Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wizards Go Down to Pacers in OT

Boy, did I ever botch this one. First, Jermaine O’Neal and Troy Murphy show up in street clothes, and then the Wizards go down in overtime 119-110. Not a good start for Washington with a date in Boston – one of the teams the Wiz should be battling for Eastern Conference supremacy – looming on Friday. As it turned out, Mike Dunleavy was part of the key match up, and all he did was drop 25 on 7-of-17 from the floor and pick up 12 boards in nearly 46 minutes of action. Then there was Jamaal Tinsley, who consistently beat Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels down the stretch and in overtime. The shifty, if not always slim, Tinsley put up 20 points and eight assists and connected on 2-of-5 treys. The Pacers as a team shot 45 percent from beyond the arc, hitting 13-of-29.

On the opposite end, the story of the night for the Wiz was the carry-over of their dismal shooting from the preseason. Washington shot just 36 percent from the field and was a woeful 6-of-20 from long range. The Big Three got their points, combining for 80 of the team’s 110, but they weren’t very efficient. And so much for bench production. Which leads us to the areas of concern and silver lining for Wednesday night’s loss.

Areas of Concern
-- Where was the bench? After an impressive preseason, third-year talent
Andray Blatche managed just two points on four shots in 13 minutes. Back-up big man Darius Songaila contributed six (2-for-8) and Antonio Daniels scored 4 (2-for-4) in 29 minutes on the floor. No other non-starter scored more than three and starting two-guard, DeShawn Stevenson managed only three of his own. Rookies Nick Young (7 minutes) and Dominic McGuire (2) saw limited action and only Young got on the board with a triple. Even when the Big Three are scoring they’re going to need a little more support. Wednesday night’s display just isn’t going to cut it.
-- So much for defense. Washington’s perimeter defenders wore down late in the game as Tinsley consistently drove past Arenas and Daniels for pull-up jumpers or kick-out threes. When he beat his man on out front, the Wizards help defense left
Danny Granger and others open around the arc. Granger hit two of his five threes in the extra period. Eddie Jordan stuck with Daniels late, rather than going back to Stevenson, who had been on the bench after hurting his knee earlier in the game. While Stevenson had been out for almost the entire second half – AD’s scoring ability usually makes him a good sub down the stretch – he could have provided a little more grit on the defensive end where Gil and Antonio faltered. If the guard’s can’t stop penetration from a middle-of-the-pack point guard in Tinsley, it doesn’t bode well for future match-ups with more dominant floor generals. Expect DeShawn to be in the lineup more in these types of situations.

Silver Lining
-- The Return of Agent Zero: The Hibachi was back on Wednesday night as Gil poured in 34 points – including 13-of-19 from the line. And while he only hit 10-of-25 shots from the floor, the 19 free throw attempts show that he’s got enough confidence in that surgically repaired knee to drive to the rim looking for contact. Gilbert was also back to his old tricks at the end of regulation. With the Wizards trailing and just seconds remaining, Gil dribbled patiently and the pulled back to get just enough separation to put up a 25-footer that tickled the twine as the buzzer sounded. HIBACHI!
-- With
Etan Thomas out indefinitely, the Wizards need big Brendan Haywood to put up starting center numbers night in and night out for the first time since he helped the Tar Heels to the 2000 Final Four. He took a solid first step against the Pacers with a 10-point, 13-rebound showing. Most impressive – and what the Wizards desperately need from him – were his 11 offensive boards. With the rest of the team jacking up jumpers every possession, Haywood has to get his hands on the long rebounds to give the Wiz second chances to score. If he’s around the basket and banging, it should also result in lots of easy buckets (see dunks) for him – which is good, because after six seasons in Washington, he still has no jump shot to speak of. Now if he could only get his hands on more than two balls of the defensive glass.

Next Up
The Wiz continue their two-game road trip to start the season Friday in Boston where the Big Three will get their first crack at that other threesome. And count on the new green tag team of
Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett looking to make a splash in their debut in front of the punch-drunk New Englanders. The bench will have to give the starters some support for the Wiz to have a shot at winning what should be another triple-digit affair.

-- The Tar Heel

No comments: