First off, I was hoping to unveil a lot of Clipperblog-type play-by-plays with the playoffs rolling around, but since I'm still at school and the game was on NBATV, that whole thing was put on hold tonight. Instead, I got Dave Johnson.
Anyway, in lieu of any of that, I'm struggling to determine how I think of this game. The good news is that, even with Jarvis Hayes and DeShawn Stevenson building enough brick homes to fill an entire island, the Wizards only lost by 7. The bad news is that this could have been a victory if they were simply mediocre rather than awful.
I thought Eddie did a great job coaching this game, even though I wish he played Haywood more in the second quarter. He gave Haywood some nice minutes, and the guy responded with a really good game. He actually saw that smallball worked to some degree, and he ran with it in the fourth quarter. And after a game 1 where some late turnovers really changed everything, Eddie slowed the tempo down enough where the Wizards committed an absurd 5 turnovers. That ability to hold onto the ball nearly enabled the Wizards to overcome an awful disadvantage on the glass.
But most importantly, he did a great coaching job by basically taking out DeShawn Stevenson for the entire fourth quarter, instead keeping Mason in. Kudos to Eddie for that, because as much as we rip Jarvis Hayes here (and rightfully so, I might add), Stevenson really has escaped criticism over the last month. Maybe it's because he at least flails himself towards the rim, but he just doesn't look like he's trying to get open for good looks from the perimeter. There's a certain Tim Thomas-like floating thing going on, and I'm glad that Eddie took him out in favor of a guy playing better.
Stevenson and Jarvis cost the Wizards this game. They shot a combined 5-25, and Stevenson was -21 for the game. -21! Basically, the Wizards were outscored by two points for every three minutes Stevenson played tonight. Extrapolate that out to a full game, and the Wizards lose by 30.
We learned tonight that the bottom line for the Wizards in this series is that they'll go as far as their perimeter shooters take them. If Stevenson and Hayes knock down shots, it opens everything up. Cleveland can't send multiple guys at Antawn Jamison anymore, and Etan and Brendan have more space to operate underneath. Suddenly, Cleveland's rebounding advantage, which carried them tonight, won't play as big of a role, because more perimeter shots that the Cavaliers would rebound are now going through the net.
If they can't shoot competently from the field, it doesn't matter how well Jamison plays, how many minutes Mason and Haywood play, or how well guys like AD and Songaila play. Stevenson and Hayes are the keys, and they let the Wizards down tonight.