Did you hear that sound? Did you? It’s the sound of an aluminum can smacking into a TV screen from about 8 feet away. It’s the sound of the Washington Wizard’s playoff bandwagon coming to a grinding halt, the kind with sparks under the wheels.
I sat and watched possibly the most tantrum inducing performance of basketball I’ve seen in 20 years of watching this team. Maybe Chicago had more to play for (they did), maybe the Wizards looked past the Baby Bulls and onto our “expected playoff matchup” against the Cleveland Cavaliers (they did). Hey man, all I know is that Friday, pain came in the form of Ben Gordon, who is one of, if not THE most underrated player in the league. The salt in the wound was the despised Andres Nocioni (who’s starting to remind me of Laimbeer), hitting a three to put Chi-Town up for good.
It was a tough, playoff style game for both of us, with Gilbert going mano a mano with Gordon, Duhon and a bionic Kirk Hinrich. A rivalry that started with a preseason fight two years ago has quietly come into its own as one of the league’s fiercest. These guys have the classic “pro athlete mutual respect” line down, but don’t get it twisted, these guys kinda hate each other, and it makes for great sports.
Gilbert started the game off blazing, and it seemed like he was headed toward one of his familiar 35 point outburst. It felt like he rallied the guys together to take this game by any means necessary, be it three pointers or defense (Antonio Daniels pulled a Tayshaun Prince on Hinrich, erasing his lay-up from behind). As expected, Brendan Haywood got into the game and made a huge contribution against a team that made him lose his cool a while back, chipping in with 13 points and 9 boards. Antonio Daniels once again picked up the slack from a sleepwalking Antawn Jamison. No one’s really mentioned his slump in the past few games, but it seems like he’s relying a little too much on referee help on the court. Typical Jamison possession: Get it on the wing from Daniels or Arenas/ fake one way, dribble drive into traffic/ offensive foul or George Gervin Finger Roll Gone Wild.
Hinrich, and Duhon, two of college basketball’s most annoying players a few years ago have turned into solid NBA pros, but tonight was Ben Gordon night. It was crazy, and when I saw him dropping threes like lay-ups, I swear the game was in slow motion, while the music from NFL Films played in the background. After that performance, there was no doubt in my mind the Windy City Boys deserved to be in the playoffs, especially with guys being hurt, popping dislocated fingers back into sockets and balling outta’ control on twisted ankles.
As for Washington, my team, my squad? You never want to throw in the towel, but at this stage in the fight, the doctor looks like he’s about the step in and call this thing. I’m hoping the basketball gods will smile upon us and let Milwaukee and Indy lose a few games, but you never want to screw up when you control your own destiny. Sunday against Cleveland will tell all.
By Brian Taylor @ HoopsAddict.com
Mon 04/17/06, 4:41 am EST