So ... should Gilbert Arenas have played last night?
On the one hand, watching the first half, it's clear the Wizards needed him to facilitate the good ball movement that we saw then. Arenas did have eight assists, after all, and most of those came early. As soon as he went out of the game, DeShawn Stevenson ran the point, and it wasn't pretty. From an injury standpoint as well, while you worry that he's playing on a bad calf, Tim Grover was there, and I imagine any decision Gil made to play was with Grover's blessing.
On the other hand -- where was Gilbert in that entire second half? Some of the turnovers he committed were just silly plays. Mishandling a pass and losing it into the backcourt. Throwing a pass seven feet over Andray Blatche's head. Etc. The other turnovers came because it just didn't seem like he had enough burst to get to the rim. Remember the last time these two teams played, when Arenas was driving to the hoop and drawing fouls at will? When he drove tonight, he got stripped or turned it over trying to make a pass. That's what happens sometimes when you play hurt.
The most concerning thing for me was how Arenas looked at the end of the game. He was passing off to other players instead of trying to take over. He stood around and looked ... well ... slow. Could he have put too much pressure on his calf? I don't know, we'll see going forward. But if the answer is yes, then I question his decision to play. The Wizards were going to have trouble winning in Miami regardless, and it's only November. As KD wrote, heroes aren't made in November.
Is that being too results-oriented? Probably. It's also true that the Wizards have several days off before their game against Detroit, and then another several days off after that. But with so many other guys out too, you have to keep one eye on the long haul. Hopefully, Arenas will be fine going forward.
Four Factors: (Bold=very good | Italics=very bad)
Snap reaction: The offense ... yuck. If it was possible to put a double italics on stuff, I would. But of course, such is often what happens when you're down to three or four decent offensive players. The good news is Washington's defense was pretty good overall.
Lineup details, via Popcorn Machine
- Highest individual plus/minus: Randy Foye (+5 in 6:30)
- Lowest individual plus/minus: DeShawn Stevenson (-25 in 39:54)
- Best five-man unit: Gilbert Arenas/DeShawn Stevenson/Caron Butler/Andray Blatche/Brendan Haywood (+10 to close the 2nd quarter)
- Worst five-man unit: Gilbert Arenas/DeShawn Stevenson/Caron Butler/Andray Blatche/Brendan Haywood (-14 in the fourth quarter)
Snap reaction: Seeing the best and worst lineup be the same one adds credence to the "they just ran out of gas" theory.
So, onto the game. Flip Saunders' explanation for the awful second-half offense continued to be the same - no ball movement, too much one-on-one play. The lack of assists beat this out. But I didn't think that was the real problem there. Unlike in the previous Miami game and in the Phoenix game, the Wizards did run their offense, all the way down to the fourth quarter. I think a few things happened instead:
- Miami, seeing that they were losing by double digits, went to their spread offense, where they basically have three guys standing at the three-point line while Jermaine O'Neal sets a high screen for Dwyane Wade. It's the LeBron James offense, basically, except with a screen. The Wizards weren't prepared for it and Wade made them pay. They did a really poor job helping Stevenson out and paid the price.
- Miami really stepped up their defense and made it tough for the Wizards to run their sets. Once that happened, the Wizards couldn't muster up the energy to run them harder.
- Arenas couldn't bail the Wizards out like he normally does because he was playing hurt and because he committed too many turnovers.
- Caron Butler started forcing things. More on him in a second.
Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that the Wizards tried, but failed. They didn't break nearly as many plays as they did in previous games. It certainly wasn't like the previous Miami game, where Arenas and Saunders mutually decided to completely ignore the offense for the entire second half.
And that now brings us to Caron Butler. Butler had 19 points tonight, but needed 18 shots to get there. He also had zero assists. Zero assists! For the season, he now has just four assists in seven games. You have to sometimes be careful to make too much from assists, because they're such a subjective stat that relies on so many factors going your way, but Butler's the guy who really hurt the ball movement tonight. He launched fewer poor jumpers today, but when he drove to the basket, he wasn't even thinking about kicking it out. There was one play where he missed Stevenson wide open in the corner (though, to be fair, Stevenson can't shoot). There were several times where he dribbled right into the trap on the baseline and got himself and the team in trouble. He also has so little body control these days when he gets to the rim that he either takes a very contested shot or commits an offensive foul.
There is an interesting new wrinkle Saunders has implemented to try to get Butler going. So many of Saunders' sets begin with a pick and roll with the point guard and a big man, but Saunders has instead had Butler set the screen and fade to the baseline in hopes of getting him an open shot. This would work if Butler was more decisive, but he isn't. Instead, he'll catch it and isolate, ruining the offensive flow. What I would do instead is simply have Butler running the Hawk cut that the shooting guard normally runs and get him catch-and-shooting. It might not be his strength, but at least it'll encourage him to make quicker decisions.
Regardless, for all of Arenas' struggles, the guy who's really out of sync is Caron. Tonight's game proved it.
- I'm hoping that, even when Antawn Jamison comes back, we'll see a lot of Andray Blatche and Brendan Haywood teamed together. Both had very strong games tonight. I'd actually like to see a big lineup out there, with Jamison at small forward, Butler at shooting guard and Blatche and Haywood up front. The Heat really struggled to score inside when Blatche and Haywood were in the game together.
- With all the injuries, I continue to be mystified that Dominic McGuire doesn't get more minutes. In the limited time we've seen, he's played much better defense than Dwyane Wade, and McGuire is also a very good hustle player even if he can't shoot. Stevenson isn't shooting well anyway, so why not give McGuire more of a chance? I think he would have played Wade better down the stretch too.
- Speaking of mystifying, I'm shocked JaVale McGee didn't get any playing time tonight. This game was screaming for someone who could provide a jolt of energy to a tired team. Miami's bigs are not very mobile and aren't really post-up threats. With the game starting to slip away late in the third and early in the fourth, McGee should have been in there. I don't think he's played at all since the last Miami game, which is a shame.
- The same cannot be said for Nick Young. Young got some time tonight and did nothing productive. He's received chances and hasn't taken advantage of them.
- Here's hoping Randy Foye is okay. Without him, we have nobody behind Arenas. Foye's been a pretty productive player this year even with all the teams' problems, so losing him would definitely be a blow.