Wizards vs. Celtics: Play Of The Night (Hint: It Was Boston)
Normally we’d break down a play that the Wizards ran for the ‘Play Of The Night’. But, as you know, last night’s loss to the Celtics wasn’t quite normal. Instead, we’ll break down a pretty intelligent deception play from Boston … and in the process, you’ll just happen to see the clueless ways of the Wizards magnified.
This one starts with Rajon Rondo (1) bringing the ball up the middle of the floor. Boston’s bigs, Kevin Garnett (4) and Shaquille O’Neal (5), are posted at the elbows, Paul Pierce (3) is on the right wing, elbow extended, and Ray Allen (2) is on the right block. Since this play took play early in the third quarter, the Wizards’ starters are in: Kirk Hinrich (1), Gilbert Arenas (2), Al Thornton (3), Andray Blatche (4), and JaVale McGee (5).
Out of this set, Rondo uses the pick of Garnett (which Hinrich naturally goes under) to free up space, vision and a passing lane from his position on the left side of the court. As Rondo is moving, Pierce drops just a bit lower from his position. Allen, and here’s the part you could call a deception, has his head and eyes only focused on the Garnett/Rondo action — hence, the guy defending Allen, Arenas, has his defensive horse-blinders on and is only focused in that same direction. In fact, the head of every Wizard is pretty much frozen in the direction of Rondo, including Pierce’s defender, Thornton.
As Garnett turns clockwise to open for a pop out jumper, Pierce starts to cut baseline. Thornton is aware of this cut, but he’s not aware of what’s about to happen, because neither is Arenas. Just after Pierce begins his cut, Allen suddenly turns to screen Thornton. By the time Arenas becomes aware, it’s too late to communicate. Allen sets a great screen on Thornton, who, if he was more aware, would have been able to turn his body in the right direction to trail Pierce. Instead, Thornton turns the wrong way and gets caught up on the screen. Arenas, clearly confused himself, is not in good position to help on Pierce and switch with Thornton. The Wizards are clearly pretty unaware of scouting report action items.
Rondo makes the pass to Pierce under the hoop with little resistance. JaVale McGee wasn’t much help here either. He had his head up observing the action, but was pretty much planted in no man’s land, unaware of the passing lane the Wizards completely opened up for Boston in this instance.
Seems pretty simple, right? Let’s take a look at the play in action, shall we?
“After the game, Arenas marveled at the size of the Celtics, who were still without centers Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins, who were both out with knee injuries. They were a sharp contrast to the smallish Toronto Raptors, whose starting 7-foot center likes to shoot threes and grabbed just two rebounds the night before. “We beat a team and we’re all jumping up like, ‘Yay!’ ” Arenas said. “And then the big fish came and whooped us up.””
Lee also conveys an anecdote about the elderly Celtics remembering some trash talk courtesy of Sam Cassell, who evidently cautioned the team in green that the Wizards were young and would be coming at them. Too bad Cassell forgot that many of the Wizards don’t exactly have the intestinal fortitude to be worthy of emulating Cassell’s big balls dance.
Ted Leonsis, via his blog Ted’s Take, says he was not as easily embarrassed about the loss in Boston, opting to marvel at the greatness of the Celtics and remind us of the time it takes to rebuild a franchise.
Leonsis should, however, be embarrassed about the performance of certain individuals he has paid to play basketball. Keep reading for more.
The plight of Flip Saunders. What do you do when players who must be played (purportedly) are also setting some of the absolute worst examples of how to play? Andray Blatche is one of those specimens. Mike Prada of Bullets Forever is calling for Blatche to be held accountable for his horrendously lazy defense this season. I couldn’t agree more. But how? Your move Flip Saunders.
And lest you think this is just an instance of a couple bloggers unfairly criticizing a player with doses of rhetoric, I’ll remind you of what ESPN.com’s David Thorpe recently said about Blatche (Thorpe is also a renowned basketball coach/trainer and executive director of the Pro Training Center in Florida):
“Honestly, he’s the laziest great talent guy in the league. The single worst defensive player I’ve seen so far this year, but extremely hard to guard on offense.”
“Andray Blatche came out of this league straight out of high school, and he still plays defense like he’s in his first NBA season out of high school. You can’t win consistently with this guy unless he’s a sixth man or starter that sits the fourth quarter, and the rest of your rotation is made up of perfect defensively helpers. Not unlike Eddy Curry, on the 2004-05 Bulls.”
Why not see Blatche’s terrible defense in action? (courtesy of SI.com’s Point Forward):
Finally, Celtics Hub brings us a highlight that is somewhat indicative of JaVale McGee’s court presence (except it probably shines a better light on McGee than his actual overall play). Hayes Davenport writes:
Man, is JaVale McGee a crazy player. He’s Tony Allen plus eight inches and a huge hit of meth. Watch this clip, which contains, in 26 seconds:
- a spectacular rebound over the C’s 3, 4, and 5
- perhaps the worst shot I’ve ever seen in a basketball game
- a perfectly timed steal on the entry pass
- a heads-up monster jam off a Hinrich miss
What a terrible/awesome guy to have on your team. Every single part of that sequence was hugely entertaining.
Here’s that play: