Much more solid effort from the Wizards, let’s run down some bullet points on the Wiz Kids.
- John Wall ran the show and set an early tone, getting five assists in the first quarter. He only got four assists for the rest of the game, coming short of a double-double with his 28 points. He really looked a lot more comfortable offensively, especially with his jump shot as the game progressed. It did not look deliberately nervous like against Orlando; he even hit a couple threes late in the game.More importantly, after starting 2-8 from the field, Wall hit us with a shot of cappuccino (what Ted Leonsis likened him too during an in-game recorded interview), and sparked his offense with 2:19 left in the third quarter. Including a free-throw Wall hit at the 3:01 mark in the third period , he scored the last 12 points of the quarter for the Wizards while Atlanta just scored six. The game was tied at 70 heading into the fourth.
Because of Wall, the Wizards stayed competitive. They were out-talented by the Hawks in the end behind efforts from Joe Johnson (25 points, but on 10-23 shooting) and Al Horford (an incredibly efficient 21 points on 6-10 shooting and 9-10 from the free-throw line). But Wall did live up to the “Game Changer” moniker the Wizards dubbed him with after the draft. With his 28 points, Wall got nine assists, only three turnovers, and five rebounds. Maybe we should open the Rookie of the Year award back up.
- JaVale McGee stayed active, and that really needs to be what defines his game. He had a career-high seven blocks to go with seven points, eight rebounds, but five fouls and five turnovers. And I was just as curious as others as to why he wasn’t in at the end of the game to guard Al Horford instead of Yi Jianlian. However, it’s not like Yi did anything completely terrible (Horford hit a jumper in his face and went back door on him for a lob dunk in the last 2:19; Yi also sent him to the foul line with six seconds left) … Basically, McGee could have given up just as many points, but his length and athleticism can lead to more possessions.
The amount of possessions, mostly defense, that McGee still gets lost on is terribly frustrating. Plus, he really struggles in his ability to set screens. He picked up several fouls (and turnovers) by getting called for moving picks.
- With Gilbert Arenas out and Kirk Hinrich forced to run the point, the Wizards’ offense really struggles. Some of this could be Hinrich, in that he’s not really an offensive threat (if he only was a more consistent shooter), and some of it could be what his teammates are doing. Point is, the team could really use the offensive threat of that Gilbert guy. Not to say that Hinrich won’t be running the point when Arenas is back playing and Wall is resting during a game, but you must wonder if the guy with the ball in his hands should be more of an offensive threat, and if Hinrich is best playing off of that.
- Al Thornton looked great … and a guy motivated to keep his starting job. I’ve questioned Thornton a lot leading up to the season, but if he continues to make hustle plays and find offense closer to the basket, he’s going to get significant run. And mostly because those are things guys like Nick Young seem incapable of. Thornton had 24 points on 10-15 field goals to go with seven rebounds, four offensive.
Thornton took just four shots from beyond 16 feet and only made one of them. He made the two shots he took from 16 feet out. He took the remainder of his nine shots in the paint, making seven of them. Last year, 4.2 of Thornton’s nine field-goal attempts came from 16 feet and beyond.
- Andray Blatche put up some numbers, but often didn’t look great in the process. He had 18 points on 9-19 shooting and didn’t earn a single trip to the free-throw line. He managed just seven rebounds in 34 minutes of play and had four turnovers. When he did manage to get into the paint on offense, he mostly shot fade-away jumpers. Blatche tried to post up a couple of times, but his actions are too slow and he’s not strong with the ball. Facing up right now doesn’t always benefit Blatche because he’s so out of shape.
Overall, his ultra-softness inside makes me really question whether the team should have signed him to an extension. John Wall may be the team’s savior … guess that would make Blatche like Angel Soft toilet paper. But for several more games, an unforeseen amount of time I supposes, we get to keep saying that Blatche is out of shape and that he’s “still young.” Great.
- In terms of Blatche’s buddy, Nick Young, more than not, he doesn’t seem to have much contribution to the game. If he’s not scoring (because we know he’s not passing … he seems completely incapable of seeing the flow of the game develop, such as with about seven minutes left in the second quarter when Yi Jianlian was in perfect position to receive a pass on the re-post, but Young put his head down, dribbled a couple times and jacked up a shot). Young went 0-2 from the field with a block and a turnover in 11 total minutes.
- Yi Jianlian had an okay game in that he hit some jumpers, but he only got one rebound in 24 minutes … pretty bad for the player I bragged could be the team’s best rebounder. You can tell he’s out there trying, and doesn’t look as lost as he’s been accused of in the past, but he’s also not the presence that one would hope a player of his size brings.