It's somewhat amusing to me when a team like the Magic comes into town. First of all, you know the Verizon Center is going to be somewhat full and second you are going to have your fair share of visiting team fans. Tonight was no different. I had a group of Magic fans tonight that made the game so much more entertaining than what the Wizards put on for 3 of 4 quarters. Meet my new favorite visiting fans...
These Magic fans came to DC to have a good time and in the meantime they got an opportunity to share some of those laughs with Matt Barnes, Andray Blatche and of course Dwight Howard. They referred to Matt Barnes as "double deuces" and fired out the line, "we're going to get you paid Barnes" in reference to him having a player option going into next season. Barnes responded back with a thumbs up.
They weren't after just Magic players, they also asked Andray Blatche if he would be going to Hooters after the game. Dray responded back with a no and a chuckle. The best moment though came when the group started yelling out to Dwight Howard and called him Superman numerous times. Howard responded by flapping his arms in a flying type motion and showed off that Magic Johnson like smile that makes him one of the most love-able Superstars in the game.
Now that's enough about that, let's talk about the actual game from where I sat. The Wizards played two games. They won the first quarter and they did it pretty damn impressively. It was honestly one of the most efficient quarters I can remember this team playing in quite some time. They shot 65 percent, had 9 rebounds, only 2 turnovers and 10 assists. Blatche played extremely well in the quarter dropping 15 of his 32 points along with Mike Miller who continued his recent play of starting games well and then just nose diving in the remaining quarters.
Most of us who have watched this team all year long knew two things were going to happen after that first quarter. First would be that the Magic would get right back in the game, second that the Wizards were going to come back down to earth. Both happened and rather quickly. The Magic quickly went from being down by 15 to up by 6 and before you knew it they were up by 23. The game shifted and pretty much ended in the 2nd quarter. It is not good when your starting front-court of Blatche, Thornton and McGee finishes with 10 combined rebounds. To add a little salt to the wound, JaVale finished with only 3 rebounds all of which were offensive. You can't have your starting center with 0 defensive rebounds. I was told Flip addressed that after the game. More often than not you're going to be on the losing end of games when you are out-rebounded as a team 46-30.
It was good to see Dray's turnovers go down to only 2 and a 4 assist performace as well the type of shooting night he had but I would have liked to have seen more from him on the boards. The Wizards also allowed the Magic to shoot 57% from the 3 point line which is just tough to overcome, especially when you go 2 for 9.
As we have seen a lot of times this year, there was a mix of problems. Obviously the things I mentioned above but also the usual lack of box outs which led to 2nd chance points, defensive collapses and simply not a lot of communication. I believe what we saw tonight was a Wizards team that got energized by a crowd 3x the size of what they've seen most of the year. They came out and played hard, with energy and precision. Then I think the fatigue of the 3rd game in 3 nights started to kick in. They looked lethargic the rest of the game. In order to beat a team like Orlando, you have to have your A game and tonight the Wizards looked the part early but were quickly reminded that there is a big difference between the top floor and the basement in the Southeast division. My Magic player of the game was Dwight Howard. No brainer. He finished with 28 points on 11 of 13 shooting, 15 rebounds and 5 assists. In case you didn't know, Howard is a physical freak of nature. Watching him play up close is amazing because he makes the game look so easy. On top of that, Howard simply gets what it is to be Superstar in this league. Watching him interact with the fans during the game, after timeouts, at the free throw line, anytime he could frankly showed me exactly why he is so easy to root for.
My Wizards player of the game was Shaun Livingston. Livingston used every inch of his 6'7 frame to put in 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He played 31 mintues and more important than either of those two numbers is the fact that he dished out 8 dimes. I loved the way he was cutting to the basket, how much he was talking to his teammates and what seems to be a daily growing confidence.
If Shaun hasn't played his way into a contract for the rest of the NBA season, I'm not sure what else he has to show. The more I see of Shaun is the less I want to see of Foye at the PG. This is another case of being way too early to go pick up a Shaun Livingston jersey but he is quickly making friends with the fans. We saw tonight that with some solid minutes Livingston can put up good numbers, the key now is can he play those minutes on a regular basis and play with the same consistency. The only thing consistent about the Wizards this year is that they are consistently inconsistent. Shout out to Alonzo Gee who gave a good energetic effort with 7 points and 5 rebounds in a quarter of work.
Joe Glorioso Wizards Extreme Correspondent