The Streak Continues in Houston: 16 and Counting; Wizards Still Looking For a Win in March
Sixteen losses in a row and counting. The Wizards showed some bright spots in Tuesday night’s loss to Houston, such as JaVale McGee. Actually, he was pretty much the only bright spot. Well, James Singleton played okay.
Andray Blatche’s 31 points, 10 rebounds, four steals, three assists and three blocks you say? Well, when you play 41 minutes and receive the ball ALL. THE. TIME. (he took 23 shots) you are supposed to put up those numbers. He still has too much Tin Man in him … no heart … especially when it comes to rebounding toughness.
The Wizards mostly showed that they did not deserve to win. I’m sure some are saying, ‘Hey, those guys competed without Foye, Thornton, Gee, etc.’ But the Rockets also competed without Kevin Martin, Shane Battier and Jared Jeffries. Plus, the Wizards were beaten by Chase Budinger. Enough said.
Nonetheless, below are the notes and observations I took/made as I watched the game on delay at my leisure.
Note: Starters: Livingston, Young, Miller, Blatche & Oberto — 25th different starting lineup, 21 wins … something to be said about that ratio.
11:26 – The first time Nick Young touches the ball is when he picks up a loose ball steal and heads in the other direction in a 2-on-2 with Blatche. Likely learning from the Caron Butler school of confidence (at least when he was with the Wizards), Nick tries a poor hesitation move to the basket only to hold the ball down low, getting it caught against his leg and ultimately stripped and stolen by Jermaine Taylor. To make matters worse, Taylor beats Nick down the court and converts a transition bucket.
10:00 - To give Nick credit, Taylor receives the ball with five seconds on the shot clock and Nick moves his feet very well around a Scola pick and does not allow Taylor to get a shot off in time. Not a lot of awareness from Taylor here.
9:55 - Flip Saunders subs Quinton Ross for Young, but doesn’t allow Young to sit, rather coaches him and then sends him right back to the scorer’s table.
7:01 - Sometimes, as a point guard, you have to know when to call your own number. Shaun Livingston excellently does so here by taking the lane for a strong left handed layup with quickness, the Wizards’ 14th points in the paint. 14-8 Wizards.
The floor is spread, the Wizards are in transition … it’s the right tome for Livingston to use his length to get to the rack.
5:38 - Unexpected … a Nick Young assist. He receives a cross court pass in transition from Mike Miller. He’s almost backing into the right corner, but sees that Scola is coming to get him in the rotation, throws up a pump fake, drives, and when the help comes, finds Andray Blatche making himself available in the middle of the paint for a lay-up. 16-12 Wizards.
5:21 - However, on the other end Young allows much too much separation off the ball between him and Jermaine Taylor after an off-ball screen. By the time Taylor catches it, Young is in poor position to get around Scola’s on-ball screen at the top of the key. Taylor drives to the hoop for a bucket, his seventh and eighth points of the game.
4:54 - Nick’s first shot, a three miss …
4:12 - Young attacks the basket, misses a baseline layup long, but gets his own rebound, keeps his composure and when the Rockets defense falls off him, he hits the short baseline jumper from the other side.
Mike Miller misses two layups. I kinda miss his long hair. At least it was some sort of spectacle. On Miller’s third layup chance/cherry-picking opportunity, he makes – And 1. 23-18 Wizards.
1:53 - Nick Young picks up his second foul.
Blatche has been very active by scoring in a variety of ways … and not all opportunities created for him, rather opportunities that he created for himself … such as tip-backs, etc.
Wizards: 22 points in the paint, 7 fast break points … up 30-27.
5:13 - I’ve noticed JaVale McGee getting more post-up opportunities this game. They haven’t always worked out, but those chances are certainly more preferable than him catching the ball on the perimeter, something that seemed to happen in the previous offense. Here, he catches the ball on the left block, without a ton of resistance from Jordan Hill mind you, gives one dribble/look toward the middle, then performs a classic right foot drop step move baseline. He’s so athletic that all he needs is just a little bit of space and one step to get a dunk. Again, the defensive physicality of Hill leaves a lot to be desired, but at least McGee is trying. 42-41 Wizards.
Phil Chenier commends McGee on moving toward the basket and not fading away.
On the other end, McGee does the right thing and gives baseline help to Boykins on the driving Aaron Brooks. However, after Brooks releases the shot, McGee just turns around and watches instead of finding someone to hit in going for a rebound. Hill glides in for the put back dunk.
Can’t get caught observing the action.
At this point the Wizards start to look a little lacking on defense … losing just a tad of focus/energy. We’ll see what the future holds.
3:28 - Nick Young is working to try to keep up with his man off the ball, but picks up his third foul on a minor hold… enter Cartier Martin.
2:40 - Martin closes out on Budinger who catches the ball at the three-point line on the right wing, but doesn’t really have his hands up … neither acting like he’s contesting the shot, but playing the drive, nor being active in the passing lane. Trevor Ariza sets a ball screen. Budinger beats Martin to the spot and is able to turn the corner. The newest Wizard commits a two-shot foul.
Meanwhile, Blatche is 8-11 on FGs and has 17 points. He had 15 points in the first quarter.
1:18 - Again, the Rockets looks to pick on Cartier. Ariza gets the ball on the left three-point wing and throws the ball into Scola in the post. Ariza then cuts toward the baseline to receive the hand-off from Scola. Martin, however, feel asleep for a second after Ariza initially dumped the ball into the post. This allowed Ariza to gain a big step advantage on his cut. Martin fouls him on the ground, but the Rockets are in the bonus.
This is a simple cut by Ariza that Martin should see coming;
off-ball defense is just as important as on-ball.
Wizards up 53-48 after two quarters.
Solid first half from Washington. Composed play. They took care of the ball. They tried to work the offense into the paint for points. And they weren’t completely terrible to watch, although it’s clear that these two teams are pretty bad.
Wizards: 52% FG, won battle of boards 22-19, assists even at 11, outscored Houston in the paint 30-24. Blatche with 20 points.
9:00 - The Wizards, still looking for their first points of the second half, swing the ball left to right, from Livingston to Young, who gets a ball screen from Oberto, splits the defense, and has a large lane to drive to the basket.
Unfortunately, Young has a one-track mind. Chuck Hayes, being an intelligent defensive player, and probably someone who scouts other players, has plenty of time to get in position and set himself in Young’s path. Nick barrels into Hayes … charging foul, #4 on Young.
Nick can’t believe the call … I watched it a couple times, it was totally legit … he sprawls some sort of move on the court, puts his head in his hands while laying on the ground, and then Mike Miller finally goes to get up off the ground.
No matter how many times Young seems to get these learning opportunities while playing, both in body control and reading the defense, along with his body language/getting down on himself issues, he never seems to, well, learn. Assistant coach/advanced scout Mike Wells talks to Young on the bench.
7:51 - I’m told by Steve Buckhantz that Flip Saunders was stomping his feet in frustration on his play. Miller gets the ball on the left wing and Oberto looks to be going to set a ball screen for Blatche at the free-throw line. Getting Scola switched on Blatche is preferable because of Chuck Hayes’ strength … he is always able to out-muscle Andray, usually causing him to take some crappy, off-balanced shot.
However, Blatche doesn’t go off Oberto‘s screen hard … he actually just kinda half-asses his way by. When the Rockets aren’t forced to switch, Andray does not even make an effort to post up against Hayes, which he is seemingly supposed to do as Miller is looking for him. Instead, Blatche, directing traffic, points for the ball to go in the other direction. It does, back to Oberto.
Confusion ensues … the Flip Saunders foot stomping commences. Miller goes behind Oberto and is actually able to receive the hand-off and get open for a shot, but misses.
Otherwise, way to go Dray … I could be wrong, but you broke the play because you were soft compared to the strength of Chuck Hayes.
7:19 – At this point Houston takes a 57-55 lead and Flip Saunders calls a timeout. The Wizards, as a team, are clearly not as mentally in the game as they should be. They have also only scored two points so far in the period.
4:58 - With the score tied at 60, and a very stagnant Wizards offense, I’m not sure what the goal is. Blatche gets the ball in the deep right corner with 19 seconds on the shot clock. He takes five dribbles over six seconds and only moves about four feet from where he started … but not toward the basket, laterally. He then fires a very lazy, crappy shot with 13 seconds on the shot clock that hits the highest part of the backboard first and then misses badly. With shots like that, you could comfortably accuse Andray of tanking himself and I would not argue. But then again, it’s Andray Blatche, that’s just the crap he pulls sometimes.
Why is it so often that lesser naturally talented players, such as James Singleton, have much more heart? I blame America’s player development system, from AAU to college.
2:39 - I wish it wasn’t getting so absurd, but it is. To start, see where Andray catches the ball in the below screen shot. At this point, he’s taken one post dribble, the previous double-team of Jordan Hill has departed, and Blatche is about to take a second dribble. There are nine seconds on the shot clock … plenty of time.
Somehow, Blatche picks up the ball after a second dribble, steps with his left foot far away from the basket, and takes an absolutely horrible fade-away … that’s also heavily contested by Scola. Airball.
What a horrid offensive possession.
On the other end, Blatche is called for a silly frustration foul, his third, and loses the headband. Watch out world.
1:01 – Also, Mike Miller has had a ton of open looks … he just can’t buy a bucket … 3-13 on FGs at this point. Could be just a bad night, could be that his visible frustration has taken over and his head is not completely into basketball these days. In any case, his value heading into a contract summer has taken a hit.
But believe it or not, the Wizards and Rockets are tied at 65. With the Wizards play, I keep on expecting Houston to make a run to put the game away. Basketball seems like the furthest thing away from fun for a lot of these guys.
0:27 – Holy Moly … Blatche gets the ball on the left block and takes it against Hill, without a double team coming, for a baby right-handed hook shot in the lane. 67-65 Wizards.
11:42 - Blatche goes back to working in the paint … so why the moments of apathy toward working hard earlier? Can’t afford to half-ass it on plays. Here he earns a trip to the FT line and makes both. 69-65 Wizards.
11:07 - Dray catches the ball on the left block with 10 seconds on the shot clock. He diddles around with some barley jab steps, etc. Chase Budinger comes to double with five seconds on the shot clock. Instead of being aware of the double and passing right away, Blatche tries to dribble out of it. Shot clock awareness bro … shot clock violation bro.
10:39 - Blatche has box out position on Jordan Hill, but gets out-worked for the board and Hill gets a put-back dunk. 69 tie.
9:09 - Mike Miller falls asleep against Budinger off the ball. He hits a two. 77-76 Rockets. Again, the focus is just not there for the Wizards. I’m not noticing everything Houston is doing in this same area, but the Wizards in no way deserve to win this game … from my perspective.
8:52 - But now, JaVale McGee has burned the Rockets, and Jordan Hill, for two straight baskets with And1s on both. He’s really using his advantage in length, but only after working to get closer to the hoop. McGee makes all free-throws, scoring six straight points for Washington. 80-77 Wizards.
7:42 – McGee continues to work hard … he’s making me happy with his play. He’s staying close to the basket and trying to keep his arms extended to get rebound tips on offense. He gets one here. 82-80 Wizards.
7:22 - Another rebound put back from McGee! Again, Houston is not being that physical with him … but hey, JaVale is doing what he’s supposed to do. 84-80 Wizards. He’s scored the last 10 points for the team.
5:39 - Weird play. Miller and Budinger go down for a loose ball near the baseline with the Wizards on offense. Both end up lying out of bounds on the baseline, but it’s unclear if either was touching the ball, or if the ball even went out of bounds, as it suddenly emerged within view rolling in-bounds along the baseline.
The refs blow the whistle with one second on the shot clock and somehow call a jump ball, but to the Wizards’ benefit, the shot clock resets for some reason. However, an educated guess would indicate that it should have been out of bounds on Budinger.
Nonetheless, the ball is jumped and Houston/Aaron Brooks controls (did you really think Miller was going to out-jump Budinger?) … but the worst part is that Budinger is allowed to freely streak down the court and Brooks ends up throwing him a lob for a lay-in. 86-84 Wizards.
5:11 - Andray Blatche hits a crazy, lucky, fading, free-throw line jumper off the glass against Chuck Hayes, And1. 89-84 Wizards.
3:55 - Blatche’s assignment, Luis Scola, gets a rebound while Dray is not worried about boxing out. Scola puts it back for points. 89-86 Wizards.
3:24 - McGee travels. On the dead ball, the Wizards fall asleep in getting back. Not Kyle Lowry, who sees an opportunity to quickly get the ball to the ref and ready to take it out of bounds. Houston suddenly had a two-on-one advantage … after a dead ball I remind you. Budinger gets the ball to Scola, McGee gets called for goal-tending. 89-88 Wizards.
3:03 – Wow, Boykins gets fouled shooting a three, but only makes one. 90-88 Wizards.
2:53 – Budinger hits a shot off a screen. He has a career-high 20 points off the bench and has been abusing fellow white boy Mike Miller. Steve Buckhantz says Budinger looks like Reggie Miller. Game tied at 90.
1:50 - The Wizards get two offensive rebounds on one possession. Houston then bails the Wizards out by fouling Earl Boykins with five seconds on the shot clock. He was losing the ball on a drive and had no where to go. Boykins makes both free-throws. 92-90 Wizards.
1:25 - Kyle Lowry ties the game at 92 with a crazy runner at the shot clock buzzer.
1:03 - A long jumper from Blatche over Hayes as he operates further and further away from the hoop misses. Yuck.
0:53 – But Lowry gets called for carrying the ball. Do either of these teams want to win?
0:36 - Blatche gets to the free-throw line against Hayes, but his old up-and-under move into an off-balanced fade-away doesn’t work again. Chuck Hayes pretty much owns Andray Blatche. Game still tied at 92.
Blatche goes into the timeout bitching about a foul. Sorry dude, no chance.
0:28 - Budinger jumper off the glass … against Mike Miller, again. 94-92 Rockets. Probably smart for Houston to play the 2-for-1 possession game too.
Lemme guess … the Wizards are going to futilely go to Blatche again.
0:12 - Coulda surprised me. The possession involves several dribbles from Boykins and a three-point miss by him. Budinger is fouled and makes both FTs.
0:05 - Nick Young misses a three, Mike Miller gets a tip-back, Houston calls timeout. Kyle Lowry fouled with 3.5 seconds left, he makes both.
The Wizards have no timeouts, they turn the ball over, and the losing streak continues at 16 in a row.
Oh well, at least Friday night is Phil Chenier night.