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Beantown has been very hospitable to Capitol Area teams this week, with the Maryland Lady Terps taking the NCAA title at the BankNorth Gaaaahden on Tuesday. Last night, Team Green welcomed the Wiz and put up a good fight. However, playoff teams are playoff teams for a reason, as Gilbert and company played a very business-like game and got the win.
A developing story within this series is the emergence of a Paul Pierce / Gilbert Arenas rivalry that’s starting to get good. Both are the respective stars of their teams, both are from Southern California, and both have egos that have their own zip codes. Arenas got some revenge (38 points, 8 dimes and 4 steals) for the corner jumper in the mouth Pierce left him last time the two met in the now famous “double middle finger” game.
Last night was good for about three quarters and was mostly a game of runs by both sides. I was impressed by how the Wiz could see a run coming and slow it down with some key defensive stops. As a matter of fact, the guys defended VERY well last night. And you can tell that the “let’s just score more than them” attitude had left the building, at least for the night. Butler and Jamison provided their usual scoring punch and showed that offensively, if those two are consistent, the Wiz become very tough to beat.
The first half had the Wiz thinking they were still playing the Knicks, lots of screens and pull up jumpers from Arenas, although Jamison had a nasty bash on Kendrick Perkins. Washington would go on a run, Boston would come right back, led by “The Truth” and Delonte West. West is actually becoming a bonafide, NBA point, and looks more and more like the kind of guy the Celtics need alongside Pierce.
Surprise of the night, not only was Brendan Haywood in the game, he actually had a nice stretch, until he got blocked on two consecutive shot attempts and got yanked right back out. I think he’s having confidence issues right now, which is something that dates all the way back to the team’s playoff run last year. “Malcontent centers” was a miniature theme tonight, as Providence product Ryan Gomes got the start in place of the disgruntled Raef LaFrentz, who actually criticized his own coaches earlier this week. (Hey Raef, that won’t get you into the starting five anytime soon…)
I’d hate to be coach Rivers on game night, trying to decide whom to start at the 5. Do you go with the whiny veteran LaFrentz? The promising, teasingly huge, Shaq-hindering Perkins? What about the kid Gomes, who’s really only had one breakout game thus far?
The Wiz have definitely grown up into….dare I say…a perennial playoff team. Just the way they came in and got the job done tonight shows that these guys are focused. Don’t get me wrong, the Cavaliers still make me sweat bullets, with LeBron doing a great MVP impression down the stretch, but that series should be fun to watch regardless. It was almost methodical, as if they learned their lesson of “Please Don’t Let Paul Pierce and Company Hang Around”. You have to at least run with the Celtics for the first three quarters, then past Paul Pierce in the fourth, and that’s exactly what happened tonight.
Thu 04/06/06, 8:32 am EST
- Brian Taylor @ HoopsAddict.com