Andray Blatche’s string of consecutive games with at least 20 points was snapped at six on Monday, but he was not complaining after the Wizards defeated the Boston Celtics, 95-94, and closed out the win after he fouled out. Blatche has had a relatively uneven campaign, but he will finish with improved scoring and rebounding production for the fifth consecutive season.
And, despite missing 18 games because of injuries to his hip, knee and shoulder, Blatche finished the season much stronger than he began. In his past 22 games, Blatche averaged 18.2 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Since returning from a sprained right shoulder that cost 10 games and most of another, those numbers jumped to 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds on 49.3 percent shooting (71 of 144) in his past eight games. “That was big. A lot of people was saying at this point, your shoulder is real bruised up, playing you could risk hurting it real bad again. But I said if I’m able to shoot a ball, I’m able to play so I went out and played, and it paid off for me. All the hard work I was putting in the weeks I was out paid off for me. I got my jump shot back and I’m playing pretty well.”
With the Wizards ending their season on Wednesday in Cleveland, Blatche will have a reunion with the team that brought out the best game of his season, and career, as he scored 36 points with 19 rebounds in a 115-107 win over the Cavaliers on April 1.
Coach Flip Saunders credited Blatche for continuing to push through a difficult season that started with him missing the first few weeks of training camp with a broken right foot. The injury, combined with a lack of conditioning, led to more problems with his lower body throughout the season.
“He’s been very solid,” Saunders said. “He’s very much of a leader, on the floor. Since he had the time off, I think for him, that’s been a lightning rod to say, listen, now that I can open up, not get hurt, I can get in great shape, I can get a jump start and not have to catch up, because he’s had to play so much catch up. He could’ve maybe said, ‘My shoulder’s hurt, I’ll shut it down.’ He didn’t want to do that; he wanted to play. People have been critical of him. I think it says a lot about his character, for him to be able to keep on fighting back and just keep on playing.”
Blatche said he would enter the offseason with the same goals that he had last summer. “I’m going to work on my body so I can avoid the injuries that I had this year. This year the main thing was injuries: the hip to the knee to the shoulder, my foot. This year I’m going to really focus on my body, get strength and flexibility.”