Highest plus/minus: Roger Mason (+18).
Lowest plus/minus: Nick Young (-8).
First of all, apologies for the tardiness. I was rewatching this game using my friend's League Pass Broadband account, and my computer is really slow, so the video kept going in and out.
Rarely does one lead a recap of any kind with a number, but I think these two are fitting for last night.
Roger Mason: +18.
Darius Songaila: +14.
Those two guys won the Wizards this game. On a night where the starting backcourt sucked again (more on this in a minute), Jamison slothed through a 6 for 17 night, and the defensive rebounding was at a high school team's level, they were the only guys who were playing like the game needed to be won. Once they started doing their thing early in the fourth quarter, the rest of the team stepped up as well.
Mason was just having one of those games where he was shooting well from the outside, but let's not overlook his improvement in other places. The best thing about Roger is that, while he's still an excellent outside shooter, he's really improved his ball-handling from earlier in the season. He's turning the ball over on only 9 percent of his possessions, which, for the record, is better than Antonio Daniels, known as being a low-turnover guy. Tonight, he had 0 turnovers, and once the fourth quarter rolled around, he didn't have any bad shots. There were none of those "pull up and shoot a 21 footer off a screen no matter what" plays in the fourth. Instead, he was running off screens, setting his feet, and taking rhythm threes. We need more of that more consistently from him.
Songaila might have been a more unsung hero, though. The Wizards offense lacked movement, particularly with Jamison, who wasn't cutting with any crispness at all. Once Songaila came in, that changed. He had three layups off cuts when the ball went into the posts, and he also had two nice lookaways that led to driving layups off high screens. More importantly, he was keeping guys off the glass. He only had three boards, but Nick Collison, after grabbing 15 boards in the first half, had only six thereafter.
Mason and Songaila compensated for yet another stinker by the AD/Stevenson backcourt. In particular, Stevenson had a really bad game. He launched seven threes in the first half, totally negating the Wizards' gameplan to work the ball inside. Defensively, he was awful on Kevin Durant. The Wizards' rebounding problems were a direct result of Stevenson and AD failing to fight through the off-ball screens that freed Kevin Durant for jumpers. Haywood and the other bigs needed to compensate, and that left Nick Collison available on the offensive glass.
We need to see far less of AD/Stevenson if we want a chance to make some noise come postseason. AD played 39 minutes tonight, which is entirely too much for someone who had just seven points and two assists while sucking defensively. I figure once Gilbert comes back (assuming he does), he'll cut into AD's minutes, so I'm not worried. With Stevenson, however, I don't see how you can justify him playing much down the stretch. Sure, he's a nice guy to have to start the game and play 25-30 minutes, and if he is feeling it defensively, you could have him guard an elite shooting guard down the stretch. But otherwise, Mason is a far better offensive player who not only provides another means for an offensive gameplan, but also handles the ball better and is more versatile.
So, we won. Great. But why shouldn't make this a routine? One word: smallball. We saw it work today, because Songaila played so well, but I better not see it against better teams. Haywood wasn't having his best game rebounding the ball, granted, but those are rarities with him now. Eddie Jordan has to realize that the reason the defense picked up last night was having Stevenson out of the game, not Haywood. Stevenson was a step slow all night, and he wasn't doing anything to trap pick and rolls. The trapping allowed the bigs to stay underneath the hoop for rebounds, which they couldn't do because they were compensating for Stevenson.
A return to smallball will kill us against better teams. Don't do it, Eddie.