Whew! That took a while. The Wizards (1-5) finally got their first win of the season Sunday in Atlanta against the pesky young Hawks by a final score of 101-90. It was also Washington's first complete game of the season and showed that sharing is one of those important lifelong values that doesn't become insignificant when you leave the playground.
All four starters cracked double digits in scoring, Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison both notched double doubles, but the stat of the night was the Wizards' season-high 26 assists. Who knew it was ok, and sometimes even the smart thing to do, to pass up a 1-on-5 three-pointer in favor of a bounce pass to a cutting Caron Butler or to kick it out of the double-team to a wide open DeShawn Stevenson on the wing? Well, now the Wizards know...we hope. Until Agent Zero gets back to 100%, the best thing he can do for his team is to draw defenders and find the open man. At 20.3 ppg, Gil still leads the team in scoring, but his 35.6% from the field isn't cutting it. Based on Sunday's showing - he tallied a season-high 8 assists - it appears Arenas is finally finding other ways to help this team win.
The Wiz shot a season-high 43.2% from the field and connected on 20-of-25 free throws in the game.
Wednesday night, the Wiz get their chance to keep a good thing going when the Indiana Pacers (3-3) visit the nation's capital. In their first meeting - the season opener for both teams - a Jermaine O'Neal-less Indiana squad blitzed the Wiz in overtime en route to a 119-110 win. Mike Dunleavy abused the defense for 25 points and 12 boards and Jamaal Tinsley and Danny Granger both scored 20. The keys to that loss were Washington's inability to stop Tinsley's penetration (8 assists), their failure to defend the three (the Pacers hit 13), and their own offensive foibles (36.4% shooting).
The good news is the Wizards finally figured out how to put the biscuit in the basket Sunday in Atlanta and they should continue to shoot at least a respectable percentage against a Pacers' D that's giving up 102.9 points per game. The bad news is that O'Neal is back and he's averaging 13.2 and 8 through six games.
- Jamaal Tinsley v. DeShawn Stevenson - In their first match-up, Tinsley routinely broke down his defender and found room in the lane to get off his own shot or find an open teammate on the perimeter. Because of Stevenson's offensive ineffectiveness, Eddie Jordan went with Antonio Daniels for most of the second half and the extra period. While Daniels provides more of an offensive burst, Stevenson is the team's only real perimeter defender. With the two-guard finding his rhythm on the offensive end again - he scored 11 on 4-of-6 shooting against the Hawks (including an important three late in the third) - look for Jordan to trust Stevenson to limit Tinsley's effectiveness. If he can do that and drop in a couple of open threes, the Wiz have a good shot in this one.
Prediction - With their next seven opponents boasting a combined 12-27 record, the Wiz need to put up W's to get back in the hunt in the Southeast. Orlando (5-2) leads the division. I'll take Washington by 7 to start a 2-game win streak.-- The Tar Heel