Don’t want to call it a rivalry? There are too many coincidences in the series surrounding these two teams not too. With a Wizards six game losing streak that began in Cleveland and ended against the same team in D.C., there’s a certain symmetry displayed that you just don’t get in your usual Wednesday night matchup between most other NBA teams.
And how many teams does LeBron get so frustrated against that he decides dunk a ball so meaninglessly hard that he hurts his wrist? I don’t know.
This time, however, the injury shoe was on the other foot. There shouldn’t be a single Cavs fan out there saying, ‘We were without Shaq and Varejao.’ They’ve had no qualms about disassembling the Wizards’ bandwagon when it was down a couple wheels. LeBron likes to whine but he’s not Eva Perón, no one in Wizards Nation is going to cry for him, his team, or his city because of injuries.
LeBron was as much of a proponent for his team as he was a detriment to their efforts last night. This will be explained further below.
The game won’t go down as a classic in the Wiz-Cavs rivalry … they don’t all have to be. Overall, it was a great win for the Wizards, vital on several levels. But a “statement” game? (as goes the question at least one reporter always seems to ask a coach, player, etc.) — No.
“I’ll tell ya in June,” said Flip Saunders.
Statements come in the win and loss column. A 2-7 team bumping to 3-7 is not much of a statement. Let’s see if this team stays together on a tough two game road trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio and beyond before making any statements.
A Gentlemanly Effort From A Returning Vet
The Gentleman Jamison eschewed his gentlemanly suit and pocket square and took the court to show the young kids how it’s done. And he did what he does best, score and rebound. The key being him kicking the game off with much needed energy and 13 first quarter points (which were especially needed to combat Cleveland’s hot 32 point first). Jamison also had six offensive rebounds for the game. Cleveland had six offensive rebounds as a team.
Good to have the number one court leader back in uniform … despite his sub par defense. He seemed a bit slow to rotate and out of position at times. But this is nothing new and you take the good and bad with Jamison. The good is much better.
Inside/Outside, Court-Spreading Jamison:
- Inside 10 Feet: AJ was 8-11 on FG, drawing four fouls and going 5-6 from the FT line, scoring 21 points.
- Outside 10 Feet: AJ was 4-11, scoring 10 points (2-7 from three-point land).
- via ESPN Stats and Information
Seven Day Dray, The Quiet Storm
Maybe Andray Blatche’s numbers weren’t “there” (17 mins, 6 pts, 1-1 FG, 2 stls, 1 to, 0 rebs, 0 blks), but the young fella had a good game. He limited mistakes, did some little things, and was aware on defense. The guy is finally turning the corner when you notice his positive contributions that don’t up the box score.
DeShawn: From Mr. Fifty to Mr. Meat ‘n’ Taters
One person the media didn’t really get a chance to speak with after the game is DeShawn Stevenson. You never know how many players are jetting out the locker room during Flip Saunders’ press conference. And tonight, he was one of the early departures.
Stevenson was a defensive catalyst for the Wizards at the right moment, quelling what could have very well been a LeBronsian takeover. And it’s not like LeBron didn’t get his when Stevenson came in at the 5:55 mark of the third. He had 15 points on 4-7 from the field and 4-5 from the free-throw line in the quarter. But the problem for Cleveland was what their offense did when LeBron wasn’t scoring — missed shots and stagnant ball movement. LeBron’s teammates were 3-10 from the field and the only two Cleveland assists in the quarter were achieved by him.
“I’m sure [DeShawn] wasn’t happy he didn’t play in the first half, but to his credit, he came in very professional and played “Meat and Potato” basketball. He didn’t give them any antics.” -Flip Saunders
A Cleveland-Washington game sans DeShawn antics? Really? Really.
It’s almost like DeShawn knew that his usual “Can’t Feel My Face” shenanigans would have fueled LeBron into a basket-scoring rage. When Stevenson simply played him straight up on defense, LeBron turned into a basket-missing ball hogger. He threw a wrench in Cleveland’s offensive machine by trying to out-macho DeShawn and failed.
More On LeBron’s “Takeover”
The Cavs certainly played well in the first quarter, but the game has four quarters … which was lost on LeBron as he went away from his creating and his passing. And give the Wizards credit, they stopped running so many lax double teams that allowed LeBron to use his great passing skills to easily pick apart the coverage and find holes in the rotation.
- 1st Quarter: He totaled 7 assists and his passing created 17 points on 7-9 FGs (3-4 threes) for his teammates.
- 2nd – 4th Quarters: He totaled 2 assists; his passing only created 4 points on 2-4 FGs (0-1 from deep).
- via ESPN Stats and Information
Gil’s Fourth Quarter Absence
Arenas recently that he’d rather take shots than turn the ball over … and he adhered to that principle last night. He had eight assists to only two turnovers, but just couldn’t get his shot to fall, scoring 18 points on 22 shots (making six). He did come on in the third quarter, scoring 14 points on 5-13 from the field (1-5 on threes) … but hey, sometimes you just have bad shooting nights. As long as he manages the game and doesn’t get reckless, which he didn’t.
Flip Saunders said he tried to get Arenas back in the game during the fourth quarter, but Boykins was playing so well that Arenas displayed leadership and told Flip to let Boykins play the game out (according to Saunders). Although Flip did get Gilbert off the bench after a James dunk capped a two-minute 11-3 Cleveland run that cut the Wizards’ lead to 12 with 2:27 left. But back-to-back buckets by Butler and Jamison gave the Wizards a 108-91 cushion that turned out to be the final score.
Don’t get Gilbert wrong, he doesn’t want to sit out an entire fourth quarter. He’s not supposed to be sitting.
But a 2-7 team will take what they can get … and if that’s in the form of a 5’5″ tiny general leading the way, then so be it. Plus, Arenas is a smart guy … he knows if he speaks out on playing time, the waves of criticism would come crashing.
Gil wants to win at any cost and part of that involves maintaining a good relationship with his coach, and knowing when to delegate. He’s still trying to figure it all out, but look for him to be the ‘man’ down the stretch in the future.
Flip On Defense:
“It probably helped that we (the Wizards’ defense) were in front of our bench. Our bench helped out a lot with players and assistant coaches letting guys know what plays were coming, what coverages we’re in. We changed some coverages, we didn’t stay with the same coverages on pick and rolls. So we changed some things up to try to keep them a little off balance.”
Flip On Patience:
“I’m not a very patient person usually … I told that to the guys. I have high demands on the players, myself … everybody. Those demands aren’t going to stop, because I think you have to demand things in order for our players to understand how hard they have to play, how consistent they have to play … everything they have to do to get where we want to get. But I’ll have to bite my lip … my assistant coaches have said to me many times, ‘You’ve got to be patient.’”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mr. ‘It Is What It Is’, Mike Miller.
At one point, I think Mike Prada of Bullets Forever, Mike Jones of the Washington Times, the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, Michael Wilbon and Mike Wise, and even Mike Brown, coach of the Cavaliers, were all remarking gushing over the universal game of Mike Miller.
Here are some pics of his hustle swag via Keith Allison (flickr):