He arrived in Washington at 2 a.m., watched his new team at shootaround Friday morning, and after a few hours of sleep, scored 21 points in the Wizards' 107-97 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Thornton's offense was welcome, and his defense on Carmelo Anthony was sublime.
"I just tried to make him frustrated," Thornton said. "When he gets in a groove, it's tough to stop him. It's been a knock on me at times that I don't play any defense."
Denver, fresh off a thrilling overtime win over Cleveland on Thursday night, lost for just the third time this season when holding a third-quarter lead. Washington's win was surprising, and for the new faces in the Wizards' locker room, refreshing.
At the shootaround, Washington coach Flip Saunders was seemingly excited over the team's extreme makeover and delivered a unique pep talk.
"We've got to play like a bunch of mad dogs," he told them. "That's how we played tonight. We went after loose balls, rebounded. We didn't give up on plays. The crowd gets into it, the guys get juiced up."
The Wizards won for the second straight time since their changes, and erased an 82-73 deficit after three. The Nuggets seemed to have the game in hand until coach George Karl decided to rest Anthony and Chauncey Billups to start the fourth.
Washington outscored Denver 34-15 in the fourth quarter as Thornton held Anthony scoreless. Anthony, who scored 40 against the Cavaliers, missed all five of his shots. He didn't return until there was 5:35 to play.
Anthony entered as the NBA's third-leading scorer, averaging 28.5 points.
"I missed shots," Anthony said. "Shots that I made [Thursday] night, I didn't make tonight."
Howard had 20 points, including nine in the fourth quarter. His most memorable moment came slightly off the court. With about four minutes to play, Howard chased a loose ball and landed in the laps of some of the front-row spectators. He spilled some of their beers and caused a two-minute delay as the court was wiped off.
"I think those fans enjoyed that, and hopefully, they'll come back for me," Howard said.
Pint-sized point guard Earl Boykins helped mightily. The 5-foot-5 inch Boykins had nine of his 12 points in the fourth and three rebounds.
Karl blamed the loss on his team's refusal to share.
"We have a selfish disposition at times," he said. "Sometimes it might come from fatigue, sometimes it might come from complacency. Can't beat anybody with 12 assists. It's just a joke.
"We should be much more mature and understand that if that's the way we are going to try and beat people, we are going to have nights like tonight."
Denver F-C Chris Andersen missed the game with back spasms. Karl said he's day-to-day. ... Zydrunas Ilgauskas, acquired from Cleveland on Wednesday in the Jamison trade, reported to the Wizards, took his physical, but was inactive. Ilgauskas, reportedly seeking a buyout, will not travel to Toronto for Saturday's game against the Raptors. ... Gilbert Arenas is suspended for the season for bringing guns to the locker room and isn't allowed to practice with the team, but one of his practice jerseys is hanging in his cubicle for the first time since the suspension. On Thursday, team president Ernie Grunfeld said Arenas would play again for Washington. ... Howard denounced an ESPN.com report that while with Dallas, he'd missed a game against the Wizards on Jan. 20 with a hangover. "I'm not responding to a lie," he said. ... Two nights after scoring a career-high 33 points, Wizards F Andray Blatche had 18 in the first half and was scoreless in the second half.