Highest plus/minus: Nick Young (+6)
Lowest plus/minus: Etan Thomas and DeShawn Stevenson (-11)
Best five-man unit: Juan Dixon, Nick Young, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, JaVale McGee (+8 in 4:40 of third quarter action)
Worst five-man unit: Juan Dixon, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee (-7 in 3:12 in second quarter)
First, the good:
- JaVale McGee: The dude looked pretty gassed at the end, but these are exactly the games he needs to really develop. He wasn't playing very disciplined defense, but even so, he dramatically affected a lot of shots. Offensively, he missed a couple easy dunks, but made up for it with some other highlight moves. While it was a fast-paced game, 10 rebounds, nine of which came on the defensive end, is nothing to sneeze at. One of my biggest worries about JaVale coming into the season was that he'd constantly be trying to swat shots instead of grabbing rebounds. If he keeps up his rebounding numbers like he did tonight, that concern will melt away.
- Juan Dixon: The one pleasant surprise for this team. I was really dubious about the signing, but Juan looks like a completely different player than he did in his first stint here. He's taking care of the ball, not shooting too often and finding others in the right spots. Eleven assists against just one turnover is outstanding, even against a madator unit like the Knicks.
Caron Butler in the first three quarters: Dude was driving to the basket and wrecking havoc whenever he could. I know he struggled in the fourth, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort. He'll learn to finish games better in the future. Remember, he's never attacked the rim like he has been attacking it right now, so he might be tiring himself out.
Eddie Jordan's sub patterns: No complaints on this end. He finally played Juan more than AD, Nick more than DeShawn and JaVale more than his small-ball centers. Zero minutes for Darius Songaila is a bit excessive even to me, but again, better to err with him than one of the young guys. And Andray Blatche's minutes were perfect. He played well in the second quarter and Eddie stuck with him, and once Dray started to really hurt the team, Eddie got him out of there.
Okay, so the bad:
- Three point defense: Goes without saying. I'm thinking we'll have much more material to bash this after tonight's game against Orlando.
Blatche: If he keeps doing stuff like he did in the fourth quarter, I don't even know what to do. All that nonsense wipes out any non-obvious impact he could potentially make on the game. It came at a terrible time too.
- The fourth-quarter offense: Otherwise known as the "dribble to the basket, shoot wild shot at the rim, pray for a foul" offense. It's better than the "jack 20 footers at will" offense, but there needs to be some semblance of structure down the stretch. I also didn't like that Nick Young took a lot of shots down the stretch. They weren't bad shots, but the plays weren't designed for him and the entire team (Young included) was out of rhythm.
- Pick and roll defense: Antawn, I'm looking at you.
The really bad remains the starting unit. The way they came out to start both halves really was the difference in this game. New York's first four shots of the game were three wide-open threes and a layup for Zach Randolph. Washington's first four shots were a quick 18-footer by Caron (which eventually was turned into an offensive rebound), a contested long three by Jamison early in the shot clock, a running three by Daniels after a terrible possession forced the attempt and a creaky turnaround by Etan that missed. In the second half, when we needed to get back the lead, we started with an Etan travel and a terrible three attempt by Jamison which eventually resulted in Jamison's man, Zach Randolph, getting an easy layup. There's just no rhythm to the offense. Everyone's jacking up the first shot they see, and when they try to actually run the sets, nobody can get a good shot.
We need both personnel changes and stylistic changes in the unit. We already talked about replacing AD with Juan already, but tonight made it even more imperitave. Juan's basically playing like AD usually does, except with the added benefit of being an offensive threat. He should start. If you're really in a pinch for scoring, bring in Nick and take out DeShawn.
But the issue goes beyond that. The players that will start no matter what need to step up as well. It's hard to blame Caron for anything, and it's not like Etan is going to be less Etan-like (man, I miss Haywood), so that leaves Antawn. There's something to estabilishing an inside game, and as our best (and only) post-up guy, Antawn's really killing us when he starts the game with long three attempts. He needs to go to the block and try to get something done there. Let Etan stay on the weakside, where he can grab offensive rebounds. If the double comes on Antawn, DeShawn, Caron or Juan can hit open shots. Simple as that.
Of course, it's not as simple as that, but the starting lineup needs to stop killing us. Getting Juan in there and running post offense through Jamison are both starts.