Wizards bring it all together and beat Raptors, 106-102
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
TORONTO -- Antawn Jamison hit a long jumper from the right baseline, then pressed his right index finger against his lips to silence the fans on Tuesday at Air Canada Center. It seemed like a premature celebration, since the Washington Wizards were barely clinging to a four-point lead with 2 minutes 29 seconds remaining.
"It's something I needed to do," Jamison said. "I kind of wanted to let them know, tonight was not going to be their night."
Jamison's confidence was supported shortly thereafter, when Toronto Raptors all-star forward Chris Bosh tried to respond by driving right around Brendan Haywood for an easy layup. Haywood met Bosh at the rim, swatted the ball against the backboard, then shook his head defiantly as Bosh hit the ground and rubbed his head.
The Wizards had suffered a setback against Charlotte last Saturday that left them somewhat in disarray, and still in search of a consistent identity. But that uncertainty gave way to assurance, as the Wizards beat the Raptors 106-102, with Haywood providing stifling defense and Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler finally finding a way to have productive games on the same night.
"I think we know the formula to win -- defend and execute offensively," Coach Flip Saunders said after his team won its second consecutive road game and third out of four overall. "The game was played pretty much at our tempo. I hope we can build off that."
The day before, Saunders said that Arenas is "not confident right now." After the loss to Charlotte, Arenas expressed some confusion and doubt about his ability to score and handle the burden of consistently playing at a high level after missing almost two seasons with knee troubles. Tuesday, Arenas came through when the team needed him most. He scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth period and matched his season high with nine assists.
"Flip sat me down after the last game and said, 'Play how you play,' " Arenas said. "I decided today I was going to be aggressive."
After finishing with just six points and no rebounds against Charlotte, Jamison vowed that he wouldn't have another performance like that for a long time. He scored a game-high 30 points, including 10 in the final period, and pulled down 12 rebounds.
Bosh scored a team-high 22 points, but Haywood flustered him most of the night, shutting him out in the first period and holding him to just four points on 1-of-8 shooting in the second half. Bosh scored 18 points in the second period, taking advantage of Haywood sitting on the bench, but he missed 15 of his 22 attempts from the floor for the entire game.
"He had a great second quarter against us, and I knew if we didn't do something, me personally, it could've been a long game, one of those 40-point nights," said Haywood, who also stepped in front of Hedo Turkoglu to force him into a crucial turnover with 29.6 seconds remaining. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, but his night could've been much better if he shot well from the foul line. He missed seven of his eight free throw attempts, as the Wizards shot just 20 for 32.
Haywood "was great defensively, terrible at the free throw line, but great defensively," Saunders said.
Butler (19 points and seven rebounds) had been easing himself back after missing one game with a sore right ankle and claimed that he had lost some of his explosiveness. But he discovered some late in the game, when he drove baseline for a dunk that gave the Wizards a 99-94 lead.
"It was a good quality win on the road," Butler said. "Our disposition changed, sense of urgency went up and knowing what's at stake, you can't keep letting these games fall by the wayside."
Bosh gave the Raptors a seven-point lead to start the fourth period, but Arenas started heating up. He hit a three-pointer to ignite a 18-6 run. Arenas gave the Wizards an 86-85 lead when he came around screen, drove into the lane, bounced off Andrea Bargnani and hit a tough shot off the glass as Turkoglu knocked him to the ground. "We made great, smart plays at the end," Arenas said. "I think we started off the fourth quarter well, so I think everybody had their confidence going."
The teams will meet again on Friday at Verizon Center, where the Wizards will host the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. "December is usually our month," Arenas said with a grin. "I hope we can keep it rolling."