From the beginning of the game, the Wizards jumped out full of energy and were led by the one and only Andray Blatche. Nobody and I mean nobody, expected him to come out with the intensity and energy he did. He had 12 of the Wizards first 19 points. Blatche is showing that he wants the ball and he wants to put this team on his back. I feel with the “Big 3” gone, it seems to have provided the Wiz Kids with that cushion and some confidence to keep going even after their mess-ups. Al Thornton came right into the game and acted like he was part of the team for more than a week.
The amazing part of it all is that this group of outkasts is now playing as if they have been together for years. Andray Blatche came out with a purpose and his intensity on both ends of the court allowed the Wizards to stay close with Denver.Fan favorite Mike Miller went 0-3 in the first half. The energy was the key here folks, McGee and Blatche were making me drool and made me say WOW quite a few times. The Wizards picked up the intensity and the shooting in the last quarter.
I feel like Phil “Flip” Saunders is not keeping the same rotation he had in the 1st half. After the game, he said that he planned on playing the whole team A LOT for the 2nd half of the season. James Singleton had the crowd rocking as he blocked a JR Smith dunk attempt which was followed up by a BIG Earl Boykins layup. With about 10 minutes left in the game and it actually felt like a playoff crowd. The crowd at Verizon Center has been more into the game after the Caron/Haywood/Jamison trades oddly enough. Al Thornton has showed a really aggressive side and provided a little bit of toughness in my opinion. This was one of the more exciting games I’ve seen this year, and probably more then when we had ALL our players healthy in the beginning of the season. The Wizards played solid D and they really played as a team now.
I noticed that in this game every Wizard on the court touched the ball before the ball was shot which you never saw with the Big 2 and Haywood. My final thoughts are that WE appear to have a young nucleus and the people who trashed these trades should probably reserve judgment for a little bit. Yeah its early to tell, but the trade so far, is better than a C, I'd give it closer to a B. I asked Josh Howard after the game about getting into to the playoffs, he laughed and said “I always think about the playoffs” (see the video below) PLAYOFFS!????? Yes people, PLAYOFFS, may not be as far fetched some were thinking it would be.
Wizards forward Al Thornton (14), making his debut for Washington after a trade from the Clippers, gets a pat on the chest from teammate James Singleton during a 107-97 victory over Denver. (Peter Lockley / McClatchy-Tribune / February 19, 2010)
Game Chat Replay:
<a href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=4293e6fb3b" mce_href="http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=4293e6fb3b" >Washington Wizards vs Denver Nuggets with Asad Naqvi</a>
HEAD COACH FLIP SAUNDERS On tonight’s game: “Al (Thornton) played with a great amount of energy. I told the guys at the shoot around, ‘we have to play like a bunch of mad dogs’ and that’s how we played tonight. We went after loose balls, we went after rebounds, we didn’t give up on plays and then the crowd gets into it and the crowd keeps our guys juiced up.”
On making changes to the team: “When we made the decision to make changes, we thought about the type of players we wanted to bring in here. Whether the players were going to be here long-term or not is something that will be decided but we wanted players that had high basketball I.Q., that played really hard and didn’t give up on plays and were hungry. If we get that, we’ll start setting the tone on how we want to play down the road.”
More on making changes to the team: “It’s the group of guys and how hard we’re playing. When was the last time you saw Nick (Young) diving on the floor for loose balls? It becomes contagious. When you see a guy like Al Thornton going after it on the glass or Josh Howard, as a teammate you say ‘I’ve got to get on board,’ and that’s what everybody’s done.”
On Andray Blatche: “Andray (Blatche) had a great first half and carried us in that half and when he picked up his fourth we went to the bench and those guys started playing well. Even though we didn’t play Andray or JaVale (McGee) down the stretch those are the guys up on the bench cheering the whole time in the fourth quarter, we haven’t had that this year.”
WIZARDS FORWARD AL THORNTON On defensive play: “There’s been a knock on me that I don’t play any defense so I just tried to come out and play defense the best that I could.”
On tonight’s play: “We all came out and played hard. That’s something that they preach out here to just come out and play hard and that’s what we did tonight.”
On guarding Carmelo Anthony: “I just tried to get up in him and make him frustrated. Once Carmelo gets into a groove and gets his shot going he’s very hard to guard. I just tried to get in him and frustrate him a little bit and make him shoot off balance shots.”
WIZARDS GUARD JOSH HOWARD On what he brings to the game: “Energy and hustle. That’s all I’ve been doing since I’ve been in the league is playing hard. I’m just going to continue to do it while I’m here. That’s it; hopefully it will trickle down to the rest of my teammates.”
On preparing for tonight: “We are professionals. We have been playing this game for a while and guys know how to play. We just went out there and did what we had to do.”
On the rest of the season: “We have 28 games left. Guys are hungry. Guys want to win. I know me personally I want to get into the playoffs. There’s a lot of goals right there to achieve. We just have to go out there and play.”
WIZARDS GUARD MIKE MILLER On tonight’s play: “We played hard. The bottom line is that when you share the ball people play hard, it’s a completely different basketball. Everyone is excited about moving the ball. Everyone is excited about each other’s success. That’s just the start of it, now we just need to continue to work on it.
On tonight’s win: “Hopefully it will carry over to tomorrow. This is a big win for us. We are headed in the right direction. You saw how hard guys are playing and how excited they are. That’s a sign of a good team.”
WIZARDS FORWARD JAMES SINGLETON On Al Thornton’s defensive play: “I knew he can do it because he’s an aggressive defender. People don’t think he can play great defense but I know he can play great defense. You saw that tonight. You have one of the premier scorers in the league and he was held to 23.”
On the crowd: “The crowd is always the sixth player. The louder they get, the faster we go, the harder we play. You have to have fun out there. It’s a basketball game, you have to have fun.”
NUGGETS HEAD COACH GEORGE KARL On tonight’s game: “I think Flip did a great job of going small and figuring out an offensive attack. We were not executing our offense right. The Wizards had trouble scoring, but when they went small they got their offense in a better flow than we did.”
More on tonight’s game: “Our bench had a lack of defense and they let (Nick) Young come into the game and (Al) Thornton into the flow of the game. Defensively we were playing well enough, but the collapse of our offense created big shots for the Wizards. We take quick shots and take tough shots, but there’s a fine line between and good shot and bad shot.”
On the Wizards: “Coming into the game, we had respect for (Andray) Blatche and we didn’t do a very good job on him in the first half…(Josh) Howard, (Al) Thornton and (Nick) Young are offensive guys who can make shots and Flip is a good offensive coach. It seems like there was more energy on their team then they had all year.”
NUGGETS FORWARD CARMELO ANTHONY On tonight’s game: “I don’t like making excuses; they played hard. They came out to play and the new guys played extremely well. They caught us on a bad night and they won the game.”
On the newest Wizards: “I just wanted to win. I have played against these guys several times before. The only thing that is different is that they are playing under a new system. I think that Flip gave Al (Thornton) some confidence and Josh (Howard) as well. They all came out and played hard tonight.”
NUGGETS GUARD CHAUNCEY BILLUPS On the Wizards: “It’s like they’re starting all over again. Guys are going to be out there playing extremely hard, trying to earn the coach’s trust, and earn some minutes. All the new guys came out and played so well and so hard. They had an effect on the game.”
On playing against former coach and current Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders: “Flip is very familiar with me and my game and what I like to do. I don’t know if it really worked. I still got what I wanted all night but at the end of the day they got the win. It was a disappointing loss for me but I’m happy to see Flip have some guys who play how he likes to play -- hard and until the buzzer.”
On scoring just 15 points in the fourth quarter: “That’s a first for this team. They really got it rolling. We turned the ball over a lot early in the fourth quarter and they were on a run and we couldn’t stop them. On the other end they took us out of some of our sets. They changed up the zone and the man. It was a tough situation.”