New Wizards Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford, Mike Bibby contribute in game vs. Mavericks
Sunday, February 27, 2011; 1:14 AM
The Washington Wizards on paper had no business being competitive against a team with championship aspirations, but there they stood almost toe-to-toe with the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth quarter Saturday night at Verizon Center. To get to that point, Wizards Coach Flip Saunders relied on his bench and thus the team's three newest members: Maurice Evans, Jordan Crawford and Mike Bibby.
In the guard trio's first home game since arriving in Washington via a trade with Atlanta on Wednesday, each contributed significantly in helping keep matters within reach when it appeared the Mavericks were ready to pull away for good. Underscoring Saunders's instinctive trust in at least one of the club's recent acquisitions, he left in Crawford, a rookie, down the stretch.
Crawford validated his coach's decision by sinking a jumper over Jason Kidd to tie the score with 1 minute 36 seconds to play, and although Dallas escaped, 105-99, before a crowd of 19,203, there was no denying a second straight solid effort against an elite opponent since the roster shakeup.
"I think the influx of players from Atlanta has been refreshing for some of our other players because when things go bad, they don't try to do it themselves," Saunders said. "They try to do it as a team. That's what we have to do. That's why when those guys are in there, they might fall behind, but they work their way back, and they kept on coming back on people."
Crawford led the reserves with 10 points on 5-for-9 shooting. Evans chipped in with five points and three rebounds, and Bibby had two points, four assists and three rebounds.
Bibby's 19 minutes were the most among all the bench players. Crawford played nearly 17 minutes, and Evans was on the floor for 15-plus. That they all factored into the near upset was all the more encouraging for the Wizards considering none has practiced with the team or has been able to learn much if any of its terminology after arriving in a deal that sent veteran guard Kirk Hinrich to the playoff-bound Hawks.
"I take my hat off to [Saunders] for having some trust in us without having any practice, not knowing any plays," said Evans, who is in his eighth NBA season, including stops with Saunders in Minnesota and Detroit. "I take my hat off to the guys in this locker room for playing with us and being with us through all the fumbles and the bad plays. I think right now we're just playing off of pure emotion, just out there playing hard."
Evans was involved in a particularly lively sequence near the end of the third quarter. First he hit a three-pointer off a pass from Bibby to draw Washington to 76-72 with 49 seconds left, and when Shawn Marion was going in for a subsequent layup on a fast break, Evans corralled him from behind.
The takedown concluded with Marion laying on the court and officials issuing a flagrant-one foul. Evans apologized as Marion went to the line for his free throws, both of which were made to end the third-quarter scoring.
After Jason Terry's 20-footer started the final period, Crawford countered with a 19-foot jumper, and soon the Wizards were within four points, 80-76, when rookie center Kevin Seraphin got an eight-foot jump hook to fall.
Evans had his least memorable moment of the night when his three-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer missed everything. He followed that, however, with a fast-break dunk off a pass from Crawford, who had gotten ahead of the pack before passing back to his trailing teammate.
"I'm not all the way comfortable," said Crawford, who last season at this time was playing college basketball for Xavier. "I'm only in my second day. I haven't even practiced yet. I've learned probably about three, four plays, so still got a lot to do."
These past two games are a good start. On Friday in the first game with the Wizards for Crawford, Bibby and Evans, Washington gave Miami, competing for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, all it could handle in a 121-113 loss on the road. Evans had seven points against the Heat.
Then came the effort against Dallas, which is competing with San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference.
"The record don't show it, but the last two games I've been here, they can play," Bibby, in his 13th season, said of his new teammates. "All it is, is they are young. They'll eventually get over the hump, and with that star [John Wall] over there, you can't go wrong with him."