Wizards lose to Hawks, 105-99, despite big nights from Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee

Andray Blatche:
Andray Blatche: "My performance was okay, but we didn't get the win, so that disqualifies everything." (Ricky Carioti/the Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 12, 2010

Back when the Washington Wizards were originally supposed to host the Atlanta Hawks, Andray Blatche was forced to scrap for his scoring opportunities backing up Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood, and JaVale McGee was a seldom-used backup center subjected to cheerleading duty on the bench.

When the teams finally got together Thursday night, it seemed that the only time Blatche could be stopped in the low block was when he committed a turnover, while McGee spent the entire game auditioning for the 2011 slam dunk contest.

The Wizards are a much different team than they were on Feb. 6 -- the day a blizzard postponed their matchup and placed them in the precarious situation of playing three games on consecutive nights. Blatche and McGee have dramatically improved their production with increased minutes. The new front-court duo combined for 50 points and 19 rebounds, but they were unable to keep the Wizards from avoiding their fifth consecutive loss, 105-99, before 13,625 at Verizon Center.

"I feel like it's a great combo. Got a four who can shoot and score in the post and a five who is a defensive threat and can dunk the ball anytime you throw it up there," McGee said after scoring a career-high 20 points and matching Orlando's Dwight Howard for the most dunks in one game this season with eight. "We was out there working hard. We was trying to get the win. We just didn't come out with it."

Jamal Crawford ensured that, as he scored 29 points off the bench for a Hawks team that has defeated the Wizards (21-41) three times this season. This grueling stretch doesn't get much easier for the Wizards, as they play the Detroit Pistons on Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich., then return home to play the Magic on Saturday. "It's not just that we have three games in three days, it's basically three different cities," Coach Flip Saunders said. "It's a lot of travel, so we have to give our guys as much rest as we can."

Blatche scored a game-high 30 points with 10 rebounds, but he again struggled, committing seven of the Wizards' 20 turnovers. "My performance was okay, but we didn't get the win, so that disqualifies everything I did tonight. I'm all about getting wins," Blatche said, blaming his turnovers to his adjustment to a new role. "Can't no guy just come from being on the bench, not used to getting double-teamed and start playing and not having turnovers. This is all new. It's not like I'm out there just giving the ball away. I'm trying to make plays, and it's not working out."

Saunders suggested that Blatche make the simple pass instead of going for the "homerun play. A lot of times when he turns the ball over in his position, it's cross-court passes, which he's been doing a little bit, and it's a layup the other way."

McGee gave the Wizards their first lead of the game when he caught an alley-oop lob from Mike Miller for a jam and tapped his forehead to salute the crowd. He later soared for two impressive put-back slams, then gave the Wizards a 42-38 lead when he drove down the middle of the lane for another dunk.

After the Hawks built a 12-point lead in the fourth, the Wizards went to McGee on three consecutive possessions and he responded with two dunks and a left-handed scoop shot to bring the Wizards within 87-79. He also provided the Hawks with a basket during the run, as he was called for goaltending.

"It's lovely," McGee said of his teammates looking for him on offense. "I just got to keep rolling, keep getting rebounds and keep getting open. I feel like the ball will be there and I'll dunk it."

McGee later caught another lob pass from Randy Foye to spark a 10-2 run that brought the Wizards within 92-89 when Blatche made a bank shot with 4 minutes 53 seconds remaining.

Blatche and McGee had back-to-back dunks to bring the Wizards within 101-97 with 54.7 seconds left, but the Hawks built the lead back up to eight with free throws by Crawford and Marvin Williams.

Miller -- who will have to hand over his No. 6 jersey to Gilbert Arenas after the season -- had 11 points and a game-high seven assists. Arenas submitted the paperwork to change his jersey from No. 0 to No. 6 next season and the move has been approved by the league. "He gave me a call, asked me about it. I gave him the go ahead," said Miller, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. "If he wants No. 6, he can have it."

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