The Washington Wizards’ backcourt is deep—apparently deep enough to spend a week without top draft pick John Wall and finish with a 2-1 record.

Wall missed the week with a sprained foot suffered against the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 13, but his teammates earned two home wins to up their record to 4-7.

Playing their first game this season without Wall, Washington returned home Nov. 16 to rout Toronto, 109-94. Star Gilbert Arenas made his first start of the season and added 20 points, six assists and seven rebounds while Andray Blatche led the team with 22 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Starting in place of Wall was Kirk Hinrich, whose 13 points and 12 assists helped the Wizards dominate the third quarter 36-21 and cruise to the easy win.

Things weren’t so easy the following night against Boston, as the Celtics ran past Washington for a 114-83 victory. The Wizards struggled to find energy after a promising first quarter, as the Celtics shot a sizzling 65 percent from the field and nailed eight three-pointers.

The Wizards connected on just 38 percent of their shots while Blatche and Arenas combined for 7-of-20 shooting and 19 points. Nick Young led the team with 20 points off the bench, but it wasn’t enough as six players scored in double figures for Boston and the Celtics rested their starters in the fourth quarter.

Washington didn’t shoot any better against Memphis on Nov. 19, again putting in only 38 percent from the field, but their defense helped them escape with a 89-86 win. JaVale McGee was a defensive dynamo, collecting 12 rebounds, picking up three steals, blocking three shots and challenging Grizzlies shooters. McGee’s energy was evident from the start, as his post presence helped limit Memphis stars Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo to a combined 14 points and 4-of-19 from the field. Much like their win against Toronto, Washington’s backcourt of Arenas and Hinrich paced the team’s scoring, finishing with 46 points and 10 assists.

The team survived its week without Wall with two games of excellent guard play, something they’ll be forced to lean on for the rest of the season in the absence of a dominant post scorer.

“They’ve carried us the whole nine yards,” coach Flip Saunders said about the play of his backcourt. “The two games we won at home they’ve been used in both games. The Boston game, of course, we didn’t play well, we didn’t have any energy which I think the back-to-back hurt them but they’ve done a great job. I thought going in, our combination of guards that we have with John, with Kirk, with Gil, you know I think those guards can be as good as anybody in the league as a combination. It’s nice to know somebody can step in for a few games.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO