With Guts and Guile, Wizards Start a Streak
Wizards 89, Rockets 87
Tuesday, December 30, 2008; Page E01
HOUSTON, Dec. 29 -- Andray Blatche walked off the court Monday night with his jersey soaked in sweat and his nose dripping blood. Yet he and his Wizards teammates could not have been more pleased after gutting out an 89-87 win over the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center.
Blatche finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists and overcame an accidental elbow to the face from teammate Antawn Jamison that caused him to bleed all over his jersey early in the second half. But his defense on the game's final play helped the Wizards (6-23) earn their first two-game winning streak of the season.
With 7.2 seconds remaining, the Wizards led by two when Houston came out of a timeout, spread the floor with shooters and tried to feed the ball to 7-foot-6 Yao Ming. Yao posted up against Blatche on the right block and received a pass from Shane Battier but missed a seven-foot turnaround hook shot that would have tied the game.
"I was just trying to stay in front of him and play good defense," Blatche said. "Don't go for any head fakes or pump fakes. I just contested that and Dominic [McGuire] came in and got the rebound. That was big."
Jamison led the way with a season-high 30 points and 12 rebounds, four Wizards scored in double figures and Washington led for most of the game.
Not only did the Wizards earn their most impressive win of the season (the Rockets dropped to 20-12) but they have won two in a row without two-time all-star forward Caron Butler, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle.
Butler injured the ankle during the first quarter of Thursday's loss at Cleveland but played through it. However, the ankle swelled up by Friday morning and he's been trying to get it right ever since.
Butler didn't practice Sunday but did some shooting during Monday's morning shoot-around before trying to get it loose right before the game. Ultimately, Butler and the team athletic training staff decided to have him sit out.
"He said he wants to go but I advised him not to be a hero," interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "You don't want to turn a two- or three-game thing into a 10-game thing. If it's good, fine. If not, then get it healthy."
Nick Young made his second straight start at shooting guard in place of Butler and finished with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
The Wizards led 72-62 at the start of the fourth but Houston trimmed the advantage to 74-71 on a three-pointer by Ron Artest with 9 minutes 40 seconds to play and soon tied the score on a three-pointer by Brent Barry.