Friday, February 29, 2008

Butler Still Out as Wiz Visit Chi-town

Wednesday the Wizards got the unfortunate news that Caron Butler's hip injury is more serious than they thought. Instead of the initially diagnosed strained hip flexor, CB3 - who will miss his 12th straight game tonight - is now said to have a small labral tear of the left joint in his hip. There's still no timetable for his return, but you can bet it won't be in the next few games.

So Washington (27-30) must continue to press onward without their All-Star co-captain, without their franchise player (Gilbert Arenas) and sans their most poetic big man (Etan Thomas). Tonight they close out a three-game road trip in Chicago, looking to bounce back from a 94-69 thrashing at the hands of a Yao-less Houston Rockets team Tuesday night.

Playing their fifth game in seven days, that one got ugly fast for the Wizards who trailed 51-23 at the half - a franchise low for points in a half. Nick Young scored 16 and Oleksiy Pecherov had a career-high 11 as both rookies got plenty of playing time because the game was over by halftime. DeShawn Stevenson, coming off his monumental 33-point effort the night before, Antonio
Daniels and Brendan Haywood combined for only 16 points and Washington barely cracked 30 percent (31.3) from the field. The Wiz committed a season-low five turnovers but were outrebounded 55-37 and had just 11 assists to Houston's 25.

Key Match-Up

Brendan Haywood/Andray Blatche v. Joakim Noah/Drew Gooden -
The Wizards won't have to deal with defensive stalwart Ben Wallace in the paint tonight. The disgruntled former All-Star was shipped to Cleveland for Gooden and former Wizard Larry Hughes just before last week's trade deadline. That means Washington gets to take another crack at two of the guys responsible for their struggles against the Cavs, and it means Haywood gets to bang with his not-so-good bearded buddy on the block. Noah and Gooden are two very different types of players, the former a scrappy, rebounding, energy pest and the latter more of your lumbering big man with back-to-the basket post moves. Haywood will need to play solid defense on both and control the defensive boards to prevent the Bulls from getting any second-chance scoring chances. He also needs to get his little half-hook going, as it has been a great move for him in recent games. As for Blatche, the Wizards need aggression on both ends from him, especially when he's matched up with Noah. It should definitely be a good battle in the paint.


The Wizards are under-manned and the Bulls (23-34) just got a couple reinforcements, which already gives them a decided advantage. That said, if the Wizards can get
a big offensive night out of their backcourt and find a spark off the bench with some combination of Dominic McGuire, Darius Songaila, Nick Young and Roger Mason, it could go either way. Chicago has two guys who can pour in points in a hurry with Luol Deng and Ben Gordon of the bench, so the Wizards will need to play much better defense than they did in Houston and hope the three-balls aren't falling for the Bulls. If it goes down to the wire maybe Stevenson will put on another Gilbert-like performance with a game-winning dagger (2005 Playoffs anyone?).

All photos AP/Getty Images by way of Yahoo!

-- The Tar Heel

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