[Editor's Note: Rashad Mobley has reported on the Wizards with media credentials since the 2008-09 season for Hoops Addict. He occasionally contributes to Truth About It.net, providing excellent analysis and a different perspective from his up-close coverage of the team.]
I’ll admit I was feeling pretty good about myself going into last night’s Wizards/Jazz game. Prior to the game, Coach Flip Saunders mentioned that Shaun Livingston would get the starting nod over Randy Foye. After Friday night’s loss to the Orlando Magic, I asked Flip about a Livingston over Foye situation, and said he didn’t know–but he didn’t say no, which to me was a strong indication a change was going to be made. And eventually it was.
Based on my observations, Livingston got the Wizards into the offense earlier, he made more decisive passes, and when things broke down, he always seemed to make the right play to navigate his way out of trouble. Plus, Flip never missed a chance to praise Livingston’s “basketball IQ”, and since he is notoriously hard on point guards, it seemed like a good temporary fit. Livingston would start, Foye would channel his frustration over being benched, and regain that missing mojo, and Earl Boykins, being the veteran that he is, would be a threat to come in and drop 14 points in a minute and a half. Sounds like a plan right?
Clearly I did not look at the schedule closely enough, because if I had, I’d have noticed that All-Star Jazz point guard Deron Williams would be the first to test this new Wizards’ rotation.
Williams’ 207lbs are 30 more than Livingston’s 185. His 18 points and 10 assists per game averages are much better than Foye’s 10 points and three assists per game. And at 6’3″, Williams is nearly a foot taller than the 5’5″ Boykins. It looks like a mismatch on paper, and it was exactly that on the floor. The breakdown of last night’s numbers say it all:
Deron Williams: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 11 assists and 1 turnover
Livingston/Foye/Boykins: 16 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 turnovers
The final score: Utah 112, Washington 89. To make matters even worse, Williams amassed those numbers, despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter and watching his team sit on a 30 point lead.
In the first quarter, it seemed like Livingston was energized–at least on the defensive end of the floor. He blocked two of Williams’ shots in a minute span, and though his shot was not falling, he still seemed to be running the offense efficiently. Unfortunately, that was the most life Livingston showed all night.
The beauty of his performance against the Magic on Saturday night, was the inside/outside game. He drove to the basket, he posted the smaller guards, and that gave him confidence to hit the open shots. And when those shots were taken away, he found the open man, and that made his job as a point guard extremely easy. Last night, he could not post Williams, he couldn’t blow by him, and his shot was off. And to make matters worse, he had zero assists. Once Flip said of JaVale McGee, “If your starting center gets no defensive rebounds, you’re not going to win games in this league.” You’d best believe he feels the same about point guards and assists.
Foye entered the game at the 4:37 mark in the first quarter, and like Livingston before him, also started strong with three assists and five points, which included a three-pointer to give the Wizards the lead as the quarter expired. Sure he had trouble staying in front of Williams and he turned the ball over, picking up a quick foul, but it seemed like a little confidence was coming back. The rest of the game, Foye only scored three points, dished out just two assists, and he was relegated to garbage time in the fourth quarter.
The great part about Boykins is that you know right away whether he has his shot with him. If he does, he puts pressure on the defense all game long. If not, Flip sits him right down on the bench. Last night, Boykins did not have his shot, and he played only eight minutes after shooting 1-for-5 from the field. He had the pleasure of trying to bring the ball up against Jazz guard, and former D-leaguer Sundiata Gaines, who completely nullified Boykins quickness advantage. Needless to say, Boykins, who did not play at all against the Magic, was a non-factor against the Jazz.
As for Deron Williams, he was simply masterful. He constantly put pressure on the Wizards’ guard by getting deep in the lane, and despite two early blocks from Livingston, he never stopped. He either kicked the ball out to teammates, scored it himself or drew a foul. At one point, Williams came down the floor towards Randy Foye, faked right, crossed over left, then went behind his back and drew the foul. Even Washington Post beat writer Michael Lee was impressed.
So despite the thorough thrashing that the Wizards point guards endured at the hands of Deron Williams, it was still only one game–one game that was played in Utah, which is one of THE toughest places to play in the NBA. Tonight, is an entirely different story. They go to the high altitude of Denver to play the Nuggets, where another All-Star, Mr Chauncey “Big Shot” Billups awaits.
Good luck fellas.