The Wizards never really had a chance against the Utah Jazz Saturday night. The hope for victory was akin to a 15-seed wanting to beat a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament, especially since both Al Thornton and Randy Foye didn’t play because of injury.
This team just doesn’t have the talent to compete right now. They are not tanking. They are out there with the desire to work together to win. That is, I don’t get the impression that guys are playing for themselves so much, unlike before the big trades.
The players are just trying to learn and Flip Saunders is just trying to teach. Speaking of, before the game Saunders said that he put in a new offense a couple days ago; an offense with the intent to get more cutting opportunities for perimeter players and to get the big men working closer to the basket.
“The offense we ran, the first unit we had out there played pretty well with it. We had a lot of open shots and moved the ball well, had a lot of assists,” said Saunders after his team went down 103-87 to Utah, dropping their record to 21-51. “We turned to our second unit, we have too many role players playing. Now some of those role players have to be thrust where they have to become main scorers and they’re not comfortable as far as doing that.”
Although the Wizards got expectantly man-handled by the Jazz, the game also represented just the thirteenth time in 72 games that Washington totaled over 20 assists while having 12 or less turnovers.
In the first quarter, the starting unit of Shaun Livingston, Mike Miller, Alonzo Gee, Andray Blatche and James Singleton achieved six assists to only two turnovers. All five played the entire period, finishing down 23-21 to Utah heading into the second quarter.
Before JaVale McGee checked in for Singleton at the 4:46 mark of the third quarter, the first unit was out-scored 15-13 and tallied four assists to zero turnovers.
So, one positive way of looking at things is that the already undermanned Wizards first unit only finished with a minus-4 against the Jazz along with 10 total assists to two turnovers. Not bad.
But in terms of scoring efficiency, the first unit was only able to produce 33 points on 13-34 from the field (38.2%), but the 10 assists on 13 field goals is decent, especially in comparison to just 11 assists on the 20 other field-goals made by all other units. Sometimes the offensive opportunity is there, guys just have to make shots.
After the game, I spoke with Nick Young, Blatche and Livingston about the new offense that Flip implemented just a couple days ago.
In terms of player development, after the game Saunders said, “Some guys are learning, some guys are getting better, some guys aren’t. I’m more disappointed that some of the guys aren’t … just the physicality of how we play as far as just letting people hit us before we hit people. That’s one of the biggest things as a team that our guys really have to learn.”
The mounting losses are painful. The 15-game and counting losing streak makes it worse. However, I don’t get a sense that ending the streak is a huge burden hanging over guys’ heads.
Of course they want to win a game. Of course they want the streak to stop. But the primary goal right now is more to learn and get better, to take these hard lessons like men and hopefully improve for the future.
[Photo Credits: Adam Douglas - Truth About It.net]