Highest plus/minus: Roger Mason (+1).
Lowest plus/minus: Antonio Daniels (-2).
Let's forget the final two plays, all the missed opportunities at the free throw line, and all the defensive breakdowns that led to open Damon Jones three-pointers for a second. Here are the 3 plays that are indicative of our problems.
4:52 left, second quarter: The Wizards have the ball up four after Brendan Haywood's length forces a Zydrunas Ilgauskas miss on a point blank hook shot. Jamison catches the ball just outside the paint on the left side, with LeBron guarding him. He takes one dribble, spins baseline for the flip shot, but loses the handle. As Cleveland races back the other way, Jamison, now well underneath Cleveland's basket, throws his hands in the air, turns to the referee, and complains for a full second. Meanwhile, Devin Brown pushes the ball up the court, and LeBron, Jamison's man, gets an easy layup.
8:21, third quarter: The Wizards, trailing by two, run a terrible offensive set that results in DeShawn Stevenson isolated against Eric Snow at the top of the key. Stevenson makes a crossover move, but Snow stays right on his left hip and forces a wild shot that misses badly. On the rebound, Stevenson literally stands inside Cleveland's basket as the action continues upcourt, whining to the official. Cleveland runs, and Damon Jones (guess who's man that is) spots up and hits a wide open three pointer. As Chris Berman would say, nobody on the Wizards was in the same zip code. Gee, I wonder why.
4:03, fourth quarter: This was the big play of the game. Wizards down 1, with the ball. Roger Mason takes a high handoff from Songaila and is able to turn the corner. Big Z meets him, but Jamison slips inside, only to miss the layup way long (I think LeBron blocked it, but I wasn't so sure). Either way, after the play, Jamison screams, stands still on the rebound, praying that the referee will bail him out, instead of running back on defense. Devin Brown gets a pass in the open floor, makes a nice move on Stevenson, and scores when Andray Blatche is called for goaltending. Jamison doesn't even make it past halfcourt, and Stevenson was standing flat-footed when Brown made his move. The only guy who hustles to get back? You guessed it, Blatche.
I mention these three plays because they support our biggest problem: lack of concentration. More importantly, the culprits are Jamison and Stevenson, not the young guys (though I could probably pick out plays of the youngsters to prove the same point). Like I mentioned in the game thread, I don't think these guys are lazy, but I do think they get discouraged way too easily, and they start to look to other forces to bail them out instead of doing it themselves. It's like they feel sorry for themselves, and while that's certainly an understandable emotion because of all the injuries, it's not one that leads to wins. Worst yet, it's guys like Jamison, the team's leader, and Stevenson, it's more durable player fighting through injury, that are displaying this emotion.
It's hard to really fault Stevenson, because he's playing through a lot of pain, so I'm going to point the finger at Jamison. Clearly, the dude is frustrated, as indicated by his comments about the youngsters not seeing the sense of urgency in the situation. He's not supposed to be the number one option, so even though his numbers were awful last night, it's not worth the energy to get upset about his on-court production, because he's being put in an unfair position with all the injuries. But no matter what, Jamison has been this team's veteran leader, whether the squad is healthy or not. He carries a presence that demands attention, and the young guys, for better or for worse, listen and follow him. So when he's costing the team five critical points because he's complaining to the referees, the complaining and the head-hanging becomes contagious. The negative energy spreads, and unsurprisingly, the young guys start to develop a sense of hopelessness that drains one's sense of urgency.
If Jamison wants to back up his strong words, the complaining needs to stop. Just suck it up and play. That's what Stevenson and Daniels are doing, and that's what the young guys do when things are going well. Now, it's your turn, and you have to understand that most of the team does as you do, not as you say.
The funny thing is, even with all of that, we should have had this game. I thought we did a pretty good job on LeBron, save for that last possession, and except for Damon Jones, nobody else on that team did much of anything (Devin Brown had good numbers, but I didn't really notice him). The eight free throw misses killed us, as did AD going for a dunk at the end of the half (a layup would have counted). Finally, had the referees made the correct call on Cleveland's final possession (a charge, because Brendan Haywood was outside the circle and planted) instead of the typical star call, we would have probably won. I liked Eddie's game plan, and I couldn't believe how Jon Barry kept criticizing us for not taking advantage of the matchups (do we ever go to Songaila that much? I mean, really). I can't even blame Eddie for the last play, because Stevenson was the second option, and he waited way too long to do anything. We could have won, and perhaps I don't write this long rant.
But no matter what the result, the complaining is really troubling. Like we've mentioned so many times, without two stars, there's no margin for error. Maybe you can get away with complaining when Butler or Arenas can bail you out, but without them, every moment matters. Jamison has been above criticism most of the year, but a lot of the team's problems fall squarely on his shoulders.