Cautiously Optimistic

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The Other Side:
And One Recap
Waiting For Next Year Recap
Le Cavs Recap

(There are many other great links out there. but for the sake of time and my sanity, I'm just sticking to the big ones here.)

Highest Plus/Minus: Andray Blatche (+7)
Lowest Plus/Minus: Brendan Haywood (-19)

All in all, I don't think that was too bad.  Yes, like cuppetcj, I'm  concerned about the late game execution, but I'm not panicking yet.  As a general rule, the home team is going to have the edge in an intense, highly emotional game like that and I think it manifested itself in the closing minutes.

The game reminded me a lot of game 1 of the '06 series, just this time the crowd was in a frenzy because of the smack talk instead of the thrill of making it back to the playoffs.  When you compare the two opening games, you have to say that Washington weathered the opening storm much better this time than they did in '06 where LeBron put up a triple-double and Cleveland dominated throughout.  I know it's too soon to say if the rest of the series will be anything like that one, but I'm encouraged that it was much closer this time around.

Despite losing, I think the Wiz did a lot of things well, including (in no particular order):

  1. Rebounding!  Obviously, a lot of the credit here goes to Jamison who pulled down 19(!!!) boards.  He's not going to be able to keep that up all series, but I liked the intensity.  If he keeps that up, he'll be fine.  Haywood had a strong game on the glass as well, not as good as Z, but he kept it close, and I can live with that.  I know Blatche didn't play much, but I'd like to see more out of him on the glass (not to mention scoring).
  2. Guarding LeBron when he had the ball.  No, they didn't shut him down, but if you anticipated that coming in then you're going to leave disappointed every time.  For the most part, I think they had a good defensive plan to deter LeBron from driving and creating extra opportunities for himself at the foul line and creating open shots for others.
  3. Hibachi!  Gilbert is probably the only player who can go from firing a hideous airball on his first shot to nailing 4 straight bombs from outside and make it look completely natural.  He tailed off at the end, but that happens when you're not 100%.  He showed how dangerous he is, but at this point, I still think he's better suited coming off the bench.  Maybe by Game 3 or 4 he'll be ready, but I'd still hold off on putting him in there just yet.

Now as for what they could improve on (again, in no particular order):

  1. Drive. Drive. Drive. Drive.  Memo to Caron: When you take it to the hole, good things happen.  When Delonte West gets to the line more than you do, good things aren't happening.  Cc: Gilbert Arenas (since he probably won't hit 4-5 from deep every game).
  2. Guarding LeBron off of the ball.  As good as the defense was on LeBron when he had the ball, it was just as bad when he was off the ball.  Granted, there's no defense for this, but there were far too many times that he was getting open off screens  and getting alley oops.  Yes, I'd prefer having him limited to being just a scorer rather than a slashing/passing/rebounding manbeast, but I'd rather keep him from doing both.
  3. Make them come outside.  Memo to Antawn: The Cavs aren't respecting your outside shooting skills.  They're challenging you to beat them from outside.  Don't settle out there, but don't let them get away with it either.  Cc: Roger Mason, DeShawn Stevenson.

I think most of the problems from Game 1 can be fixed in time for Game 2, but in order to make it happen, they're going to need to make the realization that Mike Wise talks about in his latest (brilliant) column:

 But you do have to wonder when and if the Wizards are going to realize they have more weapons, more depth and too much talent to let one great player and a smattering of very marginal role players ruin Washington's postseason for the third year in a row.

If they can make that realization and play with the confidence that comes with it, they'll be fine.

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