Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fourth Quarter Meltdown Gives Wiz Fourth Straight Loss

It might not be time to hit the panic button just yet, but the Wizards are in near-free-fall mode here, folks. Four straight losses is bad enough, but with the way Washington went down last night in Philly, Eddie Jordan has got to be concerned.

The Wiz had the Sixers on the ropes last night, up by 12 early in the fourth quarter and seemingly well on their way to victory. And then the wheels came off. Behind Andre Iguodala's 20-point effort, Philadelphia (19-30) went on a 17-0 run - aided by horrendous play from the Wiz that included 10 missed three-point attempts.

Without Caron Butler - who aggravated his strained hip flexor and left the game in the third - Washington shot just 5-for-20 in the final frame and committed seven of their 19 turnovers to
let the Sixers back in it. Philly roared back and Washington had no answer, falling 101-96.

Five players reached double-figures for the Wiz (24-23), who were led by DeShawn Stevenson's 19 (which included five threes). Antawn Jamison had 16 and 14 boards, Brendan Haywood had 18, Antonio Daniels scored 10 and Roger Mason chipped in 15 off the bench.
In truth, it wasn't a bad three-quarter effort from the guys in blue (maybe they should stick to the gold on the road from here on out?), but you aren't going to win too many when you get outscored 28-13 in the fourth.

Iguodala's 20 led the Sixers as they shot 56 percent from the floor and dominated the Wizards in the paint. Rookie forward Thaddeus Young (a freshman at Georgia Tech last year) put up 17 and Rodney Carney added 16.
Banged up or not, this Washington team is far better than they've shown of late. The defensive effort isn't there, the intensity isn't there and they're just not getting it done for a full 48 minutes.


"This is one we had to have. With the game we have [against the Spurs] and that trip coming up, it's only going to get more difficult from here. We have to find a way to get a win and stop this losing streak before it gets worse." - DeShawn Stevenson after the loss


  • Eddie Jordan needs to figure out what he wants to do with his bench. With Butler missing back to back games against the Raptors last week, we saw how Andray Blatche could produce in a starting role (19 points) and what an asset Dominic McGuire could be off the bench (10 boards). The key to those numbers was the fact that both got plenty of playing time. With Caron back in the lineup, Blatche's minutes inevitably go down and McGuire's almost disappear, but once you've seen the spark both can provide - and when you know your star is ailing - you've got to let the kids play.
    • At the same time, Blatche needs to do a better job when he comes off the bench. There's a tremendous drop-off in his productivity compared to the rare times he starts and it goes beyond a points-to-minutes correlation. As a starter, Blatche is averaging 15.5 points (50 percent shooting), 10.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in 35.3 minutes of action in four games. As a reserve he's managing just 5.9 points (45.7 percent shooting), 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 17.7 minutes. There's a certain comfort level that a starter has compared to a bench player who has to come into the game cold, but Blatche, who is now in his third season, has got to figure out a way to bring the same intensity and aggression every night no matter what because the Wizards desperately need him.
  • With the exception of his two-point dud against the Jazz last Friday, Mason has really been giving Jordan a lift off the bench lately. The sixth-year vet out of Virginia has scored at least 13 points in four of his last five. Mason's minutes are up to 26+ per game over than span and he's proven himself to be a reliable contributor.
  • The Wizards haven't won a game since Caron and Antawn were selected as reserves on the All-Star team. This is pretty irrelevant as Butler is injured and Jamison can't do it all himself. But neither has played particularly well in the last week and a half and they are the guys the team looks to for energy and inspiration.
Next Up
The Champs come to town tonight - possibly the team least likely to have an off night that lets Washington get back on track with a W before their west coast road swing. During their recent slump, the Wiz are scoring only 89.3 points per game and their average margin of defeat is a ridiculous 16+ points. It's not going to get any easier either. Tough Juice will likely be out again tonight after tweaking that hip flexor last night, which means Andray Blatche should get the starting nod.

The Spurs (30-16) are in the midst of a nine-game road trip. After their 116-89 rout of Indiana on Tuesday, they're an even 2-2 so far. Seven Spurs scored in double-figures in that contest, including newly signed free agent Damon Stoudamire who finished with 11 while helping fill in for injured starter Tony Parker. If there's a bright spot for the home team, it might be that San Antonio is a very un-Spur-like 10-11 away from the AT&T Center.

I don't expect Butler to play tonight and I didn't really like the Wizards' chances even with him in the lineup. This is not a get-well game and unless Washington really comes to play and gets an off-night from their opponents, they'll be riding a five-game slide on their plane to Denver. Washington needs a hurculean effort from Haywood and Blatche on the inside against Timmy and center Fabricio Oberto, coupled with big perimeter production from DeShawn, AD and Mason and mistake-free basketball. It's a tall order. That's why I'm taking the Spurs, 106-89.

All Photos AP/Getty Images

-- The Tar Heel

1 comment:

DMG said...

Don't you know that making predictions curses the team?