So I mistakenly published a post before last night’s game that I’d already prepared about Andray Blatche versus Kevin Garnett without first finding out that Garnett was to sit out against the Wizards. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Shaquille O’Neal also joined Andray’s sort-of rival in not taking the court, a rivalry which Andray now gladly plays down.
But the game without Boston’s stars and Washington’s “veterans” (Nick Young, Rashard Lewis and Josh Howard) wasn’t exactly meaningless. Combined with a Miami Heat win over the Atlanta Hawks, Boston’s 95-94 overtime loss to the Wizards means they will finish third in the East with a match-up against the New York Knicks awaiting in the playoffs. Miami will face the seven-seed Philadelphia 76ers. On the other hand, all of the teams Washington’s draft lottery combination odds needed to win last night ended up losing. At 23-58 with one game left Wednesday at Cleveland, the Wizards now sit softy with the fourth worst record in the NBA, a game better than the Toronto Raptors and a game worse than each the Sacramento Kings and the New Jersey Nets, who both sit tied for the fifth worst record at 24-57.
“You always have people saying, ‘you’re winning games, you’re losing lottery balls,’ but I guess last year we showed it really didn’t matter where you are,” said Flip Saunders last night after the game. The coach relayed that he’d rather see his team learn the lesson of making a six-point comeback with less than a minute left in regulation than worry about down-the-road chances. And with that, I’d have to agree, especially if it means a disappointing departure for the Celtics fans that infiltrated the Verizon Center.
Waiting for Saunders at his post-game press conference, many members of the media scoffed at the idea of Washington’s win being entertaining. Flip himself called it a “grinder.” But if you like big missed dunks (thanks to Von Wafer), rookie No. 1 overall draft picks knocking down three crucial free-throws in a row (thanks to John Wall’s calmness that brought the Wizards within 83-82 with 21 seconds left in regulation), and a lottery-bound team making a six point comeback on playoff-bound reserves, amongst other notable occurrences, then the game was for you. If you like the nuance of a physical affair, played more like a meaningful game rather than with completely careless unfamiliarity, then you might be a basketball fan. All the stars need not be aligned, or around, to form a basketball game worthy of enjoyment in the season’s home finale. Wall and his team came through for the D.C. fans.
And without Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche found all he could handle in a Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Both players went face-to-face and belly-to-belly in an overall physical match-up that involved the two teams combining to commit 56 fouls and to score 53 of the game’s 189 points from the free-throw line. Let’s go to the pictures from this grind-it-out affair.
Blatche vs. Big Baby
Big Baby after hearing sideline heckling from Miles Rawls.
“If you cry, what are the babies going to do?,” Rawls yelled.
Big Baby vs. Baby McGee.
Jermaine O’Neal clobbers John Wall on a drive to the hoop.
Nenad Kristic draws a predictable charge on JaVale McGee.
O. Jeffers doing his thing.
Jeffers working to frustrate Jeff Green with contact defense.
The angle of John Wall’s speed burst.
Wall sticks his nose in fray in going after a loose ball against Troy Murphy.
Baby stiff-arms Yi.
Yi vs. Jermaine O’Neal.
The Big Baby Point.