Dave Johnson: Young leads Wizards past Pacers

Dave Johnson: Young leads Wizards past Pacers
December 30, 2010, 2:43 am
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010 9:35 p.m.
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By Dave Johnson
CSNwashington.comWashington -- From the floor the Wizards shot below 40 percent, but on the floor the Wizards effort was without question 100 percent. The result was an end to the Wizards three game losing streak in an unconventional 104-90 win over the Pacers.While the Wizards found a way to close the game, its hard to know where to begin when describing how they did it. Nick Young led the Wizards with 25 points, but turned in one of the best defensive performances of his career and had 3 steals. Kirk Hinrich left the game with a thigh contusion, but John Wall played through fatigue to finish with 10 points, 12 assists and 7 rebounds.We had some weird things happen tonight, said Wizards assistant coach Randy Wittman. Kirk goes out at halftime. John goes out with cramps. I asked Josh (Howard) to play the point. Cartier (Martin) hadnt played at all. He comes in and plays as big as you can play without playing leading up to that time Those are the kind of things that add up to victory. To win 104-90, shooting 39 percent that says something to our defense.Wittman was in charge of the Wizards with head coach Flip Saunders absent from the game to be with his ailing mother in Cleveland. As Wittman noted the Wizards employed the same concepts as a game coached by Saunders, but from the end of the third quarter to the start of the fourth quarter Wittman was forced to adjust his rotation.With Howard, Young, Martin, Andray Blatche, and Trevor Booker in the game, the Wizards slammed the door on the Pacers defensively. This collection of players, with Howard playing point guard, was thrown together by circumstance and helped the Wizards open the fourth quarter on a 12-3 run and break open a tight game.Andray Blatche, who had a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, started the fourth quarter surge with a couple of in-rhythm jump shots. Blatche then made an excellent pass to set-up Martin for an open three-point shot and suddenly the Wizards had a10-point lead at 79-69 with 10:08 to go in the fourth quarter. Martin had 11 points in 13 minutes.Im so proud of this team tonight, said Blatche. We finally were able to lock down in the fourth quarter and stayed focus on shutting them down. I needed this game tonight. The coaches pulled me aside before the game and told me to take my time, relax and just believe in myself.Howard only had 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting from the field, but in his 24 minutes in the game he was active on defense and a true unsung hero. Howard helped Young steal the ball from the Pacers T.J. Ford at the foul line and then scooped up the loose ball and fed a streaking Young who finished with a fast break dunk to expand the Wizards lead to 83-69.The Pacers were led in scoring by Mike Dunleavy with 20 points. Danny Granger added 18 points, but on 7 of 18 shooting and he was particularly frustrated by Youngs defense. It was Young who stepped in front of Granger for a steal that started a sequence that ended with Young sinking a three-pointer to put the Wizards ahead 100-84 with 2:30 remaining in the game.In short it was a team effort. While he did not play in the fourth quarter, JaVale McGee maximized his 21 minutes with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. In addition McGee limited the Pacers Roy Hibbert to only 15 minutes because Hibbert was whistled for his 5th foul with 7:47 left in the third quarter.I was really proud of JaVale, Wittman added. He came in tonight and played Hibbert as good as weve seen leading up to this game watching tape on Hibbert, which he didnt do last year.For the sixth time in the last seven games the Wizards held their opponent below 100 points. Against the Pacers, the number one defensive rebounding team in the NBA, the Wizards won the battle of the boards 54-47 including 21 offensive rebounds.Since we made the deal in bringing Rashard (Lewis) here, and Josh getting healthy, John getting healthy, weve taken some great strides, Wittman pointed out. Thats what I tried to relay to those guys in the huddle. Were here again and we got to believe that were going to close this out. Im really happy for them.