years. Now it’s a fresh start for us and a fresh start for Gilbert in Orlando.”
WIZARDS GUARD NICK YOUNG
On the game:
“It was very tough. We basically had the game won. It came down to a stop and we didn’t get that down the stretch. They have great players on that team who know how to change games.
On adjusting to a starting role:
“I’m going to do whatever Coach wants. I’m going to go out there and try my best and play out there with confidence.”
On playing a lot of minutes and guarding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade:
“It’s tough. You have to be prepared for nights like this. To have Wall out, and we just traded a player, you have to be prepared and get your body ready. It was a challenge. They threw their muscle around. I wasn’t going to back down. I’ve faced everybody. I’ve been in this league for almost four years now. I’m going to go out there and play my heart out.”
On his attitude going into the game with the Arenas trade:
“You gotta keep going and keep playing hard. Arenas meant a lot to this organization and he did a lot for it. We are sad to see him go but we gotta move on and do what we have to do.
On Josh Howard:
“He brought leadership. He’s that player you look to talk to on the court. He’s going to go to motivate you and he knows the game well. He knows defensive assignments. He’s a smart player.”
WIZARDS GUARD KIRK HINRICH
On the effort:
“We put forth a good effort. It wasn’t always pretty but we were able to grind it out and put ourselves in position to win, but we didn’t close the game, which is something you just can’t do.”
On the team’s play at the end of the game:
“We did a lot of stuff that we can’t do to close games. We foul a three-point shooter, we turn the ball over on the inbound, missed some free throws. It’s tough to win when you do that.”
On what a win against Miami would mean to the team:
“It would have been a big step. We’ve been playing well all year at home. We don’t have really one big win here. It would have been nice to get this one.”
On Josh Howard’s return:
“It was good to have him back. I’ve always been a big fan of Josh’s game. He’s a versatile player, plays hard, he’s tough and he should help us out.”
On learning from a tough loss:
“We have to learn. We’re a young team. We have to learn from this. We can’t close games out that way. So hopefully we will [learn].”
On the atmosphere:
“It was nice to have a full house. It was an exciting game, but it was fun to just go out there and play hard. Obviously, we’re devastated by this loss. We felt like we shouldn’t have lost, but we did. We just have to get up tomorrow and keep working.”
HEAT HEAD COACH ERIC SPOELSTRA
On the game:
“You have to give Washington a great deal of credit. They have a lot of young, good, young talent on that team and they came ready to play and they gave us everything that we could handle. You have to win some of these games where you play poorly but you have to find a way, somehow, some way to stay in it, keep your minds in it. We got some critical defensive stops there in the end and that’s what good teams do. Sometimes you steal games even when they other team outplays you for the majority of the game.”
On the game:
“I think it was a frustrating game for all of us, staff, players, we never got into a rhythm. I think what you saw there was the true and sincere joy of being able to stick through a tough time and continue to grind it when things weren’t going our way and we weren’t playing well and still give yourself a chance and pull it out. That’s probably what you saw at the end of the game.”
HEAT FORWARD LEBRON JAMES
On the game:
“As a team we found a way to win. We just never game up, kept executing down to the very last minute. They always play well in this building. This team always plays well against some of the better competition. They get up for those type of games.”
On the steal at the end of the game:
“It was huge, we said in the huddle, let’s go for the steal first before we foul. JJ got his hands on the ball and James [Jones] came over with the steal after not even playing much in the second half and then to go over there and not even hit the net basically and hit two key free throws.”
HEAT GUARD DWYANE WADE
On coming together as a team:
“We have good players. It’s about becoming a good team and believing in each other. It took time to do that. We had the talent, but it took time to believe in the system and everyone to understand their roles. It hasn’t been too long, like 27 games into the season. It took a little longer than everyone expected, even us, but it’s a beautiful thing when it works.”
On being booed on the road:
“Well we’re going to get boos in certain arenas no matter what happens and that’s the nature of it. There’s going to be certain arenas where we’re going to get booed when we run out but it changes kind of fast. But at the end of the day we’re fine, we expect it. Now if we got booed at home, that’s a different story. But we go on the road, those fans are supporting their team and we’re coming in trying to take something from their team, so boos are ok with us.”
On expecting a win tonight:
“You never want to say it’s expected because we had all the reasons to lose tonight. Their team played well, I give them a lot of credit especially going through a trade today. But the team found a way to win. We watch teams like Boston, San Antonio, and the Lakers pull out these kinds of wins and we were finally able to pull out one. That’s what good teams do, and I’m really proud of our team, that we were able to stick through it mentally.
HEAT FORWARD CHRIS BOSH
On the game:
“With games like this we just have to play until the end and that’s what we did. Quite frankly I don’t think it was a very good game, but we didn’t hang our heads or point fingers and that’s how it has to be. We play the game until we’re done and that’s how we got one.”
On team chemistry:
“Everything’s a lot smoother on both ends. We keep the ball moving and late in the game we played our system and moved the ball around well. There were open shots we missed and made, and we kept playing. We knew it was going to take time for us to come together. It has happened quicker than I had imagined, but we are continuing to work and I think we still have a long way to go. We are going in the right direction.”
Photos were taken by Joe Glorioso of WizardsExtreme.com