Philadelphia 76ers 109, Washington Wizards 103: The middle dictated the end

Box Score
Game Flow
Post Recap
Times Recap
Wizards Insider
Liberty Ballers

Sixers4Guidos

Highest Plus/Minus: Andray Blatche (+10)
Lowest Plus/Minus: Darius Songaila (-16)
Best Five Man Unit: Mike James, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche (+7 during the first 5:12 of the third quarter)
Worst Five Man Unit: Mike James, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Darius Songaila (-7 in the next 3:12 of third quarter)

Four Factors:

Team Pace Off Eff eFG% FT/FG OREB% TO%
Philadelphia 92 118.5 55.5% 38.4 17.1 14.1
Washington 112 53.7% 18.3 33.3 17.2

This is exactly the type of game that signifies the difference between a "turning point" and a "defining factor."  Both the Post and the Times led with the former, discussing how the late-game execution was bad.  That was exactly what they should have done.  The game was in the balance then and those final few plays were what eventually decided the outcome.

But as we've stressed so many times, those plays were not what cost the Wizards the game.  The reason the Wizards lost tonight is that they committed too many turnovers and fouled too much. 

Really, it's mostly the former, particularly in the fourth quarter.  Philly's offensive numbers look really great, but we did a pretty good job from my vantage point in containing them in the halfcourt (of course, without Elton Brand, this shouldn't be hard).  The problem was that they scored so many points in transition.  "Fast break points" is a nebulous stat, because the difference between a fast break and a secondary break isn't well-defined, but the fact that Philly was tallied as scoring 25 fast break points tells a lot of the story.  You know you have to be careful with your initiating passes against this team because they'll overplay you, but we weren't careful.  Caron Butler threw a couple bad passes, Antawn Jamison did too and even Darius Songaila threw some.  It's hard to implicate one person for the turnovers or the poor transition defense.

The other key stretch was the one in the third quarter where Philly rallied from a nine-point deficit.  It's kind of weird that swapping Andray Blatche for Darius Songaila was the difference in our best and worst five-man units, because I didn't think that was the difference.  Really, I think we went away from Antawn Jamison, who was taking Thaddeus Young to school inside, and started working perimeter-in.  Philly grabbed a bunch of long rebounds and got the early offense they needed to get back into the game.  That stretch right there was why the game was close at the end. 

As far as our late-game execution, most of it was great Philly defense.  They denied Antawn and Caron the ball, double-teaming the strong side and rotating effectively.  The shots by DeShawn and Dray down the stretch weren't bad ones, they just didn't go in.  Gotta credit the 76ers there.

Other notes:

  • In the Wizards Insider post, Ivan Carter once again bashed Blatche, this time for taking eight shots in the fourth quarter while Butler and Jamison combined for five.  I get the larger thing he was trying to say, but the specific criticism is really unfair.  Here are Dray's eight shots in the fourth quarter.

8:27 - Dray takes an entry pass from Nick Young on the left side, turns and faces on Marreese Speights and, when Speights gives him room, drains the 16-foot shot.  Six seconds were on the shot clock.  Hard to complain about that one.

6:38 - Blatche dribbled a couple times at the top of the key.  He found nothing, so he put his head down and drove on Theo Ratliff.  The awkward righty scoop was swatted away.  Probably not a great play, and it came out of a timeout which made matters worse, but nobody else was coming to take the ball from him.

5:46 - Butler and Jamison run a side s&r, Butler drives and Blatche dives to the rim.  Butler gives him a great pass, Blatche misses the reverse then puts back his own miss.  How selfish of Blatche to make a nice cut, take no dribbles, receive a great pass initiated from Caron Butler and put back his own miss.

5:11 - Blatche catches the ball at the top of the key and looks to pass.  Finding nobody, he takes two dribbles, pushes off on Speights and nails a 14-footer.  Eh.

4:04 - Jamison posts up Andre Miller, has the ball stripped, then gets it back.  He whips a bullet pass to Blatche underneath, who had been standing in the lane for about eight seconds.  Easy layup.  Another shot Blatche took initiated by a guy who should get tha ball.  Nothing wrong with this.

1:58 - Ball is swung around the perimeter.  Butler and Jamison are posting on both blocks, but Philly denies the ball beautifully.  Blatche gets it at the top of the key, waits and shoots a long 19-footer that misses.  Not an ideal shot, that's for sure, but again it's not like Dray saw Butler/Jamison, looked away from them and shot anyway.

0:24 - Oddly-called play.  Stevenson and Blatche run a high screen and roll, presumably to clear up the weaksides, where Jamison and Butler reside.  It doesn't work and Stevenson hands back to Mike James.  Neither Jamison nor Butler present themselves for a pass.  Andre Iguodala smothers Butler trying to cut to the ball and Jamison kind of just stands there on the right side, doing nothing to get the ball.  Finally, James drives left and kicks to Blatche, who is open after Ratliff goes to double Butler.  There's seven on the shot clock and Blatche is wide open from about 19 feet away.  Ratliff closes hard and Blatche shot fakes, letting Ratliff fly by.  Blatche takes one dribble and again is open, now from about 16 feet.  Andre Miller closes out a bit, but it's still an excellent look.  It just falls short.  Now, Blatche did have the baseline open a bit, and if he drove, Butler was underneath and could have potentially received a pass for an easy layup.  But the shot clock was already down to five and someone needed to put something up.  I can't fault Blatche for this shot at all, not when neither star player could get open and the initiation to the play was a Stevenson screen and roll.  Bad call, coach.  

That's eight shots right there.  Three were layups off passes from Butler/Jamison.  One was a one-on-one play that got blocked.  One was an isolation designed for Dray that ended in a made jumper.  Two were plays where Blatche saw nothing, made a quick move and shot.  The last one was was the last play. 

Really, we're talking about four somewhat questionable plays.  I have no problems with the last one.  The layup that was blocked was a bad play, as was perhaps the long jumper with 1:58 left, but the stepback shot wasn't a problem to me.  That's two bad shots, not eight. 

This isn't like Juan Dixon against Houston, where he took it upon himself to isolate himself literally every single possession down the stretch.  So please, lay off Dray for his fourth quarter. 

  • The difference between a bad defensive team that plays good in spurts and a good defensive team is that the former can't stop you without fouling late in the game.  Philly took 12 free throws in the final six minutes of the game.
  • I'd rather have Mike James start than Juan Dixon.  MJ has actually played pretty well recently, scoring in the flow of the offense rather than shot-jack.  Juan came in, played terrible defense on Lou Williams in the second quarter and never got back off the bench.  I'm happy with that.  Maybe MJ still does have something left.
  • Gotta say that Andre Iguodala does not look good.  Philly's got to be killing themselves for that extension.  Sam Dalembert also looked really bad tonight.  No way I'm touching him for 13 million.
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