Wizards' Fast-Break Offense Emerges

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 15, 2007

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 14 -- The Washington Wizards are placing an emphasis on defense this season, but Coach Eddie Jordan doesn't want that focus to take away from what his team does best: Put the ball in the basket.

In fact, Jordan is encouraging his players to turn good defense into fast breaks and quick-hitting offensive possessions as often as possible.

"We're trying to do that more and more and more," Jordan said before Sunday night's 86-80 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at Wachovia Center. "We want to play good defense and then run to get layups, run to get an advantage and run to get some early post-ups in the half court. Our forwards are quick and fast and we feel that we have some young players who can play that way as well."

Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 17 points and eight rebounds, but several plays made by some of Jordan's young players helped ice the win.

In the final two minutes, third-year forward-center Andray Blatche (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) had a dunk and a blocked shot, second-year forward Mike Hall made an 18-foot jumper and guard Donell Taylor came up with a steal and scored the Wizards' final points on a 20-foot jump shot.

While the fast break wasn't a big factor due in part to the absence of guards Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels, it was on full display during Saturday's win over Dallas.

Forward Caron Butler had several first-half dunks, including one that came off an alley-oop pass from Donell Taylor, while Blatche and rookies Dominic McGuire and Nick Young also wowed the crowd with spectacular plays in the open court.

Many of Washington's exciting moments this preseason have been the result of active defense.

Against Cleveland, a block by Blatche turned into an easy layup for Darius Songaila after he received a perfect full-court pass from Daniels. Against Dallas, Butler jumped a passing lane, made a steal and cruised the other way for an easy dunk.

And against Philadelphia, Jamison sparked a break by deflecting a Kyle Korver pass. Young scooped up the loose ball and quickly dribbled the other way where he missed a contested layup, but a hustling Blatche was in perfect position for a putback dunk.

In opening the preseason 3-0 for the first time since 2002, the Wizards have forced 64 turnovers and totaled 34 steals. They've done it by deflecting passes into the post and swarming opponents on dribble penetration.

"We like to get out and convert those turnovers into points," Jordan said. "We want to take advantage of getting steals and blocked shots and defensive rebounds. We've been stressing that we need to be more aggressive running whether it's a make or a miss or a turnover. We've got athletic guys and guys who can score in the open floor so that's what we're looking at."

Once the ball is loose or a rebound is in hand, Jordan wants to see his players go into attack mode as quickly as possible. Even if a fast break doesn't materialize, pushing the ball should allow the Wizards to quickly roll into an offensive set and create a high percentage shot.

"Coach said he wanted us to sprint out and try to get into our style of play so we've been trying to focus on getting stops on defense so we can go run and get in transition," Butler said. "Everybody knows that the knock on us is defense but if we can get stops, we already know that nobody wants to see us coming down, running at them in transition. That has to be our game now: buckle down on defense, get stops and then continue to do what we do on offense."

Wizards Notes: Arenas had planned to play Sunday night but missed his first game of the preseason. Roger Mason Jr. started in Arenas's place and made four of his first five shots while scoring nine of his 11 points in the first quarter. Arenas will likely play Tuesday night at Chicago. . . .

Daniels, who also played in the first two games, was held out so he could rest a mild left ankle sprain.

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