Wizards vs. Magic: Orlando wins in Gilbert Arenas's return to Washington
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 12:51 AM
There was so much buildup and emotion, so many story lines, and so many questions as the Washington Wizards faced the Orlando Magic for the first time since the teams completed a trade seven weeks ago.
Many wondered how the fans would respond to Gilbert Arenas as he returned to the building he practically owned for more than seven seasons, how Nick Young would react as he matched up for the first time against his "big brother," and how Rashard Lewis would handle facing a team he once helped reach the NBA Finals.
But as the game unfolded, Arenas was welcomed with a mix of boos and a standing ovation, Young repeatedly hung his head after missed jumpers and Lewis got way too many reminders of what he has been missing since he left the Magic.
And no matter how much emotion the Wizards may have felt entering the game, it couldn't keep them from avoiding their seventh consecutive defeat, 110-92, before 18,940 at Verizon Center.
"Got to put that game behind you, immediately, like right now as we speak," Lewis said after scoring 14 points against his former team. "I think it's good to get that one out of the way, but I came out to win a game; it's just unfortunate we lost."
In his anticipated return to Washington, Arenas came off the bench and had 10 points and six assists, offering a few glimpses of what he once provided during a run with the Wizards that included three all-star appearances and ended sourly before he was dealt on Dec. 18. But the Magic revolves around center Dwight Howard, who dominated the Wizards with 22 points and 15 rebounds, causing so much trouble inside that his teammates were allowed to knock down 12 three-pointers, most of them uncontested.
Young tied Kirk Hinrich with a team-high 17 points, but he had a terrible shooting night, missing 13 of his 20 attempts. Arenas got physical the first time he matched up with Young, shoving him out of position until he missed a bad fallaway. He also talked trash with Young throughout the game, shouting to him from the bench and yapping as Young missed two of three free throws in the fourth quarter as the Wizards (13-36) mounted a futile rally. Young compared the duel to going up against his "big brother" but the little brother still has a lot to learn, as Young also picked up a technical foul after complaining about not getting a call.
"It was tough out there for me. I had a couple of shots that looked great, but it wasn't falling for me and I just couldn't quite get into it. I played kind of poorly," Young said. "I really didn't hear too much when he was talking, while he was on the bench. When he came in, he was being Gil, playing, talking trash, doing what he tries to do best. He think it works, it doesn't. Shots just wasn't falling for me. It was one of them nights."
Arenas disagreed. "I got in Nick's head last week," he said. "He never scores on me. He already knew what was going to happen. I didn't really do anything different than I did in practice. He never scored in practice. I knew he wasn't going to score in the game, and I see [Coach Flip Saunders] was trying to get him involved and was trying to break the little spell I have over him, but not this time."
John Wall had 14 points and five assists but was ejected with 2 minutes 56 seconds remaining after picking up his second technical foul. He earned his first when fought for a rebound with Howard and was called for a foul even as he was shoved to the ground. Moments later, Wall had more to say and didn't realize he was being tossed until Wizards assistant Randy Wittman told him his night was over.
"We was playing good, we was fighting our back and I felt a couple of calls didn't go our way. I felt I had something to say about and I guess the ref didn't like it," Wall said. "I don't really know what to say about it, I don't know what calls rookies are supposed to get. I have to learn to play through it, go through and try to get better."
Fellow rookie Trevor Booker had six points, six rebounds and six blocked shots and gave the fans two reasons to get out of their seats, as he swatted an Arenas layup attempt out of bounds and also sent down a thunderous dunk over Magic reserve Earl Clark. "I saw he was under the basket and I knew it was a wrap for him," said Booker, one of the few Wizards big men to provide much energy for the team.
JaVale McGee (two points, one rebound) offered little to no resistance for Howard inside. The first time Howard got the ball in the post, he spun around McGee for an easy reverse dunk.
McGee's frustration continued throughout the night against Orlando (32-19), especially in the third period, when he appeared powerless while defending Howard. Jameer Nelson (nine points, 11 assists) continued to find Howard for alley-oop dunks and McGee helplessly fouled Howard and cursed to himself whenever Howard established position in the low block.
"It was very disappointing, just because we always play well at home," Andray Blatche said after scoring 10 points. "We always take care of home, and not to get a win after a long road trip losing, put a little more pain onto it."
Arenas leaving the arena with a victory perhaps made it hurt more.