Ready for a sports cliché? Wait for it …. wait for it …. here goes …. “Games are not won or lost on a single play.”
Not exactly comforting to Wizards fans. Definitely not comforting to certain players in the Wizards’ locker room. Especially not comforting to head coach Flip Saunders.
After overcoming just 15 assists to 14 turnovers for the game and a seven point deficit with a minute left, the Wizards fell short by just one point to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. Down 94-93 with 6.7 seconds left, just after Brendan Haywood drew a huge charge call on Dirk Nowitzki, Caron Butler had the ball in his hands to win the game, either with a shot or a pass to a teammate.
After receiving the inbounds pass, Butler halted any previously set up process and dwindled clock with unproductive bounces of the ball, something you can’t exactly afford when you’re down. He drove left against Shawn Marion into the strong side help of Jason Kidd. With good defense quickly closing up the lane, Butler threw up the only shot he could muster, a weak, fading attempt that was sent back in his direction by Marion. Game over. Fans were left baffled.
No, games aren’t won or lost on one play, but when it came down to one play, why did Washington screw the pooch in between taking it out for a nice seafood dinner and never calling it again? There must have been a better way for the Wizards to court their first three-game win streak of the year. Perhaps being on the same page as to how the final play was to be executed would have helped.
Flip Saunders wasn’t baffled. He was down right pissed, at least for the two minutes of his terse press conference. When asked about the game’s final play, Saunders said, ”That wasn’t the play we were supposed to run.” He reaffirmed his previous statement and followed with, “It’s not what was designed,” when asked how the play was supposed to be run.
Past the losing play, Saunders clearly wasn’t pleased with his team’s overall game execution. But when asked a general question about it, he couldn’t help but revert back to that game deciding instance. “To get the ball back with 6.7 [seconds], it’s disappointing to not really give yourself a chance to win it at that point,” said the embattled coach.
Are you picking up on the trend here? When all players don’t follow the plan set forth, the team will fail.
That last play resurrected this season’s pre-’Downfall of Arenas’ era when ‘Hero Ball’ dominated the court from start to finish. But now that Gilbert is gone, why does it still exist? Some Arenas accusers figured the Wizards would revert back to the ’07-08 Zero-less playoff state when roles were defined and sharing the ball was more abundant. Doesn’t seem like that has happened.
When Caron Butler egotistically assumes he’s the man on the court without Gilbert Arenas, or enviously wants to be the man on the court with him, he’s doling blows to his basketball persona that was shaped by tough beginnings. Butler isn’t the only Wizard who’s played Hero Ball this season, but he’s been more afflicted with the basketball hubris disease than anyone else by far.
No one player is at fault for the Wizards’ 14-27 record. Even problems such as ignoring the coach’s instruction tend to be more systemic than an anomaly. But when the wanna-be hero goes rogue and fails in a single instance, you can toss ‘games aren’t won/lost on one play’ clichés out the window. The lone wolf deserted his pack and should always take the blame.
This video depicts an assessment of the game from the players’ perspective: