Highest plus/minus: Oleksiy Pecherov (+7).
Lowest plus/minus: Roger Mason (-12).
I originally was going to write a book here, but at this point, it's not worth the effort, just because there were so many problems with this game. I'm frustrated with the outcome, frustrated with the way the game was lost, and most of all, frustrated that our two best players are still out (one of which missed practice today) and two other starters are hurting right when we desperately need them healthy.
First, a quick word about that last play, because everyone seems to be talking about it instead of the effort through the rest of the game. I can't blame Eddie Jordan for doing it that way. The plan was to run a pick and roll that would have allowed Jamison to work against a smaller guy at the free throw line extended. The Wizards knew the Knicks would switch, and they did. It was a good call -- Dallas runs the same play for Dirk Nowitzki all the time, and Jamison's biggest skill is shooting over smaller guys in traffic. The problem was that AD waited until way too late to make his move, and once he did, he didn't give the ball to Jamison. AD's defense, as cited in the Wizards Insider link, was that there wasn't enough time, but that's ridiculous -- he had plenty of time to create space for a jumper, so why couldn't he have made the easy pass to Jamison during that time. Also, AD released the ball with more than 1.5 seconds on the clock, which was probably too early. In short, Jamison could have -- and should have -- been given the ball.
But enough of that. The reason we lost this game was twofold. First, when we started getting it rolling offensively, we didn't get out and create any easy baskets in transition that could have buried the Knicks. It infuriated me that we relax defensively with a nine-point lead instead of desperately trying to force a turnover and get an easy basket in transition. Everything we did was in the halfcourt, and since we have to work so hard for those shots, it takes its toll late in the game.
Then, there was the defense, and here's where we totally fell apart down the stretch. The Knicks went small and decided they'd pick and roll us to death, and it was absolutely awful to see us try to defend it. It started with AD and Stevenson, who made absolutely no effort to fight through the screens. Either they'd duck underneath and allow the open shot, or they'd halfheartedly try to work through it and shout at Haywood to step up when they failed. Frankly, they looked a lot like Gilbert Arenas did last year. Because Haywood is such a big lumbering guy, you can't rely on him to consistently cut off a guard's penetration, especially ones as quick as Nate Robinson or Jamal Crawford. The guards need to step it up, and they consistently fail.
That's not to excuse Haywood, who always came in upright and tried very halfheartedly to cut off the Knick guards, but he shouldn't be in that position in the first place. As soon as Haywood is beat, the entire defensive floor balance breaks down, and the Knicks basically have a 5 on 3 that, with proper spacing, is very easy to break down.
Now, the problem with the pick and roll coverage prior to the overtime was that Haywood wasn't coming out far enough from the lane, and the Knicks were raining threes all night, but the answer isn't to ask Haywood to hedge out beyond the three-point line. My guess is that it wasn't Eddie who told him to do that, but rather, it was Daniels and Stevenson asking Haywood to get their back. For that reason, I'm going to blame those two instead of the coach. If they would just work harder through the screens (I mean, since when did Zach Randolph set hard picks), we never would have lost, even with our offensive problems.
If we can't guard pick and rolls, our defense is toast, no matter what the coaching staff tries to do. That's the biggest problem this team faces right now, and it's not going to go away when (perhaps if) we get fully healthy again.