Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 11:30pm
By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comNew Orleans---It was a night to cue up We Are The Champions. Maybe there should be a victory parade down 6th Street. The Washington Wizards are winners again.To the Wizards players that stayed competitive through the disappointment of a 16 game losing streak, the 96-91 victory over the New Orleans Hornets was a reward overdue. At the very least the Wizards only win in March brought incredible relief.It feels like a championship, said Wizards guard Shaun Livingston. I told Mike (Miller) after the game it feels like we won a ring or something. It is good to get a win and hopefully we have learned that we can play and compete. We just have to settle down and get the best shots we can.Against an All-Star in the Hornets Chris Paul, Livingston played like an All-Star and his composure in managing the Wizards offense was essential. For his first time with the Wizards, Livingston, who had 18 points and 8 assists, not only started but was on the floor at the end of game.The Wizards were effective in defending the screen and roll and Paul was never was able to get in attack mode. Paul did have 9 assists but only 8 points. David West led the Hornets in scoring with 18 pointsPlaying just 24 hours after a close loss in Houston to the Rockets, the Wizards surprised the Hornets, who had not played since Mondays win over the Lakers, with a strong start.
The Hornets only lead of the game was at 3-2 as Andray Blatche scored 12 of his 23 points in the first quarter to put the Wizards on their way.Mike Miller, who had shot 4 of 15 from the field that night before against the Rockets, led the Wizards in scoring with 27 points and rebounding with seven. In the third quarter Miller scored ten of his points but only took one outside shotInstead in the third quarter Miller was effective coming off screens at the foul line and then taking Fabricio Oberto passes and driving to the basket. For Miller the result was two layups and a trip to the line where he made two free throws.He is a shooter, Livingston said of Miller. He had an off shooting night last night and he came up to me and apologized and said I could have had you 15 assists. I dont worry about that and tonight he knocked down shots and got it going inside as well. Livingston found Miller on a play in the third quarter that exemplified the control and discipline that the Wizards played with. A fast break was triggered when Blatche defending West in the post deflected a pass intended for Paul cutting in the lane.Livingston then stormed up court but with the Hornets recovering on defense elected to slow things down instead of taking a quick shot. Livingstons patience was rewarded when Miller made a cut to the top of the key and hit a 17 foot jumper to give the Wizards a 57-44 lead.Going to the fourth quarter the Wizards enjoyed a 70-59 lead. In an effort to speed up the tempo of the game, the Hornets went with a smaller lineup with Paul joined in the backcourt by rookie sensation Darren Collison.Collison proved to be pesky as he scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, but the Wizards seemed to have the answer. With 1:59 remaining Blatche blocked a Collison drive and then at the other end threaded a pass to James Singleton who scored to put the Wizards up 92-86.Of course it did get interesting. The Wizards almost cracked in the final minute with three turnovers in the span of 33 seconds that gave the Hornets life. A Marcus Thornton dunk off a Collison steal and a James Posey layup off a Thornton steal helped the Hornets close the gap at 92-90 with 44 seconds left.Posey was able to come up with a steal and drive to the basket and draw a foul on Blatche with 15.3 seconds left. Posey only made one of his free throws to pull the Hornets within one point at 92-91.With time running out the Hornets were forced to foul and put Livingston at the line. Livingstons free throws then forced the Hornets to go for a three point shot with 4.4 second left, but West attempt rimmed out and Miller snared the rebound.To our guys credit, even though they lost all those games they have not been down, Wizards head coach Flip Saunders noted. They have not been saying lets just get this stuff over with. They have gone out with the idea of trying to utilize the minutes they get.