After he finished his post-game press conference, Coach Flip Saunders shook hands with WPGC radio personality and Wizards DJ Big Tigger, who congratulated him on the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Saunders then congratulated Tigger for pulling off a successful dunk off the trampoline in the second half.
"The only guy who got as high as you did tonight was Book," Saunders said, and Tigger shook his head and laughed.
Trevor Booker certainly got up high during a critical stretch in the fourth quarter, when he turned a one-point deficit into a five-point lead with three consecutive dunks that turned around the game. The last two were exciting rebound putback jams that energized the building and left Timberwolves rebounding machine Kevin Love dumbfounded.
Love has become an effective rebounder through timing, positioning, aggression and anticipation, since he lacks much athleticism. Love grabbed 21 rebounds, but Booker made sure he didn't get 23 when he showed that speed and superior leaping ability could be an advantage. The first dunk came when climbed over Love to slam down a Cartier Martin miss. The next came when Love reached out for a John Wall miss and Booker jumped in front of him.
"You see the mascots jumping off the trampoline, that's what it felt like he was doing in there. He's an athletic freak," Love said of Booker. "I got off at that 10th floor, he got off at the 12th. That was the deal."
Saunders thought about starting Booker at small forward on Saturday when he realized that Josh Howard wasn't going to be able to play with a pulled left hamstring. But there was some doubt about Booker's availability when he arrived at Verizon Center battling a stomach virus. Booker played about two minutes and looked lethargic in the first half before he had to leave for the locker room.
"I've been sick for a couple of days but not this sick right here," Booker said. "It was real tough. I didn't know if I was going to make it or not. Just playing most of the minutes in the fourth quarter. It was hurting. I was hurting, but I just fought through it."
Booker said he took three different medicines, two before the game and one at halftime in order to contribute. "We didn't know if we were even going to be able to play him," Saunders said of Booker. "It got to the point that we just needed some energy, maybe we could put him in and get a couple of minutes. He started going and I was afraid of taking him out because I didn't know if we'd be able to get him back."
With Rashard Lewis still struggling to find his rhythm offensively, as he continues to battle right knee tendinitis, the Wizards needed some production from the bench and Booker and Maurice Evans helped push the Wizards through the finish. Booker had the six biggest points of the game, and Evans had 11 in the fourth quarter, connecting on three three-pointers.
In his previous six games, Lewis averaged just four points and shot 30.7 percent (8-of-26) from the floor. He suggested on Thursday that he might have to have season-ending surgery to repair some discomfort in his right knee that has plagued him since before he arrived from Orlando in the Gilbert Arenas trade. Saunders hoped that having Lewis start would help him regain his rhythm, but Lewis again struggled. He scored 10 points, but missed 8 of 11 field goal attempts.
"Still bothered me, but I'm not ready to quit on the team yet. Keep pushing until it's time," Lewis said.
Lewis said he likely wouldn't be available on Sunday against Detroit. "It's very tough playing on back-to-backs. It's very tough playing, period. I'm just not ready to quit on them yet. It's a lot of young guys on this team. My presence will help a little bit, I think."
He added that no final decision has been regarding surgery. "Still evaluating it. haven't made no decision yet. Just going to evaluate it a little further and have another opinion on it, but it's day-to-day," Lewis said. "It's been tough all season long, especially since I've been here. It's very tough when you're not able to perform at a high level. Doing the little things out there, trying to defend and be a presence out there on the floor, spread the floor, help."
If Lewis is unable to go, the Wizards will likely have to lean more on Booker, whom Saunders praised afterward for his improved play in recent weeks. Booker nearly helped the Wizards pull off a comeback win over Golden State on Wednesday. "Book is playing at another level," he said. "He's playing how we thought he'd play for us. But you don't expect a rookie to get there, especially against veterans."
Love may have had more than four times the rebounds as Booker, who had five, but Booker had the biggest boards of the night. I'm still impressed by Love's ability to inhale rebounds despite his limitations. He gets a lot of his rebounds by slapping at his own misses, which is straight out of the Moses Malone book.
He has 50 straight games with at least 10 points and 10 rebounds, which ties him with Malone for the NBA record for most double-doubles since the merger. Former Washington Bullet Elvin Hayes had 55 straight double-doubles. But after his 11th game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, Michael Beasley said, "Yeah, it's kind of normal now. Tell me 40-40 and I'll get excited."