Highest plus/minus: Antonio Daniels (+20)
Lowest plus/minus: Andray Blatche and Dominic McGuire (-1)
This game turned in the second quarter, when the Wizards outscored the Cavs 31-13. The lineup that started the quarter? Antonio Daniels, Roger Mason, Caron Butler, Darius Songaila, and Andray Blatche. Eventually, Jamison replaced Butler, and Nick Young replaced Daniels, but we still didn't miss a beat. Essentially, our run was fueled by our bench.
Think about that for a second. When could we say that last year? As long as we had Jarvis Hayes, Michael Ruffin, and Calvin Booth, the best we could hope for on most nights was to tread water with our bench. Now, it's become a strength in many games, especially when the starters have been out of sync offensively.
A lot of the credit goes to the players themselves, especially Andray Blatche for getting serious and Nick Young for scoring in bunches, but let's not forget how much Eddie has improved in this regard. The major problem with last year's bench was that nobody had any role, beyond just "play well." Jarvis played anywhere from shooting guard to power forward, Ruffin, Darius Songaila, and Antawn Jamison were frequently on the floor together, and AD was lost a lot of the time. Eddie was blamed, and rightly so, because the confusing roles were killing the team. This year, though, he's handed bench players very specific tasks, and they've succeeded. Andray Blatche is there to defend, rebound, and hit the occasional jumper. Songaila is there to funnel penetration and play the high post. Young is in there to score, Mason is there to shoot, and AD, when he comes off the bench, is there to run the offense. Eddie's also giving them consistent minutes instead of yanking them in and out when they make mistakes. It's really been refreshing to see.
Would this have happened if Gilbert didn't get hurt? I don't know, based on the way Eddie mismanaged his minutes so badly at the beginning of the season. But with Gilbert out, everyone has developed a defined role, and credit for that has to go to the very coach who mystified us with his substitution patterns last season.