Dave Johnson: Wizards Surprise Nuggets

Dave Johnson: Wizards Surprise Nuggets
February 20, 2010, 2:54 am
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Friday, February 19, 2010 9:35 PM

By Dave Johnson
CSNWashington.comWashington---Welcome to Washington Al Thornton and Josh Howard. Two of the newest Wizards helped spark a 107-97 win over the Denver Nuggets built on old-fashioned grit and determination.In his Wizards debut, it was Thornton who led the team in scoring with 21 points and held the Nuggets Carmelo Anthony scoreless in the fourth quarter on 0-5 shooting from the field. Anthony, who finished with 23-points, is one of the NBAs great closers. The night before he scored 40 points including the game winner in an overtime victory against the Cavaliers, but Anthony struggled to get his shot off against Thornton and did not even get to the foul line in the fourth quarter.I just tried to get up in him and make him frustrated, said Thornton. Once Carmelo gets into a groove and gets his shot going hes very hard to guard. I just tried to get in him and frustrate him a little bit and make him shoot off balance shots.

Theres been a knock on me that I dont play any defense so I just tried to come out and play defense the best that I could., added Thornton who was acquired from the LA Clippers in the three-team six-player deal that sent Antawn Jamison to Cleveland and just joined the Wizards Friday morningAl (Thornton) played with a great amount of energy, head coach Flip Saunders said. I told the guys at the shoot around, we have to play like a bunch of mad dogs and thats how we played tonight. We went after loose balls, we went after rebounds, we didnt give up on plays and then the crowd gets into it and the crowd keeps our guys juiced up.Indeed the crowd of 17,212 was standing for most of the final minute of the game as the Wizards closed out a fourth quarter in which they outscored the Nuggets, the NBAs third-highest scoring team, 34-15.The Wizards were in trouble in the third quarter when they trailed by as many as 13-points and only shot 7 of 21 from the field. A determined effort on the boards gave the Wizards a chance by preventing the Nuggets from getting second chance points.For the game the Wizards out-rebounded the Nuggets 47-40 and only allowed the Nuggets eight second-chance points. In addition the Wizards had nine blocked shots and only turned the ball over ten times against a Nuggets team that is second in the league in steals.Down 82-73 entering the fourth quarter, the Wizards went on a 22-11 run capped by Howards 19-foot jumper to give the Wizards a 95-93 lead with 5:51 left in the game. Howard, in only his second game with the Wizards since being traded from Dallas, added 20 points.Chauncey Billups led the Nuggets with 28-points but only scored four points in the final quarter. Billups seemed to be bothered by the length of the Wizards Nick Young who used his 67 frame to his advantage and offered one of the most inspired defensive efforts of his career.Its like theyre starting all over again, Billups noted. Guys are going to be out there playing extremely hard, trying to earn the coachs trust, and earn some minutes. All the new guys came out and played so well and so hard. They had an effect on the game.Against the Nuggets the Wizards had the proper response from the start and scored 28-points in the first quarter. Andray Blatche, coming off a career-high 33-points against the Timberwolves, scored the games first ten points and finished with 18-points and 11- rebounds.Andray (Blatche) had a great first half and carried us in that half and when he picked up his fourth (foul) we went to the bench and those guys started playing well,Saunders said. "Even though we didnt play Andray or JaVale (McGee) down the stretch those are the guys up on the bench cheering the whole time in the fourth quarter, we havent had that this year.