After the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Washington Wizards last Friday, coach Byron Scott took his sweet time coming out to meet the media. Given how his team performed, I fully expected him to step out of the locker room and give journalists the Denny Green treatment. But when Scott finally emerged from the Cavaliers locker room after 20 minutes, he was rather calm in his words. Perhaps that was because he knew exactly why the Wizards defeated his team.
“I’ve got a few numbers on my mind: 68, 30, 19 and 62. 68 points by their frontline, 30 rebounds by their frontline, 19 offensive rebounds by their frontline, 62 points in the paint… you can’t win if you don’t come with a little bit more of a toughness and a presence in that paint area. You can’t win. Blatche and McGee dominated our guys. That’s something you just can’t account for. When we have to all of a sudden change a game plan to double team those two guys, you’re in trouble.”
Now, I’m no coach, I didn’t have to address the media after Washington lost in Indiana last night, and given that they have been out of playoff contention since December, I’m pretty emotionless at this point. But after watching the Pacers dismantle the Wizards 136-112, I’m in a Byron Scott state of mind, and I also have some numbers swimming thru my head: 136, 59.5, 54.2, 34, 32 and 10.
The Wizards allowed a season-high 136 points to the Indiana Pacers, who went into the night averaging 99 points a game (good for 15th in the NBA). The Wizards should still feel proud that they only gave up 136, instead of the 144 points that the Denver Nuggets gave up to the Pacers back on November 9th. The Wizards previous season-high for points given up this season was 133, when they defeated the Sacramento Kings 136-133 in overtime.
59.5 & 54.2
Washington allowed Indiana to shoot 59.5-percent from the field and 54.2-percent from the three-point line. The Pacers starters alone shot 62-percent from the field and 61-percent from three-point range. You can’t really blame the Wizards for this one, because so many of these shots were hit with John Wall, Othyus Jeffers, Jordan Crawford or another Wizards perimeter player running out at the Pacers shooter. When a team gets hot, there’s not much an opposing team can do — these are professionals and occasionally these things happen. But a closer examination of the numbers shows that the Pacers scored 46 points in the paint, at a 65-percent clip. Interior defense was severely lacking, as this clip from JaVale McGee and Maurice Evans demonstrates:
No. 34 is for the jersey number of JaVale McGee, who took a step backwards with the evening’s performance, although I can’t honestly say it was all his fault. He played a season-low nine minutes, and scored just two points, while picking up five fouls — many of which were borderline at best. Roy Hibbert is a fine low-post player who is enjoying quite a year, after a slow start; however, he does NOT deserve to get the kind of calls he was getting. McGee was clearly frustrated for the entire game, and his high-energy plays were missing as a result. He left the game for good at 8:24 mark of the third quarter after picking up this questionable foul against Hibbert, his fifth:
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that this foul came 30 seconds after McGee picked up a technical foul for being caught in a retaliation bump against Hibbert. Seven seconds after that, McGee picked up his fourth foul and then some choice words between Hibbert and Blatche led to double-technicals. Indiana’s front line of Josh McRoberts, Jeff Foster and Tyler Hansbrough seemed to make it their business to get physical with the Wizards’ bigs to the point of taking them out of their game mentally. And whether it was Foster hooking Blatche’s arm on a rebound or Hibbert causing McGee to be a non-factor, it certainly was effective.
32 & 10
John Wall went into the game averaging 8.6 assists a contest, and the Wizards went in averaging 19.6 assists as a team. The Pacers went into last night’s match averaging 19.5 assists, with Darren Collison leading the way at five assists a game. With their 136 points (43 in the first quarter), Indiana had a whopping 32 assists, and Collison topped all players with 11. Sure, the Pacers assist totals were helped greatly by their high shooting percentage, which allowed them to swing the ball until they got that perfect, open shot. However, the Wizards’ field-goal percentage was a respectable 46-percent, but they only had 10 assists. Wall had just four. There was far too much one-on-one by Wall and Jordan Crawford — the very players who should have been facilitating ball movement. To make matters worse, the Wizards starting front line a had ZERO assists, while the Pacers starting front line had seven.
It would be easy to say that the Wizards were shorthanded and had nothing to play for, while the Pacers had their full roster on hand aiming to clinch a playoff spot (they officially clinched with their win over the Wizards and a Charlotte Bobcats loss to the Orlando Magic, beneficiaries of a sudden, one-night resurgence by Gilbert Arenas). But when you are coming off a three-game win streak, and the owner is singing the praises of the “new big three”, expectations get raised just a bit, even when you’re a 21-57 (3-36 on the road) team. Last night, the Wizards took a short step backwards in their quest to learn how to win, well, because the Pacers wanted it more. They are the team that’s played well for an extended stretch, and not just because their young players see the end in site after a long, mostly futile season.
But let’s not end on a low note. There were positive plays by Andray Blatche (who notched his fourth straight double double with 23 points and 10 rebounds), Othyus Jeffers, and Larry Owens, who was signed from the “D” league just hours before the game.