Antoine Wright was looking pretty good through his time in the first quarter, which ended with him diving all over the place to secure a loose ball. But he was strong in a few facets: 9 points, two rebounds, three assists and two offensive fouls drawn.
Devean George will be in the starting lineup tonight in place of the injured Josh Howard, and he has some shoes to fill. Howard's been great at jump-starting the Mavericks early, but coach Rick Carlisle said it's not up to one guy to replace Howard. "We need multiple guys to pick up the slack," Carlisle said in his pregame talk. "Josh's one of the best I've ever seen to start games."
Still, George was ready for the challenge. "Hopefully I'll provide an early spark in the defensive gam, knock a few shots down and make it tough on their scorers."
With a 102-84 loss to the Wizards today, it marks the first time in almost 11 years the Mavs lost both games to Washington. March 18 and 29, 1997, the Mavs lost to the Wizards in two close games.
This also marks the first time the Mavericks have been swept in a season series by an Eastern Conference team since the 2003-04 season. They lost both games to the Atlanta Hawks and both games to the Indiana Pacers that season.
This qualifies as perhaps coach Avery Johnson's funniest quote of the season. When a Washington reporter asked him if the Wizards are a better team without injured star Gilbert Arenas, Johnson said, no, no, they'd be even better with him. Then he said: "You know, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, those are All-Star players, they're not schmucks you know, they're pretty good."
The last time the Mavericks met the Wizards, things didn't go so well. The Mavs lost to the Wizards 110-98 and got outhustled and outplayed for most of the game. It would be the last of three consecutive losses—their longest losing streak of the season. It is their second consecutive loss to the Wizards and they are the only Eastern conference team to currently hold a two-game winning streak against the Mavericks. This is the final regular-season meeting between the two.
Who needs Arenas? Just kidding, of course. Gilbert Arenas is one of the top guards in the league and has been sidelined after having knee surgery shortly after the season started. He is currently expected back shortly after the All-Star break, but it's not like the Wizards have crashed without their best player. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison have stepped into the void and carried the team in his absence and guards Deshawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels have done a serviceable job holding up the guard duties. The Wizards are 21-17 and sit at two games back in the Southeast division behind the Orlando Magic. When Arenas returns, they should be primed to make a dash at a higher seed going into the playoffs.
World beaters The Wizards recently defeated the Boston Celtics in consecutive games, which is the only time this season the 32-6 Celtics have lost back-to-back games. They held the Celtics to a season-low 78 points and season lows in field goals made and attempted in the first game, then traveled to Boston two nights later to visit another beating on the NBA's top team.
Statistically similar to Mavs? There are several stats in which the Mavs and Wizards are similar, which may be part of the reason they have struggled recently against them. The Wizards are ranked third in the league in free-throw percentage (79.9%) while the Mavs are first (82%). Their accurate free-throw shooting has been an advantage they have used many times this season, but likely won't be able to exercise as much today. Both teams also rank in the bottom third of the league in assists, and attempt a similar number of field goals. Their strength in free-throws is part of what forces those two stats down. They also have similar scoring offenses and defenses with the Mavs 8th in the league in offense (101.5 pts) and 9th in defense (96.2 pts allowed) and the Wizards 10th in offense (99.3 pts) and 11th in defense (96.8 pts allowed).
Burning question Do you think Gilbert Arenas will return to full strength this season?
The Mavs allowed 38 Wizards points in the third quarter, the most they have allowed in one quarter all season. The most they had allowed in one quarter before that was in their last game against Milwaukee. The Bucks scored 35 points in the fourth quarter, which was obviously why they won the game. Unless the Mavs can put together another one of their crazy rallies, this one won't end up nicely. -Scooter Hendon
The Mavericks return home tonight after a three-game road trip that saw them fall in back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Bucks. Opting not to take Sunday off, the Mavericks practiced in preparation for meeting the Washington Wizards.
The Mavericks have won nine of their last 11 against Washinton and haven't lost consecutive matchups against them since 1997. Despite that streak of success, the last time the Mavs met Washington, the Wizards played spoilers to the first of several big Mavs winning streaks. After losing the first four games in 2006, the Mavs had rattled off 12 straight wins, one of which had been against Washington by way of a 107-80 thrashing at the AAC six games prior. The Wizards weren't having any of that as Gilbert Arenas' 38 points led the Wizards by the Mavericks and snapped their winning streak.
Arenas out for awhile Unfortunately for the Wizards, they won't see any of that repeat magic from their star since he's out of commission for three months after having knee surgery last Wednesday. He is having a torn meniscus repaired in his left knee, which is the same surgery he had in April. After enduring some painful swelling and having fluid drained from the knee, Arenas couldn't take it any longer. The Mavericks shouldn't see Agent Zero at all this year as he should still be sidelined in mid-January when the Mavs travel to Washington.
Butler stepping up mightily With Arenas sidelined, small forward Caron Butler has piled a large portion of the Wizards' chances upon his shoulders. He got his first career triple double Friday and is averaging 30.6 points on 53.8 percent shooting. If that's not enough, coach Eddie Jordan has Butler averaging over 43 minutes per game over those last three games. For a guy who has traditionally had injury problems (although none too major), maybe it isn't best to be riding the guy like a pack mule. Either way, expect to see a lot from Caron Butler tonight. The matchup of Butler and Josh Howard and will be interesting as their games are similar. Both are solid defensive players who can score from all over, play the same position and are of similar size. Butler is also near the top of the league in steals, so the Mavericks also need to pay extra attention to making sharp passes and keep an eye on their passing lanes.
Wizards are tired too No excuses tonight. The Mavericks just finished up a stretch of four games in five days by playing two back-to-backs. They won't find much sympathy from the Wizards, as they just did the exact same and are also coming off one day's rest after playing four games in five days. In fact, the Wizards are likely more weary since they played tougher opponents than the Mavs (Memphis and Golden State) and will travel to San Antonio with one day's rest after facing the Mavs. Then they will play in Philadelphia two days after that. That's almost 3,500 miles of flight total on their four-game road trip before they return home. The Mavs have their own warm beds to look forward to for the two games after this one, and that's more respite than Washington is getting. If the Mavericks get outhustled in this one, it's because they aren't hustling.
Peripheral players stepping up Center Brendan Haywood is having a career year and is averaging career highs in points (9.5), rebounds (8.9) and blocks (1.8). In year's past, Haywood's biggest competition at center was Etan Thomas. Thomas recently had open-heart surgery and his career might be over. This has opened up more minutes for Haywood and he has responded accordingly. Behind Jamison and Butler, Thomas is the best player you'll likely see on the floor tomorrow. Third-year power forward Andray Blatche has also been stepping up his game lately and is scoring and rebounding well. Point guard Antonio Daniels has also been filling in well with Arenas out and has averaged 11.6 points and 7.8 assists since Arenas played his last game.
Don't forget... With Devin Harris having a breakout season, let's not forget to be thankful to the Wizards. The Mavs traded Antawn Jamison in their infamous house cleaning in the summer of 2004 for Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner and the draft rights to Devin Harris on draft day. Jamison is a nice player still and has moved on from being Sixth Man of the Year for the Mavericks to being a leader for the Wizards. That's nice and all, but the blossoming of Harris and the leadership of Stack are crucial strengths of this Mavericks team and it's likely a trade the Mavericks would never want back now that things have panned out as they have.
Evidently, Wizards guard Deshawn Stevenson and Cavs forward Drew Gooden have a beard-growing contest going.
Stevenson and Arenas once bet each other several thousand dollars that Arenas could make more college-length three pointers with one hand than Stevenson could make NBA-length three with two hands. It's one of the greatest contests ever.