I got a text message from a good friend during Tuesday’s Wizards-Sixers game: “#4 is playing his a** off” — The message really came with the asterisks, he doesn’t like to cuss.
The text made me take pause. I clearly noticed Antawn Jamison’s hustle swag, but it took the words for me to fully digest the amount of playing emotion coming from the team leader. The game meant something to Jamison, and his passion dwarfed that of his teammates by far.
The dedication of The Gentleman Jamison helped overcome the fact that his team almost gave the game away, which fueled by the carelessness of Gilbert Arenas.
With 5:30 left in the game, after a Sam Dalembert bucket, Arenas tried to make a casual pass up the court to Earl Boykins … with Jrue Holiday RIGHT in the passing lane. Holiday got the easy steal, brought the ball up the court and hit a three in Arenas’ face. Five quick Philly points, 98-92 Wizards.
One minute later, Gilbert tried to drive the lane in heavy traffic. Holiday stripped him of the ball; a clean play contrary to Steve Buckhantz’s proclamation that Arenas got “clobbered.” Guess who was allowed to get a rebound tip bucket on the Sixers’ fast break … Jrue Holiday. 98-94 Wizards.
Around another minute later, the Wizards became witnesses as Philly was able to get two offensive rebounds that resulted in a Lou Williams three pointer, the ease of which was contributed to by a lack of defensive urgency from Arenas.
The final insult to the attempt to pay tribute to Abe Pollin came with 30 seconds left when Arenas tried to split two defenders and lost the ball. Down one, the Sixers would get a chance … which became the final chance of the game as a result of Brendan Haywood’s ill-advised reach foul with eleven seconds left, resetting the shot clock.
The Wizards escaped with a win. Some said Lou Williams’ missed shot was due to interference from the spirit of Abe Pollin. Brendan Haywood called it good defense. But from my end, it was sheer luck.
A needed win on a special night of memory was nice, but this team has a long way to go. Michael Wilbon, in a great column in today’s Washington Post, suggests that it could take weeks and not days to put it together. And unfortunately he’s right. The lost Wizards do need some direction. The question is, from where will that come?
The first thing Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison realized Tuesday night after he carried his team to a 108-107 victory against the Philadelphia 76ers was that he never would hear Abe Pollin’s voice after a victory again.
Jamison went out and honored Pollin’s memory the only way he knew how — by scoring a season-high 32 points with 14 rebounds and helping the Wizards snap a two-game losing streak before 14,485. Nick Young, starting in place of injured shooting guard Mike Miller (strained right calf), scored 20 points, mixing pull-up jumpers with whirling layups and receiving loud applause when we went to the bench late in the third quarter.
It’ll be a tough next few days for the Wizards, but they’ll get back to practice tomorrow and try their best to build on this win and continue to find ways to improve their consistency, which still was lacking at times tonight, particularly in the fourth quarter, when Philly outscored them 32-23.
But tonight, the Wizards were willing to take it any way they could get it, because tonight was all about winning for Abe.
Washington’s ball movement was good enough in this close win. The team didn’t exactly break through any self-inflicted barriers on either side of the ball in its 13th game, but it did pull a win. Good enough.
After two quarters of uninspiring basketball, the Wizards trailed the 76ers by one at the half before opening the third stanza with a 20-10 run. Jamison, with eight offensive rebounds on the night, stayed active in the paint and highlighted Washington’s 40-point third with 17 of his own.
In a week where the Wizards have been distracted by team chemistry issues, it had to be that much harder for the club to focus after the passing of team owner Abe Pollin this afternoon. That lack of focus almost cost the Wizards the game Tuesday night as the club nearly let a 15 point lead slip away as they held on to escape with a 109-108 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
After the game both Louis and Eddie Jordan claimed the 20-foot GW FGA that Louis put up was the shot “we wanted” — Really? C’mon, talk about NBA speak and backing up your players. You have to get into the paint on that play and get a closer, higher percentage look so that if the ball doesn’t go in, you have a strong chance of going to the FT line. That’s NBA 101. We know Louis had been hot all night and he had just hit a shot from almost the exact same spot, but we also know that Louis had slashed into the lane all night for easy buckets. Why didn’t he go to the tin in this situation?
Now, you could make a pretty decent argument that Lou had earned the right to take the final shot, after shooting 10-16 and 4-6 from deep over the course of the game in a generally extremely impressive offensive performance. But I’m sorry Lou, you’re not Dirk Nowitzki–you don’t have nearly the skill or the reps yet to justify trying to create a game-winning long-distance shot off the dribble, even against an underqualified defender like Gilbert Arenas. Say what you will about Andre Iguodala’s shooting recently–and I’m going to say a fair bit in a minute–but I’d still rather have the ball in ‘Dre’s hands with ten seconds left, because a) He’s done it before, and b) He’s probably going to at least make a relatively smart decision as to what to do with it. Sweet Lou may have scored 26 points last night, but as soon as I saw him gearing up for the final shot, I knew we were pretty well cooked.
Sixers fans have been screaming “FREE JRUE” since training camp, to no avail. Tonight, down 11 with 10 minutes to go, Eddie Jordan finally played rookie instead of making his usual Royal Ivey substitution. (The equivalent of the white flag.) Much like the last game Jrue played, he came in with a quick trigger finger, doing everything in his power to prove that he deserves more minutes. However; unlike the Memphis game, Jrue’s shots were falling, which led to good defense, which led to good rebounding, which forced Jordan to leave him in for more than 4 minutes. The result? A ferocious comeback fueled by the rookie. The comeback feel just short when Lou Williams’ potential buzzer-beater rimmed out, but that doesn’t take anything away from the “Holiday goodness” we saw during the final 10 minutes.