Discussion of Nick Young’s big night can be found in my game story for Washington’s 98-95 win over Toronto. But a few other thoughts are here:
The play of the night didn’t determine the outcome of the game, but it was by far the most unforgettable. Seven-footer Yi Jianlian’s coast-to-coast fast break was the talk of postgame, and not just for the exclamation point it put on the end of his perfect 5 for 5 shooting night.
John Wall actually equated him to JaVale McGee, whose propensity to try and play point guard himself hasn’t often worked out. But Yi got down the court as smoothly as his 250-pound frame would allow before rising for the dunk finish. In true Yi fashion, it wasn’t exactly really a rim-rattler, more like a textbook demonstration.
“I’ve seen Yi in practice,” said Andray Blatche. “He have a great set of skills. When he dunked, I was like, “Okay, China man.’ I was proud of him.”
There’s something not right with John Wall, who looks allergic to his jump shot and isn’t playing with nearly the same explosiveness that he’s put on display in the past, at either end of the court. Jose Calderon, who came within one rebound of a triple-double (21 points, 15 assists, 9 rebounds), wreaked havoc on Wall, dishing and shooting (10 for 16) at will. Wizards head coach Flip Saunders wasn’t critical of his young point guard but did pull him with 20 seconds remaining in favor of Kirk Hinrich, who is a better on-ball defender.
Wall said he was affected by wearing on bandage on the thumb pad of his left hand, where he recently suffered a floor burn, but the lack in confidence when he rises, ever so little it seems, to take a shot, and the residual effects permeate the rest of his offensive game because his defenders play off him so much.
“I work on it every day,” said Wall. “It’s just being confident and holding my follow-through.”
The Wizards continue to be pretty darn good at home against pretty darn bad teams. That would be the category for Toronto, the latest non-winning record victim to come into Verizon Center. In a game where neither team led by more than ten points, Washington never seemed threaten by the Raptors despite their lead repeatedly being cut down to two points. Andrea Bargnani hit just enough shots and Calderon picked his way past Wall just enough to keep Washington honest, but the Wizards had plenty of strength on the boards and front beyond the arc – where Rashard Lewis was 3 for 3 in the second half – to keep them at bay. And down the stretch, Washington figured out, for once, how to inbound the ball without turning it over.
Young was “exceptional,” to use Saunders’s description, single-handedly keeping the Wizards in the game early in the third quarter, but a number of different players had notable performances, from Al Thornton to Yi to JaVale McGee, each of whom added pieces over the course of the game.
Here’s the problem: starting Monday against Utah, the Wizards won’t play another team this poor for nearly a month. Out of Washington’s next 14 games, only four come against teams that currently have losing records: two against Milwaukee, one against Phoenix and one against Memphis. The Wizards have played well against good teams, taking more than one down to the wire before collapsing, but don’t use tonight’s win over Toronto as a measuring stick of how Washington can and should play, especially down the stretch. The next four weeks will be much more difficult.