Dave Johnson: Arenas and Hinrich Drive Wizards

Dave Johnson: Arenas and Hinrich Drive Wizards
November 20, 2010, 2:52 am
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Friday November 19, 2010 9:53 p.m.

By Dave Johnson

Washington---Gilbert Arenas flashed a wide smile and tossed his jersey into an appreciative crowd. It was a reflection of joy and relief as Arenas scored a game-high 24 points to help the Wizards escape with an 89-86 win over Grizzlies.It was far from an easy night for the Wizards. Zach Randolph was problem on the inside and led the Grizzlies with 19 points and 12 rebounds, but could not compensate for the teams back court. Guards OJ Mayo and Mike Conley were a combined 6 of 24 shooting from the field.In the games final ten seconds both Mayo and Conley missed shots from beyond the arc as the Grizzlies tried to force overtime. Mayo, who averages 15 points per game, was held to just three points with Arenas guarding him most of the night.He did a good job defensively on Mayo, Wizards head coach Flip Saunders said of Arenas. Mayo was 1-11. He chased him and contested all of his shots. He had a great contest on the last play. So he is trying to do what needs to be done from the team concept to try to win.

In the end the Wizards prevailed by not settling for jump shots. From the field the Wizards only shot 37 percent on 28 made field goals but made 30 of 35 free throw attempts. Kirk Hinrich was 9 for 9 from the line including 5 free throws in the third quarter when he scored 12 of his 22 points to give the Wizards a fighting chance.Tonight, it seemed like we were having trouble finding our rhythm, Hinrich noted. Offensively, it just wasnt coming naturally like sometimes it does. Just trying to change up the game, muck up the game and just tough it out. Thats what we were able to do.Indeed this game was also a study in perseverance for the Wizards. Still shorthanded, with John Wall and Yi Jianlian sidelined by injuries, the Wizards used a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter to turn a 77-73 deficit into an 85-79 advantage.The Wizards late surge was punctuated by a crazy sequence. JaVale McGee was stripped of the ball by the Grizzlies Mike Conley at the Wizards foul line, but then got back on defense to block Conleys driving layup. It was McGees third blocked shot to go with 10 points and 12 reboundsOn the Wizards next possession Andray Blatche, who attacked the basket early in the game but then struggled from the field, delivered the pivotal play. Blatche was able to drive the baseline and get around Marc Gasol and convert a layup and get fouled by Gasol.Blatches made free throw gave the Wizards that 85-79 edge with 2:53 remaining. Blatche almost had a double-double with 17 points and 9 rebounds. On defense Blatche also drew a charge on Rudy Gay with 3:37 remaining to help the Wizards continue their decisive run.For the third consecutive game the Wizards had to play without both John Wall and Yi Jianlian. Wall and Yi are both listed as day-to-day after both suffered injuries on Saturday against the Bulls. Wall has a sprained left foot and Yi a bone bruise in his right knee.Johns strengths are different than ours, Arenas said of Walls absence. Hes more of a fast break machine. So when hes in the game we have to lay back and let him do his thing and then we find our rhythm. With Kirk, Ive watched his game playing against the Bulls, and hes more of a dribble drive guy so I have to know when to open up for him.