Wizards' flash defensive potential by smothering visiting Nets by twenty
Heading into Friday night's matchup against the New Jersey Nets, the Washington Wizards had played 33 games in which it was difficult for fans to find the silver lining for the season. Few would have felt confident predicting a victory, let alone a 20-point blowout, but that is exactly what the Wizards delivered to the fans by pounding the Nets 97-77 at the Verizon Center.
The tone was set early on both ends of the ball as the Wizards jumped out to a 21-3 first quarter lead with 4:50 remaining. Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee played aggressive on the defensive end combining for five blocks and five rebounds along with 11 points in the quarter. McGee was a defensive force inside while Blatche helped on several double teams and traps leading to turnovers.
That's where John Wall and Rashard Lewis stepped in.
Wall led several fast breaks and found Lewis spotting up for three-point attempts. Lewis hit four of his five first quarter shots to add 11 points, as Washington held a commanding 30-13 first quarter advantage. He finished the game with 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
Wall had an off shooting night, finishing with just five points, but showcased himself as a floor leader dishing out nine assists with zero turnovers - a sign that he is grasping the point guard position at the NBA level. Nick Young was in on the action with 16 points and a career high five assists.
Aside from the efficient game on the offensive side of the ball, much of the discussion in the locker room and in head coach Flip Saunders' press conference was about the defense. The intensity and effort was apparent from the opening tip. Saunders' mentioned that players' taking charges showed the unselfishness of the team.
I asked Blatche whether Friday night's defensive performance was something that could be used as momentum for the next several games, beginning in Charlotte Saturday night, to which he responded, "We've got to take this and carry it over to the next game because it's time for us to get a road win. We're searching for it and hoping we come out tomorrow with the same energy."
Rebuilding is a difficult and exhausting process, but it is clear that Washington has the youth and talent to head down the right path. Their latest victory showed flashes of potential of what they can be if they stay committed night in and night out to the defensive side of the ball. There is a good mix of talent as far as offensive and defensive players go.
Nick Young continued to show that he can be a productive starter in the league. He dazzled fans in the second half with a turn-around baseline fadeaway that we have become accustomed to seeing from superstars like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.
I mentioned to him in the locker room that we have seen him unveil that move and go to it more and more over the past season, and asked if it was something he had been working on to which he replied, "Yeah, it's something that I have - just trying to bring more stuff out".
Clearly, potential is aplenty in Washington. It's time to see if the consistency, commitment and dedication to putting in the necessary effort to succeed is there or not. If it is, don't be surprised if you see a team made up of the current nucleus making noise in a couple of seasons.
Additional Locker Room Notes
I asked JaVale McGee if he felt any extra motivation playing against Brook Lopez, widely regarded as one of the premier young centers, but McGee didn't seem to care much about how Lopez was viewed and more about getting the win. "No, just trying to get the win and stopping him was a big part of that".
Rashard Lewis seems to be bringing his veteran leadership and experience on a contending team. When asked about the approach to the game, he said, "A team like New Jersey, we're playing them at home, we have to go out there and try to beat them. We have to go into the ballgame knowing we have to win, not go into the ballgame thinking 'we hope we win tonight'. You have to confidence in yourself and in your team."
Flip Saunders was asked before the game about the health of Josh Howard. He told reporters that Howard will have his knee reevaluated on Monday because of soreness. He will sit as the Wizards are going to take precautions and make sure he is healthy before he gets back on the court.
Wizards/Nets Highlights courtesy of CSNWashington.com
Additional Quotes Courtesy Of the Wizards PR Staff
WIZARDS HEAD COACH FLIP SAUNDERS
On the fast start:
“It was good to come out with good energy. Like I said in [Philadelphia], actually, we played fairly well the first three quarters. we just didn’t finish off the game. It was nice that we came out and shared the ball, took care of the ball. Rashard [Lewis] got us off as a far as a good look. He had a great game. He had 16 [points], 13 [rebounds] and six [assists] and helped us defensively.”
On McGee’s two blocks to start the game:
“It set the tone. JaVale is trying to find the difference between overexposing himself to block shots and knowing when you have an opportunity to contest it and get and not take yourself out of the play. I thought he did a pretty good job of that overall tonight. He fought Lopez for most of the game. He did other things well. He shot the ball well when he got it. He had blocked shots and he rebounded fairly well.
On the tea’s defense:
“That’s one of the things that we’ve worked on since we made the [Lewis] trade, a lot of defense. That’s what was disappointing in the Philadelphia game was that what let us down in the fourth quarter. We’ve been hanging our hat on that to stay in games. Tonight, we were good defensively for most of the game. We played good position defense. We’ve been having a lot of steals. Tonight, we didn’t have that many steals. We just played very good position defense and really cracked down. We took about three or four charges tonight so that shows you are playing good team defense.
WIZARDS GUARD JOHN WALL
On the game:
“I think we just came out and played well. Tonight everybody was making shots for us and then Rashard (Lewis) got hot. My coaches have always told me, ‘You don’t have to do it by scoring, you can do it on defense or rebounding and get your teammates involved,’ and that’s what I tried to do.”
On tomorrow’s road game:
“I always like our chances when we go on the road, we just have to finish it out in the fourth quarter. On the road you don’t have that home court advantage so we just have to step it up down the stretch and execute. That’s what we have to do tomorrow night, and not turn the ball over.”
WIZARDS GUARD NICK YOUNG
On the game:
“The video Coach (Saunders) showed us before the game really brought us together and encouraged us to feed off one another during the game. I really like what we did tonight and we just need to keep at it, especially in tomorrow’s game. We have to stay focused and stay in tune to what we are doing. We just have to take it game by game and get more wins.”
WIZARDS FORWARD RASHARD LEWIS
On the game:
“We jumped up to a quick start in the first quarter and made some great shots. I thought we really played great defense too. We were able to score and get an early lead. My long range shot felt good and I’ve really been working on it the last couple of days in practice. I just felt it early in the game and kept it going. That’s what it takes to win games, getting rebounds, loose balls and working on having good defense. Defense will always keep you in the game. If we keep defending like we did tonight we have the chance to win every ball game.”
On John Wall:
“We have to continue pushing the ball up and getting it to John (Wall). The chemistry with John (Wall) is getting better and better every game and in practice. We are just trying to figure things out with pick and rolls and when we get stops we have to get him the ball. He works well with the defense and that helps us keep going.”
WIZARDS CENTER JAVALE MCGEE
On his play tonight:
“I’m not really thinking about the dunk contest, I don’t think that was my main motivation. We just started the game off really well and I fed off of that. We really have to be help side and we did a good job with that. Coach (Saunders) told us before the game to stay together as a team and I think the video he showed up really motivated us as well. It really inspired us to stay together, and I think it worked.”
On the game:
“Our offense was really working hard today, especially Rashard (Lewis). We always play really well at home, now we just have to carry that to our away games. Especially since we are having back to back games we really have to play hard tomorrow and bring that same defense we had today.”
NETS HEAD COACH AVERY JOHNSON
On the game:
“We got off to a terrible start tonight and [the Wizards] took control of the game in the first quarter. We tried to make a little bit of a run in the second half, we cut [the lead] to 12 or 13, but for the most part they took control of this game from the start. We just couldn’t get in sync in any facet of the game, it was not one of our better efforts this year.”
On road games:
“It’s tough winning on the road, I don’t care if you’re a good team. It’s a struggle on the road, especially for a young team. The Wizards were looking for a little bit of life and they came out rested and ready and played really well, though this was not one of our best efforts.”
NETS FORWARD KRIS HUMPHRIES
On the game:
“It’s starts with how we started the game. You give any NBA team that kind of jump on you and they have good players that can score the ball, and they make a jump like that, you have to play almost perfect to get yourself back into the game. Unfortunately, we were not able to do that.”
On being down by 20 points in the first quarter:
“I don’t know if the focus and effort was there to start the game. It’s tough to bounce back when you’re in a hole, you really need things to go your way to get things going. We just weren’t able to do that.
NETS GUARD DEVIN HARRIS
On being down by so much in the first quarter:
“You try and climb out of it for the rest of the game. You pretty much have to be perfect to come back from a deficit like that. We fought back and it obviously wasn’t enough.”
On the Wizards jumping out to a 20-point lead in the first quarter:
“It wasn’t so much the defense. It was what we were doing on offense. The blocked shots and turnovers led to a ton of transition points. It kind of took us out of our rhythm.”
NETS GUARD STEVEN GRAHAM
On tonight’s game
“Tonight on offense we just didn’t move the ball. You can tell we are not playing well by watching our offense. It just wasn’t there tonight for us.”