As Tuesday night got later and later, I found myself less and less wanting to write a blog about the Wizards-Cavs game. It’s not that I was particularly distraught about the loss … I just preferred to put it behind me, have a short memory as they say in sports.
Dwyane Wade and the Heat are in D.C. tonight for a game that I will be covering/reporting from … and I’d rather focus my energy on hoping the Wiz take care of business at home.
Plus, I predicted a Cavs win because of what I thought would be a Cleveland home court advantage (ahem … whistles). And well, that pretty much held true. In the first half, the Wizards’ four big men were whistled for a total of 12 fouls — Haywood (3), Blatche (3), McGee (4), and Oberto (2).
Most of the fouls were just, some not so much … and ultimately this threw the Wizards out of sync on both ends of the court.
On defense, bigs were worried about picking up fouls. And a Shaq versus JaVale McGee matchup, simply in appearance much less game flow, was like choosing between a simple salad and a bacon cheeseburger from Five Guys … when you’re six beers into a six hour empty stomach. Which one do you think will prevail?
Still, despite some very questionable calls, this one wasn’t on the refs
The Wiz put up 31 points in the 1st Q, diminished that total by 25.8% in the 2nd Q, diminished the second’s total by 17.4% in the 3rd Q, and finally, diminished the third’s total by 10.5% in the 4th Q.
The Wizards are going to pick up fouls … and Brendan Haywood’s back can only hold so much. Teams will start recognizing how the Wiz struggle without Haywood (they likely already have) and will start to attack, attack, attack him.
So … one key/obvious concern occurs when Haywood is not in the game, which it then becomes evident that the Wizards might not have the personnel to deal with the cream of the crop in the East (Shaq, Dwight Howard & Garnett/Perkins/Wallace). To backup the championship aspirations of Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, a trade might needed … but Grunfeld shouldn’t jump the gun just yet. And we all know that he won’t.
But the concern greater than frontcourt dearth is offensive stagnation and the inability to stay together without folding under the pressure when beasts come knocking at the door.
The first part is contingent on Gilbert Arenas … who is still getting a feel for the game after missing so much time. The second derives from the continued development of a rapport between new players, a new coach, and a new system.
I’m not sure how long this excuse can be used as a crutch, but for now it’s an acceptable reason. Patience. The season is still young and this team has shown the ability to bounce back after poor showings. I expect the Wizards to beat Miami 107-89.
And for the hell of it, I chronicled the 12 fouls called on Wizards bigs in the first half to determine if they were legit, questionable/ticky-tack, or B.S. –
Big Man Fouls
FOUL #1: Ticky-Tack/Questionable: 10:56 1st Q: Mo Williams, guarded by Butler, came off a Varejao screen, dipped his shoulder into Oberto’s hip and slightly wrapped his arm around the small of Fab’s back to get past. Oberto moved his feet, so there was contact … but the brunt of said contact was initiated by Williams dropping his shoulder — smart play I guess. Oberto Foul #1.
FOUL #2: Complete B.S.: 4:39: 1st Q: Let’s illustrate in pictures. Haywood Foul #1.
Here Haywood is practicing decent blocking out technique. Sure, his stance could be a little bit wider, but he clearly has position on Shaq.
What is this we see? Shaq’s entire forearm is engrossing Haywood’s shoulder … which means there’s about 40 pounds coming down on Brendan, likely making it pretty hard for him to jump. What’s worse is that the ref appears to be staring right at this transgression.
Ok, so with Haywood unable to jump, Shaq easily goes up over him and grabs the rebound with two hands. Brendan does manage to get one clean hand on the ball.
Shaq turns his body in a fight for the ball while Haywood keeps that one clean hand on the ball. It’s 100% clear from this screen shot that Haywood is not into Shaq’s body … and it’s probably 99% clear that he’s not grabbing Shaq’s arm. Yet, a foul was called. Good job non-replacement ref.
FOUL #3: Completely Legit: 3:56 1st Q: Mo Williams runs a P&R with Ilgauskas. Haywood helps contain Mo, but neither he nor Arenas work to get their hands in the passing lane, ball goes to Z on the roll, Oberto comes to help, commits a foul. Oberto Foul #2.
FOUL #4: Ticky-Tack/Stupid: 0:35 1st Q: On the left wing, LeBron cuts across the lane off a Hickson pick. Blatche makes slight contact chucking LeBron off his path. The contact is very minimal, but the refs are always watching LeBron … so if this must be called “legit”, then so be it. Blatche Foul #1.
FOUL #5: Completely Legit: 10:54 2nd Q: Shaq backs down Blatche on left block, Andray loses ground quicker than levees in New Orleans, Blatche seems to purposely hack the crap out of Shaq. Blatche Foul #2.
FOUL #6: Legit: 10:16 2nd Q: McGee doesn’t set the most fundamentally sound pick in the world, trips and fouls Anthony Parker. McGee Foul #1.
FOUL #7: Legit, but Questionable: 8:47 2nd Q: Blatche tries to front deny Ilguaskas, who simply grabs Andray’s arm when posting. It’s kinda funny/dirty, but not something the refs will call … but that’s not to say that they shouldn’t.
So, Big Z is like, “Throw lob pass. I’ll toss arm. I’ll push other arm with other hand. I’ll catch ball.” … At which point Z pump fakes and Blatche runs into him. Blatche Foul #3. Let’s go to the pictures …
Off arm push off.
“Dude, I know you see him grabbing me!!”
FOUL #8: Fairly Legit: 7:56 2nd Q: With Shaq running down the court at Haywood to gain position, and Haywood’s back to the basket, Brendan bumps into Shaq in an attempt to slow him down. Shaq sells the foul further but jumping back like he just ran into a wall. Veteran salesmanship by Shaq … but yea, the refs are going to call that. Haywood Foul #2.
FOUL #9: B.S.: 7:50 2nd Q: Shaq is famous for using that chicken wing spin move. Posting up on the right block, Haywood has one open palm on Shaq’s back, which he can do, trying to hold his ground.
As Shaq spins and throws that big shoulder into Haywood, Brendan’s arm collapses, while still trying to hold the position he’s entitled to.
But when Shaq’s big meaty chicken wing comes out, Haywood has no chance.
Haywood Foul #3.
That is one big chicken wing.
FOUL #10: Legit: 6:42 2nd Q: With McGee, Oberto, Miller, Stevenson & Foye vs. Gibson, West, Williams, LeBron & Shaq (seems like a bad matchup for the Wiz), Washington struggles with the matchup zone (it was spread out with a ton of gaps). Cleveland works the ball around until LeBron has a lane, he drives and is fouled by JaVale. McGee Foul #2.
FOUL #11: Legit: 4:29 2nd Q: Shaq plows his way against a visibly winded McGee, Shaq gets hacked. McGee Foul #3.
FOUL #12: Legit: 3:48: 2nd Q: LeBron drives hard, McGee grabs him. McGee Foul #4.
Tid-Bit from the Elias Sports Bureau:
- Washington led the Cavaliers, 37-19, just over two minutes into the second quarter last night before dropping a 102-90 decision at Quicken Loans Arena. It was the first time that the Cavaliers trailed by more than 15 points in any of Cleveland’s last 60 regular-season home games. That had been the longest current streak of that sort in the NBA.
- Washington has scored only 10.3 points per game off turnovers this season, the second-lowest average in the NBA (ahead of New Orleans, 9.3) and more than six points below the league average (16.7). Washington opponents have averaged a league-low 10.5 turnovers per game.
- Gilbert Arenas has had nine of his field-goal attempts blocked this season, tying him with Chris Bosh for the second-most for any NBA player, behind Gerald Wallace (11).
- Andray Blatche leads the NBA with 70 points off the bench this season, four more than New York’s Al Harrington (66). Blatche ranks seventh in the league in rebounds off the bench (27) and tonight he’ll likely be battling the league leader in bench rebounds, Udonis Haslem (43).
And Andray Blatche said the Wizards stopped trusting each other when they fell under distress, even discounting foul troubles as the key stumbling block.
“That’s not one of our bigger problems,” 7-Day-Dray said. “We have to play more as a team, fight through things as a team. We’ve got to stick together, no matter what. Everybody has to trust everybody. Fouls are going to come, but you have to fight through that. After a while, everybody tried to make their own plays when we got down. We stopped sticking to the things we were doing. That kind of messed our rhythm up.”
Still, it’s kind of frustrating how this game turned. Fouls hurt, and bad calls hurt, but it shouldn’t completely swing the entire momentum of the game like that.
This game played out almost like it did in Atlanta on Friday, when the Wizards jumped out to an early 10-point lead on the road against the Hawks and lost steam the rest of the way. Once the Hawks punched back, the Wizards didn’t know how to counter. And when the Cavaliers fought back — mainly with the crushing blow that O’Neal levied on DeShawn Stevenson that truly turned around the game — the Wizards were dazed and confused.
- I thought the Cavs don’t care about D.C.? [DC Sports Bog]
- Yes, LeBron: The Wizards Are Your Rivals [Stet Sports]
There was a special energy in the Cavs locker room after their 102-90 victory over the Washington Wizards. And it had nothing to do with their owner dancing in the halls after Issue 3 passed in Ohio and cleared the way for him to building two casinos.
Maybe the best news of the night: The Cavs were +7 in the 12 minutes LeBron was on the bench tonight, including an amazing +10 run in the 4 minutes LeBron sat in the 2nd quarter. And guess who started the 2nd quarter on the floor? Shaq. Was that really rocket science?
The other big difference between the first quarter and most of the second half was that the Cavs stopped letting Gilbert Arenas into the lane. Arenas was 4-of-6 in the first quarter, and three of those were from inside 12 feet. The rest of the game? 3-of-12, and only one made basket from inside 19 feet. And that’s the other great thing about Shaq’s game last night: he finally is starting to look like he gets the defense a bit. It didn’t feel, to me at least, that Brown had Shaq showing on high picks as much as he was early (or as much as Z does).