Four Factors (bold is very good, italics is very bad)
Before we fret about the ending, let's keep a few things in mind:
- We were missing our best player, our third-best player and our marquee offseason acquisition. Philadelphia was missing nobody.
- We were on the road
- We were in the second game of a back-to-back
- The unit that closed the game (Mike James, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee) is never going to close games in the regular season. In fact, it's quite possible none of those guys will be in our closing lineup if everyone is healthy. To be fair, 76ers fans will probably respond correctly that they aren't going to close any games with the lineup of Louis Williams, Willie Greene, Jason Kapono, Jason Smith and Marreese Speights, but that's a hell of a lot closer to their closing lineup that ours was.
- When it was our "starters" vs. their starters, we outperformed the 76ers.
Now, the ending was really bad, no question. JaVale McGee made a boneheaded play to go for the spectacular finger roll (he wasn't fouled either), and Nick Young made a dumb defensive play on Willie Green. The unit also made several mental mistakes down the stretch that aided Philly's comeback.
But there was a lot more good than bad to come out of this game. In particular, the following stuff was good:
- Rebounding: The 76ers were the second-best offensive rebounding team in the league last year, but they had just seven offensive rebounds last night, and three of those came in the fourth quarter. This is significant for two reasons. One, Philly was bricking a lot of shots, so there were a ton of offensive rebounding opportunities to be had. Two, the Wizards have been awful on the defensive glass this preseason, so this was a huge step in the right direction. What was the cause? I thought Fabricio Oberto was a huge presence here -- he did a great job of sealing off his man and being in position to grab the rebound. Seven defensive rebounds in just 25 minutes is excellent, and more importantly, he helped prevent the 76ers from grabbing offensive rebounds even if he himself couldn't get the defensive board.
- Shot defense: Granted, the 76ers are a pretty pitiful perimeter shooting team (which will kill them this year if they stick with their starting lineup), but the Wizards did a great job of packing the lane and contesting outside shots. An eFG% allowed of 45.6% (Philly's mark) is very, very good for any defense.
Transition defense, combined with good offensive rebounding: Not sure how many fast-break points the 76ers had, but anecdotally, it appeared the Wizards did a great job with their floor balance tonight, which is key because the 76ers kill so many teams in transition. What makes this more impressive is that the Wizards actually did a great job on the offensive glass at the same time, mostly because of Brendan Haywood's work inside. Often times, you have to surrender offensive rebounding opportunities in order to get back, especially against a team as athletic as Philadelphia, but the Wizards were able to do both.
JaVale McGee: Yes, he went back to pogo-stick McGee in the last couple minutes, but by and large, McGee played extremely under control in his 15-minute stint. Unlike the Atlanta game, where he had seven offensive rebounds and zero defensive boards, McGee contributed on the defensive glass (5 defensive boards in 15 minutes). He also was in position most of the time on defense, save for a couple late breakdowns where he allowed Marreese Speights to get inside too easily.
- Andray Blatche's jumper: I know what you're thinking. Get inside, Andray, and play like a big man! But as much as this makes sense, it's also worth noting that the lane gets very clogged when Blatche is in there with another big like Haywood, Oberto or McGee, all of whom either like to play inside or should like to play inside. If Blatche can hit jumpers as proficiently as he did last night while still grabbing six boards in 22 minutes, he will be a helpful player.
Brendan Haywood: He just obliterated Samuel Dalembert in the paint. Destroyed him. Dalembert hit a couple tough shots, but Haywood didn't allow him to sniff the glass and was able to get some offensive rebounding opportunities himself. He looks like he's back to form. Alas, I wish he got more post-up opportunities than he did. Too many mid-range contested jumpers from Randy Foye and Caron Butler
Some negatives? Foye continues to struggle running the offense. He had a stretch in the third quarter where he got hot and started to play well, but the end line (17 points on 14 shots) is less efficient that you'd like. I still think he's best suited to play off the ball running off screens, because he has great form on his jumper and just doesn't seem like he knows what to do once he gets inside. I know he missed a lot of Js tonight, but that's because he was taking difficult shots.
He also just doesn't have great PG instincts right now. There was one play where the Wizards would have had a fast break off a long rebound, but Foye just kept running upcourt with everyone instead of getting the ball from the big guy. It's little stuff like this that hurts the team and makes it feel like Foye's a misfit as a point guard. I still contend that he's best suited to play a lot with Mike Miller, with Miller running the point in the halfcourt and Foye coming off screens ready to shoot without dribbling.
I also thought Nick Young's defense on Andre Iguodala was pretty poor. Yes, you want Iguodala shooting jumpers, but he was wide open coming off screens several times in the third quarter. I wonder what's really hurting Young on off-ball screens so much. He clearly is working hard, but his technique just seems poor. It seems like it's really easy for an offensive player to run him into those screens because Young isn't doing enough to force the offensive players' action. Hopefully someone can help him with this, because I don't think his defensive struggles are from a lack of effort. They're from a lack of fundamentals.
All in all, good performance from the troops, win or lose. If that phantom foul at the end doesn't happen and we lose 89-88, I'm still happy. The bottom line in preseason isn't wins or losses, it's how you look, and I thought we looked very good tonight.