Highest plus/minus: Brendan Haywood (+29)
Lowest plus/minus: Andray Blatche (-16)
No doubt about it, this was a very encouraging win, but we do have to remember that Miami is not Miami anymore. Just watching Shaq last night really drives the point home. Credit Brendan Haywood for playing good defense, but Shaq was getting no elevation on his shots, and he has lost all post moves besides the Charles Barkley circa 1994 dribble backdown.
Still, there are a lot of reasons to be happy. Chief among them is Haywood's play, especially on the glass. We've always known that Haywood could play pretty solid defense when given the chance, but I haven't seen him consistently be this active on the glass in a very long time. Haywood's play was a major reason we crushed the Heat 48-29 on the glass. Not only was he grabbing a lot of boards, but he was occupying space and allowing guys like Antawn Jamison to grab boards without really boxing anyone out.
I'd venture to say Haywood's play is the major reason why our defense has improved. Dwyer mentioned that one reason the Wizards have improved defensively has been that they're closing out more on shooters, but I somewhat disagree. Yes, we've been better with that, but we're still allowing teams to have a robust 50.4 eFG%. In this game, Chris Quinn had about 500 open looks from three where we should have closed out more effectively. The main difference defensively, in my eyes, is that we're not allowing second shots (11th in defensive rebounding percentage), and Haywood's play inside is the major reason why.
Otherwise, lots of other guys impressed me. DeShawn Stevenson, obviously, was fantastic, though I don't expect him to shoot like that very often this year. Caron Butler still desperately needs to get more assertive offensively (he has the LeBron James hold-the-ball-for-way-too-long disease), but I really like how he decided to take over the game offensively during that one stretch in the third quarter. Antawn Jamison hit the glass, didn't force bad shots, and generally acted like a great second-banana. Roger Mason was also spectacular off the bench, especially defensively on Dwayne Wade.
But nobody was more important than Haywood, and it's great to know that such performances have happened regularly thus far this season.