Saturday, December 15, 2007

Week 15: Redskins vs Giants

Last week's win against the Bears defied my expectations for this team, especially after the loss of Jason Campbell and the introduction of long time backup Todd Collins. The Skins performance was admirable but let’s not confuse the forest for the trees. The forest that is the Redskins is a 6-7 team struggling to claw their way into the playoffs, starting a back-up quarterback and playing against a very physically talented receiver in Plaxico Burress. Neither the Redskins nor the Giants are the same team that matched-up in week three and while the Redskins have been devastated by injuries, the Giants have grown stronger and more confident. I never trust the lesser Manning to get things done, but the Giants defensive line is a force to be reckoned with and could easily reach double digit sacks against the Redskins hodgepodge O-line. The Redskins will struggle to put up points and with a depleted secondary will give up big plays to either Burress or Shockey.

The Bears defense is not what is has been in past years and Collins' ability to read their coverage and execute will not be the same against this Giants team that is more experienced and much more formidable at the front of attack. Collins will have less time to make his selections and get rid of the ball and will have to utilize TE Chris Cooley as his main offense weapon to sustain drives and get into Giants territory.
It was disappointing after Campbell went down that running back Clinton Portis did not answer the call and step up his game. Portis finished with 17 carries and only 36 yards. Portis did turn a screen pass into a 54 yard pick up but his value has to be downhill, running the football. His strength lies in getting to the second level of a defense, opening up space and making people miss tackles. These are all things he has shown flashes of this year, but nothing more than glimpses of his past talent. Blame is shared with the offensive line, but as a squad they have been getting better and I don't see Portis making the same strides to work within their strengths and abilities. The Redskins have offensive playmakers. Sunday's question will be whether Collins can get them involved and get them into open space allowing their athleticism to take over.

Defensively, the Skins have been playing better. This squad is as unpredictable as the rest of the team but showed good signs last week from Shawn Springs. He still got beat on the touchdown to Berrian but had two INTs on good position plays. However, in addition to the defensive backs the linebackers will have to increase their role in coverage. The Skins routinely get destroyed by good tight ends and even though he is questionable, Jeremy Shockey will play in the game and could hurt the Skins. As a whole unit, coverage will be paramount while still containing the man-child of Brandon Jacobs. The Giants have the most offensive weapons the Skins have faced since Dallas, and the defense will have to be one step ahead on every play in order for the team to have a hope of winning.

This is a very important game on both sides. The Skins need it to stay in the playoff hunt, especially since the Giants are ahead of them in the charts and in tiebreaking categories at this point. The Giants need this win to dagger the clawing Redskins and quash doubts about their inconsistencies. Bottom line, the Skins struggle to win back-to-back games and are 2-4 on the road this year. I don't see good things happening on their trip to the Meadowlands.
Redskins 13, Giants 27
-The Hokie

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Kolzig's Rough Night: Caps lose 5-3

Capitals 3, Sabres 5

Going into this season a lot of things would have to had to have gone right for the Capitals to earn one of the Eastern Conference's eight playoffs spots; one of them was that Olaf Kolzig needed to steal some games for the team. So far this hasn't happened this season and last night against Buffalo Kolzig cost his team the game. Of the five goals the Sabres scored last night one was an empty netter and three were ones Kolzig should have had.

The Sabres first goal was the most frustrating because it was not only a physical mistake but a mental one. Physical mistakes like flubbed passes, missed rebounds or stumbling on the ice will happen to anyone sooner or later, and can only be helped so much. But there are no excuses for mental errors. Especially when you're a 37-year-old veteran who's supposed to be a leader on a young team, and Kolzig's mistake was a big one. Coming out to play the puck was not the problem; in fact it was probably the right decision. But the way he chose to play it was downright stupid. As a netminder, if you're going to play the puck you need to slide your blocker hand up to the top of the stick and play it like any other skater (for example), you cannot slap at it with the backhand like Kolzig did. I learned this within the first few months of playing goalie as a nine-year-old, just from common sense (rather than a coach) so I'm sure Kolzig knows better, and of course the end result of his bad decision was as bad as it gets. Kolzig was out of the net and put the puck right on Roy's stick. The only way he could have made things easier would have been if he'd picked the puck up and dropped it into his own net.

The second goal wasn't entirely Kozlig's fault (it rarely is when you have a guy like Maxim Afinogenov bearing down on you), but he should have had that particular puck. Yes, Mike Green tipped the puck and it probably threw Olie off a bit, but it didn't take a weird bounce or anything like that - it slid by Olie's leg on the ice and Kolzig needs to have the bottom portion of the net taken away so that a puck like that doesn't get in.

The Sabres' third goal (from Drew Stafford) was another than was Kolzig's fault. Behind the net is not generally a high-scoring area and it's not a priority for defensive players compared to the slot, the corner or the point because scoring opportunities don't come from behind the net very often unless the player is allowed to move through the area very quickly (or is Wayne Gretzky). Stafford was not moving particularly fast, didn't wheel his way into the slot and didn't get off a particularly good shot. Simply put, there's no reason that puck should have wound up in the Capitals net.

This isn't the first game Kolzig's had like this in the 2007-08 season. While he's been good on some nights and made some great saves, far too many shots have slipped under Kolzig's legs or through the five-hole. Save percentage is not a perfect indicator of a goaltender's ability and with the relatively inexperienced defense Kolzig probably faces tougher shots than the average netminder. That said, after last night's game Kolzig's save percentage is .896. Among qualified leaders the median is .907, and Kolzig ranks 34th out of 43 goalies who qualify. This is simply not getting the job done.

Even during his prime, Kolzig was not as good as he was often given credit for. I've always felt that, even at his best, many of Kolzig's goaltending attributes were average or slightly above average - his lateral movement, reflexes and ability to make the most difficult saves. None of this is surprising for a positional goalie, and as far as positional goalies go Kolzig was one of the best: huge, good on his angles, technically sound and great positionally. Given this, Kolzig was perfect for the Capitals in the 90's, when the Caps were a sound defensive team. With the rest of the team allowing very few shots Kolzig could play the angles, control rebounds and be very successful. Recently Kolzig has become vulnerable with a young team in front of him, especially in the post-lockout NHL because of his style of play.

What is comes down to at this point is: right now, Kolzig is a mediocre NHL goalie. I've been holding off on saying that, but the fact it is it's true. Since the lockout Kozlig's has a .902 save percentage and only two shutouts; this season he's had as many games (8) with a save percentage of .880 or worse as he's had with a save percentage of .910 or better. Since his last solid game on November 28th against Florida, Kolzig has stopped only 85.8% of shots against him.

Recently the Ducks put Ilya Bryzgalov on waivers, causing a debate to crop up amongst Capitals fans about whether the team should place a claim on him to replace Brent Johnson as the backup (I thought yes; others disagreed). Bryzgalov went on to be claimed by the Phoenix Coyotes, where he posted a .921 save percentage. Hindsight is of course 20/20, but perhaps the Capitals would have been well served to pluck Bryzgalov from the waiver wire to be their starter (or at least for a platoon role).

I appreciate all that Kolzig's done for the franchise over the years both on and off the ice and he will deservingly go down as one of the best to ever wear a Capitals uniform and will see his his number raised to the rafters. But this Capitals team isn't good enough to make the kind of run it needs to with a sub-par starting goaltender. If the Caps want to challenge for a playoff spot Kolzig is going to need to significantly step up his play.

Aside of Kolzig the team played decent, but not great. On the plus side the Caps put good pressure on the Sabres for the most part and moved the puck well in the offensive zone, especially on the powerplay. On the negative side the team struggled to get the puck out of their zone too often, let a man open in front to score the Sabres fourth goal and were called for six minor penalties, including one for too many men.

As frustrated as I was with Friday's loss, the Capitals had a very successful homestand, winning three of four from difficult opponents, getting their offense going, showing they can win close games and, perhaps most importantly, playing with confidence. It would be hard to overestimate the effect of the newfound confidence for the players - earlier in the season they would have folded in each of the last four games and picked up two points if they were lucky.

With that in mind, the Capitals play Saturday against Tampa Bay, a team they should beat. If they can do so they could be a little as six points out of a playoff spot and seven points out of the division lead. As we've seen, it could be much worse.


"It was a rookie mistake and was inexcusable with a minute left, especially with a one-goal lead and playing pretty good."
-Kolzig on his play that led to the Sabres first goal.
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Why the Wizards are Winning Without Agent Zero

Could it be that the Wiz are actually better off without their superstar? Their 9-5 record since Gil went back under the knife would seem to confirm that theory. The question of why they are back over .500 at 12-10 is much more intriguing, however. I've got my own ideas - The Battle of the Beards, the Gold Unis, the Bean Burrito, etc. - but NBA blogger Kelly Dwyer's got a few interesting thoughts of her own.

1. The Ewing Theory is absolute bollocks
2. Butler and Jamison are in their primes
3. DeShawn Stevenson can't shoot, but he can make threes
4. Brendan Haywood is playing
5. The defense. It's...not amongst the league's worst

All valid reasons...but I'm still going with the beards...

-- The Tar Heel
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Stevenson Drops 26 on Lukewarm Heat

There’s something magical about beards. Rip Van Winkle, ZZ Top, Stanley Cup Playoff beards, Merlin… Now you can add DeShawn Stevenson to that list of Grizzly Adams protégés. Thursday night in South Beach, Washington’s scratchy-faced shooting guard exploded for a season-high 26 points on 8-15 shooting to help the Wiz knock off the floundering Heat 104-91. Stevenson nailed six three-pointers as the Wizards shook off D-Wade and the Diesel to pick up their first win at American Airlines Arena in their last 11 trips to Miami.

Washington (12-10) sprinted out to a 28-16 first quarter lead behind 10 straight points from Stevenson in just over one minute. The Wizards led 59-49 at the break and despite their usual second half lapse – this one came midway through the fourth – controlled the game from tip-off to the final horn. For the third straight contest, five Wizards scored in double-figures as
Caron Butler (19), Antawn Jamison (16), Brendan Haywood (12) and Antonio Daniels (11) all pitched in on the offensive end. The suddenly sizzling Roger Mason Jr. and Andray Blatche each chipped in eight and played. Mason played 20 minutes while Blatche was on the floor for 13.

Shaquille O’Neal, limited by foul trouble in the first half, managed just seven points on 3-of-6 shooting and Dwyane Wade – who entered the game averaging over 30 in his previous three – was held to 17 on 5-of-11 from the field. Udonis Haslem scored 19 and pulled down 11 boards but it was former Notre Dame stand-out Chris Quinn who prevented the game from spiraling into a rout. The undrafted free agent scored a career-high 22 on 7-of-13 shooting including 6-for-10 from distance. His triple with 3:44 left pulled the Heat (6-16) within nine at 96-87, but they would never get within striking distance.


“It definitely feels good to get a win down here. It’s been so long and they’ve owned us for so long, it’s one of those things that’s good for you mentally.”Brendan Haywood on finally winning in Miami. Haywood and sidelined teammate
Etan Thomas had been the only two current Wizards to have won at American Airlines Arena as Wizards.

  • When the Wizards crash the boards they win. When they don’t, they come up short. It’s just that simple. Washington won the battle of the boards 48-36 and owned the offensive glass, pulling down 14 compared to Miami’s seven. Jamison, who notched yet another double-double led the way with 16 while Haywood and Butler each grabbed 10.

  • Rookie Nick Young rode the pine pony all night in Miami. After playing more than 18 minutes against Cleveland and Phoenix a week ago, the flashy scorer has been used sparingly of late. He tallied only four minutes against Minnesota on Tuesday and six Sunday against New Jersey before sitting out Thursday night. There’s no indication of an injury so it appears the publicized prankster may have recently fallen out of favor with Eddie Jordan. Young had been posting solid contributions off the bench and he will likely re-emerge as a key offensive spark-plug when the Wizards need him. As for now it appears Jordan is leaning heavily on his veterans. (Fellow rookie Dominic McGuire saw two minutes of action against the Heat.)

  • Forward Darius Songaila, returning from a mild left ankle sprain, fell awkwardly after driving to the hoop in the fourth quarter. He appeared to re-injure the same ankle and did not return. Songaila scored four points in 10 minutes.

  • No Gilbert, no problem? TNT color commentator and future Hall-of-Famer Reggie Miller repeatedly noted the Wizards’ improved ball movement and balanced scoring since Gilbert Arenas re-injured his surgically repaired knee one month ago. And so far, so good. After stumbling to a 3-5 record out of the gate with Hibachi, the Wiz have gone 9-5 without him, restoring respectability and reclaiming second place in the Southeast behind Orlando (16-7).

  • In case you're curious about why DeShawn's chin has become one giant tuft of turf, check out Dan Steinberg's explanation of Stevenson's bet with fellow hairy-baller Drew Gooden of the Cleveland Cavaliers on the DC Sports Bog. Looks like Drew might be leading this contest by a hair.

Up Next

Washington hosts the deplorable Sacramento Kings on Saturday night at Verizon Center. Ron Artest and the rest of the purple-clad Kings (8-13) have struggled to find consistency this season and the loss of budding star Kevin Martin has really damaged their prospects for the season. The 6-foot-7 shooting guard was averaging 24.5 points and 4.9 boards through 17 games before straining his groin on December 4. Sacramento - already short-handed with guard Mike Bibby yet to play a game this season with a broken thumb and forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim recently shelved for the season after right knee surgery - has dropped three of four in his Martin’s absence.

-- The Tar Heel

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wiz Try to Keep Up the Sizzle in South Beach (Fo Shizzle)

The Wizards head down to South Beach tonight to take on the reeling Miami Heat. Since Dwyane Wade’s return to the lineup, the Heat (6-15) have put together a few decent wins, including back-to-back victories at the Clippers and Suns, but they’re still tied with the Knicks for the worst record in the East. Shaquille O’Neal is managing just 14.6 points per game – a career low – and the Heat are getting very little from their supporting cast.

Wade leads the team with 22 points per contest and
Ricky Davis is putting up 15 (on his 30+ shots per game), but after Shaq and Udonis Haslem (13 ppg), the Heat don’t have reliable scoring options. They are improving of late as D-Wade has 30 or more in each of his last three so the Wizards(11-10) will need to score like they have been over the last six games to snatch their first win in Miami since April 2003.

Key Match-Up

  • Antawn Jamison v. Udonis Haslem – AJ has been a complete monster all season, but his production has been incredibly consistent over the past month. He’s averaging 23 and 11 in Washington’s last 10 games and has recorded double-doubles in 11 of 13 contests. At 6-foot-8, Udonis Haslem is a tough defensive match-up for the former UNC All-America and the two will scrap all night for rebounds as Haslem looks to tally his nine-board season average. If AJ continues to connect on his silky smooth runners, flip-shots and put-backs, he’ll easily overmatch the former Gator. But if Haslem can disrupt Jamison’s offensive flow with physical play, the Heat will take this one.


  • Darius Songaila returns to action tonight after sitting out Tuesday’s game with a mild left ankle sprain suffered Sunday against New Jersey. The Wiz will be happy to have his big body to help clog up the middle and the extra fouls he can give up on the Diesel.

  • Roger Mason Jr. kept up his hot streak against the T-Wolves on Tuesday. The Virginia/Good Counsel product poured in 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting including 2-for-4 from three-point range. With 12.8 points and just four turnovers in the last five games, Mason is becoming a very reliable scoring option off the bench for Eddie Jordan.


The Wizards did exactly what they needed to do to beat a bad Minnesota team Tuesday. Caron Butler (20) and Jamsion (22) got their usual scoring totals, the rest of the starting five cracked double-figures for the second-straight game, the Wiz got key contributions of the bench from Mason and they won the battle of the boards handily, 57-35. It won’t be that easy tonight in Miami, but the Wizards need to stick to their guns. If they spread the ball around the floor to find open shooters, continue to crash the boards hard and get to the free throw line, they should win this one. The Heat are playing better but they remain a far cry from the team that won it all two years ago. Washington needs to get over its thermaphobia and beat the Heat. It’s going to be close but I like Caron, AJ and the boys to snap that eight-game losing streak with a 98-94 victory.

-- The Tar Heel

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Wizards, Wolves to Tangle Tonight

The Minnesota Timberwolves arrive in Washington today sporting the worst record in the NBA at 3-15. They’re 23rd in the league in scoring (93.27 points per game) and are second-last in scoring differential (-8.33). The T-Wolves are young, inexperienced and suffering from a serious case of KG withdrawal. But in spite of their status as the only team left with fewer than five wins, Minnesota can still claim one positive distinction the Wizards cannot. They beat the Suns.

Just one night after Phoenix (16-6) trounced the Wiz by 15 at Verizon Center, Minnesota shocked the league’s hottest team with a 100-93 win at home. Behind a monstrous 32-point, 20-rebound performance from Celtics send-off Al Jefferson, the Wolves held the NBA’s highest scoring offense below the century mark for just the fourth time this season. Jefferson, who was shipped to Kevin McHale’s sorry excuse for a franchise (along with Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and a bubbling pot of chowdah) in exchange for Kevin Garnett before the season, became the only other player in franchise history - the former MVP being the other – to notch a 30-20 game.

Meanwhile, the Wiz are coming off a solid
104-89 win against the Nets on Saturday night. Tuesday’s game is the last in a season-long five game home-stretch for Washington. They’ve gone 3-1 with the lone loss coming on Friday to Phoenix.

Key Match-Up

Brendan Haywood v. Jefferson – No, Haywood is not going to shutdown the Wolves leading scorer. Yes, Jefferson, in all likelihood, will reach his 20-point season average. And yes, he’ll probably tally his 14th double-double of the year. But Haywood, along with teammates Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche, can make a difference on the boards. Rebounding has been a tell-tale sign of the Wizards success all season. When they win the battle of the boards, they come out on top. When they don’t, they lose. Both teams rely heavily on jump-shooting, which means lots of long rebounds. If Brendan and the bigs can pull down the lion’s share, Washington should win this one easily.

Round 2
The Wizards
traveled to Minnesota on November 16 and won 105-89 with 29 points from Caron Butler and 27 from Gilbert Arenas. They shot 52 percent from the field, out-rebounded the Wolves by four and tallied 20 assists. Washington used a 34-point fourth quarter to put the game away as the Wiz won for the first time in eight trips to the Twin Cities.


  • Forward Darius Songaila left Sunday’s game with a mild left ankle sprain. In 15 minutes before leaving the court, Songaila chipped in 11 big points and six boards. He did not practice Monday and will be a game-time decision. Songaila is averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 boards in 19 minutes per game.
  • With Songaila out, the Wizards injury-depleted roster could not even field a full five-on-five practice Monday. Instead of running full court scrimmages, Eddie Jordan has his team run 3-on-3-on-3 drills. Afterwards, the Wizards held a five-on-four shooting contest in which “Big Money” (Butler, Jamison, Haywood and Antonio Daniels) took on “Little Money” (the rest of the five healthy bodies). For more on why the Wiz are still the most entertaining group of guys – even without the goofiest of them all (Arenas) – check out Dan Steinberg’s D.C. Sports Bog from today.

  • Veteran role player Roger Mason Jr. has been on a tear of late. The UVA product is averaging 12.6 (repeating of course) points in his last three on 15-of-29 shooting. Mason, who typically lurks around the perimeter for a chance to get off his long-range jumper, scored nine points against the Nets on Sunday in 20 minutes of action. He’s averaging 4.6 points in 12.6 minutes per game for the season.


The Wolves have five players averaging double figures and eight averaging at least eight points per game. But they still don’t have near enough offensive firepower to match Butler and Jamison – both averaging more than 21 points per game. Minnesota can light it up from the perimeter with Rashad McCants, Marko Jaric and the increasingly wide Antoine Walker, but Washington’s up-tempo attack will again give them fits. Wizards take it 106-92.

-- The Tar Heel

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Nationals Sign LoDuca

Pending a physical, the Washington Nationals starting catcher next year will be Paul LoDuca, formerly of the New York Mets. The terms at this point are for one year and represent a very solid addition behind the plate. LoDuca is a more than adequate starting catcher while Jesus Flores is groomed for the big leagues, and even though teams can and will run on his arm, he works very well with a pitching staff. He has given very ordinary pitchers career years, most notably Carl Pavano, while he was with the Marlins, and Eric Gagne, while they both played for the Dodgers.
It's not the best addition to the team they've made this off-season, but as he is the best option still available on the market, I am glad they moved on the deal. His offense isn't anywhere near where it was a few years ago, when he was a legitimate doubles hitter, but to look at this deal in the scope of the overall winter meetings it strengthens the team.
LoDuca and Schneider were very similar players in 2007. Schneider was a little bit better defensively, but LoDuca was a little bit better offensively. In essence, as the signing of LoDuca balances out the loss of Schneider, this turns the Lastings Milledge trade into a one-on-one swap for Ryan Church, which we have already determined was a smart move. The team got younger, stronger and has more potential for future greatness with Milledge in center than it did with Church.
What this deal also shows is the increasing influence of head coach Manny Acta. With other suitors in the mix for LoDuca's services, it must have surely been Acta's ties to LoDuca while working for the Mets that drew him to Washington. We saw the confidence a younger player like Milledge showed at the possibility to work under Acta and it is refreshing that veteran players respect his coaching style as well. Organizations work best when all people are on the same page and it seems that from the front office down to the coaching staff the Nationals have a plan they are all willing to follow. If their plan is the best plan to produce a winning ball club... that has yet to be seen, but I will never argue with our team as long as they are committed to getting better.
This lack of commitment is what I hate about Baltimore's Peter Angelos, whose inaction saw our beloved Orioles get systematically dismantled and go from a powerhouse franchise into a basement dweller.

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Caps Over Devils 3-2 at Verizon Center

Capitals 3, Devils 2

Before I get into the game recap, I'd like to look at what was the most exciting part of the night (other than the final buzzer) for me: Quintin Laing's first NHL goal.

For those who may not know, Laing is 28 years old and prior to joining the Caps this year had played three NHL games, all in the 2003-04 season with Chicago. Laing has been playing professionally since 2000 in places like Jackson, Mississippi, Norfolk and Hershey. He's blocked nine shots in his first four games with the Caps, twice blocking four. He grinds, he works, he hits, he gives up the body and now, at age 28 and after more than six full seasons in the pros, he is an NHL goal scorer. The fact that his goal was the game winner makes it even sweeter.

Just three days after being beaten by a goal in Newark, and called out by their coach, the Capitals returned the favor on home ice behind goals by Nicklas Backstrom, Jeff Schultz and Laing.

The Capitals were solid in the first, dominant in the second and came out looking like crap in the third. While there are no excuses for coming out as disorganized as the Capitals did in that period, it looks worse than it was because of the fact that Olaf Kolzig let in a goal he simply shouldn't have. It was a decent play by David Clarkson to win the puck behind the net, pull down the Capitals defenseman (either Schultz or Shaone Morrisonn) without being noticed by the officials and put the puck on net, but Kolzig has to have that puck. Period.

I think it's worth noting what helped the Caps get back on track: a great shift by Bradley, Laing and David Steckel. That's exactly what you want your third/fourth/checking line to do - go out and create momentum for your team and keep the puck away from the opposition when they seem like they've got things going.

Next up: Rangers, in D.C., on Friday.

DMG's 3 Stars
Quintin Laing - 1 goal (the game winner), +1
(2) Nicklas Backstrom - 1 goal, +1
(3) John Erskine - 2 assists

Quick Hits

  • Man, does Nicklas Backstrom ever have some poise with the puck in front of the net.
  • Milan Jurcina had six hits; Schultz had three for the second game in a row (Ovechkin had five; Brash had three)
  • Whether or not the play at the end of the first should have been reviewed to see whether the Caps should have had a goal is debatable, and that debate took away from something important on the play: Tomas Fleischmann going hard to the front of the net and digging around. Look like Fleischmann may be realizing that, despite his successes in the AHL, he isn't skilled enough to get by on skill alone at the NHL level.
  • Is it wrong that as soon as Craig Laughlin said "to me, that's not a kick", suggesting the Devils goal would stand I thought 'Oh, good, this is getting waived off'? Seriously, Laughlin has be awful this year at predicting when goals would be called off/allowed to stand. But then this is also the same guy who tonight said "getting that shot [from the point] through is a skill and the Caps' young defensemen have been able to do it all season long".
  • Tough guy, that David Clarkson. Wouldn't go with Brashear off the draw early in their shifts about five minutes into the third but had no problem shoving Brash in the back after the whistle at the end of the shift.
  • Brian Pothier was scratched again - no surprise with how this lineup played against Atlanta a few days ago.
  • With his goal tonight Jeff Schultz leads the team with a 27.2 shooting percentage. Just sayin'...
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Wiz Get Blown Out, Rebound v. Listless Nets

The Wizards ran into a white-hot buzz-saw Friday night and got to see just how well a talented team can play when they unselfish basketball. Six Suns scored in double-figures as Amare Stoudemire led the way with 27 points on a ridiculous 12-of-14 from the floor (granted most of his shots are dunks anyway) in a 122-107 blowout in the district. But the most impressive stat of the night was 42 thrown up in the Phoenix assist column. The Suns (16-6) made 50 shots and only eight of those didn't come off of a dish! That's ridiculous, you say! That's great team basketball.

Washington bounced back from their dismal effort with an impressive 104-89 win against a frustrated Jason Kidd and his New Jersey Nets. Amid much speculation about Kidd's increasing displeasure with the Nets front office over a new contract and his rumored desire to be traded to Cleveland, the 34-year-old point guard sat out New Jersey's game against the New York Knicks last week citing a migraine. He returned to face the Wiz and posted his fifth triple-double of the season (13 points, 10 boards and 13 assists) but it wasn't enough to overcome another stellar effort from Washington's big two and significant contributions from the rest of the team.

Caron Butler scored 28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, Antawn Jamison had 22 and 10 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double and four other Wizards scored in double figures. Washington shot just 41.3 percent from the field compared to New Jersey's 48.6 percent, but hit 34-of-36 free throws (94 percent). The Nets attempted only 16 free throws.

It was the third time this season that all five Wizards starters cracked double digits in scoring and Washington is 3-1 on its season-long five-game homestand.


"During this homestand, really, we want to defend our home. We have a great opportunity here to win basketball games and we don't think there is a team we can't beat." -- Antonio Daniels
(except maybe the Suns...)

-- The Tar Heel
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