Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Defensive Lapses Doom Banged Up Wiz

Just when you thought the Wizards had figured out how to beat the teams they're supposed to beat, they go and lose to another sub-.500 club, and they have the nerve to do it at home.

I'll admit it, the guys had me going there after coming back to beat the Clippers over the weekend. But then they go and lose to the Atlanta Hawks 96-105 on Monday and now those pesky Philadelphia 76ers are just a half game back of Washington for the 6th spot in the East.

If you're looking for an explanation for the letdown, the first stat that jumps out to you is Atlanta's field goal percentage. The Hawks shot a blistering 55.4 percent from the field. Translation: very poor defense from the home team. Atlanta also shot 53 percent from long-range thanks to new addition Mike Bibby who was 5-for-6.

Next, take a look at the bench production. After a string of very strong performances from role players - especially Nick Young and Darius Songaila - the Wizards got zilch from their reserves save for Roger Mason's 14. The Hawks bench out-scored Washington's 28-22 as Young and Songaila combined for only eight points. And what is going on with Andray Blatche? He was a real spark off the bench after Songaila replaced him in the starting lineup, but recently he's just disappeared. Sure, Eddie Jordan only gave him five minutes on Monday, but the guy has to do something in the minutes he's allotted if he wants that number to increase. Blatche would've been the perfect counter to Atlanta's slew of lanky forwards.

Next Up

Washington Wizards (33-33) at
Orlando Magic (45-24)
Wednesday, March 19 - 7pm
Amway Arena

The Wizards now must travel to Orlando to face one of the league's hottest team, and one they have yet to defeat in two meetings so far this season. The most recent matchup turned into a blowout very quickly as the Magic hammered Washington on its home floor, 122-92 on March 5.

Orlando has won 11 of its last 13 including a 104-90 rout of Cleveland on Monday. And while the Wizards would love to prove that they can play with Dwight Howard and company - if the season ended today the two teams would be matched up in the first round - their biggest concern right now might be to just get healthy.

Caron Butler returned for Thursday's win against Cleveland, but his wrist is banged up and the same goes for Antonio Daniels. Meanwhile Brendan Haywood just returned after missing one game due to a strained left patella tendon and Antawn Jamison has been playing with back pain for several weeks now.

But with the Sixers licking their chops as they close in on Washington's sixth seed, the Wiz have got to come together and continue to pick up wins. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening tonight against the Magic.

-- The Tar Heel

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