By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 12, 2008
ATLANTA, Jan. 11 -- The Washington Wizards' 102-98 overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks was sprinkled with terrific individual performances.
Antawn Jamison tied a season-high with 17 rebounds, Andray Blatche played extensive minutes at center and tied a career-high with five blocks, and 10 Wizards scored. But two of the biggest plays were made by guards DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels.
The first came with the game tied at 94 with 37.5 seconds remaining in overtime. Daniels drove, froze Atlanta's Josh Smith -- who is one of the premier shot-blockers in the league -- with a pump-fake and then made a finger-roll layup, giving the Wizards a two-point lead.
On the ensuing possession, Hawks all-star Joe Johnson drove and appeared ready to take an open jumper from about nine feet, but Stevenson rose and blocked the shot. The Wizards (18-16) went on to emerge with the win when Caron Butler made a pair of free throws and Daniels made four more in the game's final 15.7 seconds.
"You have to credit our resiliency, our toughness and our emotional poise," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "We keep our composure there late, we executed and we got some major league plays at both ends. There was big play after big play for us."
The Wizards improved to 2-1 in overtime games this season and effectively handed the Hawks (15-17) their second loss of the day. Late in the afternoon, the Hawks were informed by the NBA that they must replay the final 51.9 seconds of a Dec. 19 overtime win over the Miami Heat because the official scorer incorrectly ruled that Heat center Shaquille O'Neal fouled out late in overtime.
The Hawks were docked a win and must replay the game's end before the next meeting between the teams on March 8. The result of that game, as well as Friday night's loss to the Wizards, could be crucial because the Wizards and Hawks were among five teams separated by only percentage points in the Eastern Conference heading into the night's action.
Friday's victory was key for the Wizards because they face back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics. Boston visits Verizon Center on Saturday night and the Wizards go to Boston on Monday.
"Wins like this are big because you never know how things are going to shake out down the stretch," Jamison said. "This was a divisional game and it could come back to help us at the end of the season."
The Wizards appeared to be in big trouble when the athletic Hawks closed the third period on an 18-4 run and carried a 68-62 lead into the fourth. But the visitors chipped away behind a balanced attack that featured key baskets by Butler, Blatche, Jamison, Stevenson and Daniels.
After Stevenson blocked a shot by Marvin Williams that would have given the Hawks a two-point lead late in regulation, Butler had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but his three-point attempt from the top of the key was blocked by Smith and the game went to overtime.
Stevenson locked down on Johnson in the extra session and the Wizards made 9 of 10 free throw attempts while holding the Hawks to 4-of-12 shooting.
Another key for the Wizards was the energetic play of Blatche. The third-year forward-center played more than 32 minutes, most of them at center in place of starter Brendan Haywood, who picked up two early fouls. Blatche made 5 of 6 free throws, grabbed eight rebounds, scored 13 points and helped defend Atlanta rookie Al Horford, who finished with a career-high 19 rebounds.
Jordan said he made the decision to go with Blatche after the first quarter.
"He gave us a little extra hop," Jordan said. "Brendan can't be an all-star every night, but [Saturday night] we're expecting him to be one again. I thought he did a good job when we played in Boston."
Meantime, the Hawks were left trying to figure out how two victories in one day got away.
"We had our chances tonight and we just didn't get it done," said Hawks Coach Mike Woodson, whose team is trying for its first playoff berth since 1999. "As for the Miami situation, we'll cross the bridge when we get to it in March. Tonight's game was a very important game."
Wizards Note: Rookie forward-center Oleksiy Pecherov, the team's first-round pick in 2006, made his long-awaited NBA debut early in the second quarter and it didn't take him long to score.
On his second possession, Pecherov cut down the lane, received a pass from Antawn Jamison and made a layup. Pecherov, who missed the first 2 1/2 months of the season with a right ankle injury, finished with two points on 1-of-2 shooting with one rebound in four minutes.