Sunday, February 28, 2010, 8:50PM
By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comEast Rutherford, NJ----Post All-Star break the Washington Wizards Andray Blatche is playing like an All-Star. Blatche scored a career high 36-points and added 15-rebounds to help lift the Wizards from a sluggish first half to an 89-85 win over the New Jersey Nets.I got hot early and my teammates kept looking for me, said Blatche who played through early foul trouble and only had three turnovers despite being double-teamed at times late in the game.Quiet most of the night, Randy Foye made noise when it counted the most by hitting two shots in the final minute to help the Wizards pull away. Foye, who was 2 of 11 from the field before his final shots, effectively sealed the game with a 14-foot fade-away jumper with 13.5 seconds left to give the Wizards an 87-83 edge.That was the two biggest plays of the game, Blatche said of Foyes final four points. Great players always step up in the end even if they are having a bad game and he is a great player.The emphatic finish by the Wizards was in stark contrast to the first-half when the Wizards were out-hustled by the Nets and were slow to get back on defense. In that opening half, the Nets enjoyed a 16-9 advantage on fast-break points and outrebounded the Wizards 27-19Coach (Flip Saunders) got on us real bad about rebounding in the first half, Blatche pointed out. All the guys just started crashing the boards and I think that turned it around for us. The Wizards commitment on the boards really came through in the closing minute of the game. Mike Millers ability to secure a rebound in traffic after a Devin Harris miss from seven-feet preserved the Wizards 85-83 lead with 32.9 seconds remaining.To get that rebound Miller, who had 8-rebounds for the game, had to fight off the Nets Yi Jianlian who had been a force all the night on the offensive boards. Yi led the Nets with 20-points but had 19 rebounds including 12 offensive boards to help compensate for the Nets shooting 35 percent from the field as a team.With 5.8 seconds on the clock Al Thronton also snared a critical rebound for the Wizards. Thornton was able to secure the ball after a Blatche block of a layup attempt by Yi as the Nets were desperately trying to stay alive. Thornton finished with 20-points and eight rebounds.Down twice by as many as 14-points in the first-half, the Wizards were able to seize the game in the third quarter when they had a 14-10 edge on the boards. Blatche had six of those rebounds and scored 14 of his points in the third.We realized we came out slow and soft, Blatche noted. Second half we wanted to pick it up and be more aggressive and get to the rim.The Wizards were also effective in using a 2-3 zone defense on the Nets in the second half. The Nets Brook Lopez and Devin Harris were dominant in the first two quarters, but combined were 4 of 22 from the field shooting over the final two quarters.Harris scored 18 points and had 14-assists for the game but eleven of those assists were in the first-half. Lopez added 16-points, but only had two points in the second half.The Wizards won despite only four points from their benchall from Earl Boykins. James Singleton, who suffered a sprained left ankle Friday against the Knicks, only played a little over two minutes in the first-half.The victory stopped the Wizards two-game losing streak and prevented the Nets from building on their win against the Celtics on Saturday.