“We fell behind and lost some of our confidence. We didn’t make plays, we didn’t make shots. Their guards got in the paint and destroyed us.” – Flip Saunders
On Wednesday night, the Wizards lost 109-97 to the Philadelphia 76ers, falling to 0-17 on the road. Despite Andre Iguodala’s absence and the entire Wizards roster being healthy for the first time, the script was familiar: 1) Washington keeps the game close until some point during the fourth quarter; 2) during a timeout huddle, the players collectively decide that “defense” is no longer as important as taking “contested, off-balance shots”; 3) Washington loses in a slow, plodding fashion, as the opposing team shoots free throws for the last three minutes of the game.
I tried something new last night: while drinking (not the new part), I attempted to chart each Wizards’ offensive possession. Though my notes deteriorated late in the fourth quarter as my IV of Knob Creek was nearly tapped out, there was some wisdom to be found in my possession tracking. The results of that sophomoric effort, and other random tidbits, in bullet form:
- Numbers that seemed important prior to the game: 1) the Wizards winning their last five games versus the 76ers, including two overtime games this season; 2) this was the 76ers first home game since December 17th; 3) the Wizards were 6.5 point underdogs
- The Wizards scored 97 points on 90 possessions. By my primitive math skills, this amounts to a 107.8 ORtg (points per 100 possessions), good for 11th in the League if Washington played an Iguodala-less Philadelphia for 82 games a season.
- Washington’s ball movement was good last night. The team recorded 26 assists on 40 made field goals and committed only 12 turnovers. But, some of the turnovers could have been avoided: three TO’s from Lewis/Blatche/Hinrich came on passes to no one in particular, where the ball sailed out of bounds. Hinrich tried to force a couple passes in the pick-and-roll, which were easily intercepted. Lewis was also called for a charge three times, though two of those were questionable.
- Kirk Hinrich, streak-shooter — he started 5-5 from the field and finished 5-11, going 0-4 with two turnovers in the fourth quarter.
- Kyle already did a nice job chronicling Andray Blatche’s amazing ability to put up a decent stat line and still frustrate the hell out of you. My game chart suggests that Blatche’s ability in this regard comes from his propensity to ‘get himself started’ in the offense by taking long 2s, making no effort to get to the free throw line, and letting Elton Brand dribble and rebound around him.
- See: Kevin Seraphin’s nine minutes of playing time in place of Blatche, a substitution which came after Brand dropped 10 points plus a couple offensive rebounds on ‘Dray in the first quarter.
- Reason why the Wizards lost: 0.567. This number represents the 76ers free throw rate (free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts) last night. Philly shot an absurd 38 free throws on 67 field goal attempts, while Washington shot 18 free throws on 82 field goal attempts. John Wall and Kirk Hinrich accounted for 11 of the 18 free throw attempts.
- As point guards, Wall and Hinrich cannot be the only players making a concerted effort to get to the rim, especially when they are the team’s best (only?) perimeter defenders. When Wall or Hinrich misses in the lane, it can lead to easy transition opportunities for the opposition. Last night, Jrue Holiday killed the Wizards in precisely these kinds of transition situations. Holiday finished the game with 26 points on 10-14 shooting, four rebounds, and nine assists.
- Something which Flip Saunders should read and send to all the players: this Sports Illustrated article on Ohio State — the team that leads the nation in free throw rate. Can you imagine if each Wizards player had to review the film from each of their fouls? McGee and Blatche would never leave the team facility.
- Good quote from the SI article. To borrow a phrase from the critically acclaimed film Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood — “MESSAGE!”:
Matta’s secret to whistle-avoidance goes beyond merely having long, athletic players and telling them not to foul. One of the foundations of his philosophy came from something he heard while serving as an assistant at Butler in the early ’90s, and listening to the Indianapolis radio show of then-Pacers coach Larry Brown. “If you can guard your man when he doesn’t have the ball,” Matta recalls Brown saying, “then it’s 10 times easier to guard him when he gets the ball.” The point being: You avoid fouls and play effective D if you’re in quality position ahead of time, not reacting after your man catches a pass. That kind of preparedness can only be achieved through a combination of effort, mental sharpness and advance scouting.
- The matchup between rookies John Wall and Evan Turner was unremarkable, again. Wall had a good game, with 18 points on 6-14 shooting, 14 assists, and only one turnover. I liked how Wall started taking the ball to the rim after going 1-3 from behind the arc early on. Turner was virtually non-existent in 27 minutes of play, scoring only two points on 1-5 shooting.
- As should be expected from a rookie, Wall’s defense leaves something to be desired. Given his amazing athletic ability, I think he knows he can be a lockdown defender and a terror in the passing lanes. But sometimes while playing those passing lanes, Wall is guilty of peeking at the ball and letting his man get past him.
- Josh Howard did not return in the second half after playing 12 minutes in the first half. The reason? Knee soreness. Let’s hope it is nothing serious.
- Rashard Lewis took full advantage of Iguodala’s absence, putting up 18 points on 7-11 shooting and ten rebounds. He also had five turnovers through a combination of errant passes and offensive fouls, but two of the three charge calls were highly questionable. Lewis going 2-4 from deep was encouraging, as the Wizards need a 3-point threat other than Nick Young.
- Outlier stat of the night: Andres Nocioni led the 76ers in rebounding with 10. I don’t know how the hell this happened.