Throughout the season, the Washington Wizards have played a rather fast-paced style of basketball, relying on the strong play of their guards to win games.
In his fourth season with the team, Nick Young leads the way in the scoring with better than 17 points a night. Rookie sensation John Wall adds a steady 16 points and newly acquired Jordan Crawford pours in 15.9 points per game since coming to Washington at the trade deadline.
After an altercation between Wall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat forced Wall to the bench with a suspension, and a nagging knee injury sidelined Young, the Wizards were forced to play without their two leading scorers.
On Friday night, Washington shifted its focus to the interior for their meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers, forcing their undersized Eastern Conference foes to defend the painted area and ultimately defeating them 115-107.
The result: huge nights from forwards JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.
“I feel like we have a great group of young guys,” Blatche said. “We all have a certain role we need to pitch in and play. The guys are doing a great job at what they’re supposed to do.”
Blatche took the lead in the first half, knocking down 9-of-18 attempts in a 22-point effort. He snatched 12 rebounds in the early-going, 11 of the offensive variety – a career-high for the 6-foot-11 forward. Blatche finished the evening with an impressive 36 point outing, snagging 16 offensive boards to set a franchise record.
“I just went out there,” Blatche said. “And I tried to be aggressive and hit the boards and tried to get this win.”
JJ Hickson found space in the post early in the first half, keeping the Cavaliers in the game with a 16-point first half outing. But Washington packed in defensively and only allowed Hickson to connect on two more field goals the rest of the evening.
Midway through the third quarter, McGee took the reins from his front-court counterpart, nailing 6-of-8 attempts in the second half. The 7-foot center poured in 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds on the night.
Washington was able to capitalize on a very noticeable height-advantage and made their presence felt underneath the basket on both ends.
“68 points by their frontline, 30 rebounds by their frontline, 19 offensive rebounds by their frontline, 62 points in the paint,” said Cavs coach Byron Scott. “You can’t win if you don’t come with a little bit more of a toughness and a presence in that paint area. You can’t win. Blatche and McGee dominated our guys. That’s something you just can’t account for. When we have to all of a sudden change a game plan to double team those two guys, you’re in trouble.”
As a team, the Wizards finished with 56 rebounds, compared to 38 for the Cavaliers. They poured in 62 points in the paint, compared to just 46 by Cleveland. And they were able to capitalize on 32 second-chance opportunities, compared to 14 for the Cavaliers.
“Andray was great tonight — 36 points, 19 rebounds, 16 offensive rebounds, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. That’s a lot of offensive rebounds,” said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. “We had great individual performances.”