By John Powell
With their No. 1 draft pick watching from the bench, the Washing Wizards dismantled the Toronto Raptors in a game featuring teams of comparable record by a final margin of 109-94.
Three days removed from sustaining a left ankle sprain suffered during a collision with the Bulls’ Derrick Rose, John Wall was put on crutches, unable to play. Washington was also forced to play without Yi Jianlian, who was left with a right knee bruise after colliding with Wall in the same game.
“The question was asked: Do I know what to expect from our guys without John, without Yi, two of our top six guys?” said Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders. “I said I think we are going to compete and play hard.”
But those two men seemed unneeded against a 2-8 Raptors team, as Gilbert Arenas gained his first start of the year in his sixth game. Returning to form, he was unable to match the 30 points he had in Chicago, but did finish with 20.
The problem with his shot confidence was cured in the previous game of 11-of-22 shooting and 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. He kept his shooting at .500, going 7-14 from the floor and 3-6 from 3-point range.
If his teammates statistics had not been so good, he may have had more looks for shots and more points.
“He’s starting to get his legs under him, just playing well and making shots,” Saunders said. “He’s a threat. He puts so much pressure on the other team, they have to guard him.”
After only managing four points in Chicago, Andre Blatche responded by leading his team with 22 points en route to the win. Nick Young was the main supporting cast with 20 points and tied his career high of five rebounds.
“We played a lot of guys Nick is coming out to be our [scoring] star off the bench,” Saunders said. “I liked the way we shared the ball as a team and played as a team.”
The steady increase was quarterbacked by Kirk Hinrich, who broke the 7,000 point milestone on his way to a double-double, shooting for 13 points and dishing out 12 assists.
“Kirk (Hinrich) did a phenomenal job running the team tonight,” Saunders said. “He’s been doing that because him and John have shared the minutes. He played a lot of minutes and did a great job as far as getting us into our offense.”
Coming into the second half, the Wizards held a seven-point lead, but went on a few runs during the third quarter. Hinrich had five of his assists and seven of his points in the third quarter.
By finding open men, Washington was able to go 14-of-21 from the floor and 4-of-4 from the free throw line to finish the quarter with an insurmountable 90-68 lead.
Young was able to contribute to that run with more minutes than starter JaVale McGee, even though he came off the bench.
“Hopefully I just continue to keep doing the same things that I am doing and continue to get the same minutes,” Young said. “In order to be consistent, you have to have good minutes.”
The Wizards were no stranger to seeing 100-point games this season, but they could only manage one other 100-point win against the 76ers On Nov. 2 in an overtime nail-biter.
This time last season, the Wizards entered their ninth game of the season against the Pistons, dropping the game 103-106, and their season to a 2-7 record. This game seems to have woken some players out of their slump.