I saw this tweet before the game and I had to chuckle a bit:
Keep in mind that the team was 2-3 going into last night's game. A below .500 record constitutes the best start we've had in three years. Even with the loss last night, this team has a better record after six games than the last two squads, who both started 1-5. Even though the team from three years ago started 3-3, you may recall that they didn't pick up their first win on the road until December 6th. The last time that you can say the Wizards really came blazing out of the gates, was 2005-06 when the team won five of their first six, and even then the Wizards followed up that start by losing their next five. Slow starts have just been a part of Wizards basketball over the last few years.
In the past, you could blame it on learning the nuances of the Princeton offense. Not only did it take longer for players to get acclimated to the offense, but it also took away focus from learning on the defensive end. So essentially the team was playing catch up with the other teams in the NBA on both sides of the ball to start the year. Instead of learning the Princeton this year, the team is starting from scratch with an entirely new system from a new coach, which takes time to implement.
Returns from the first game of the season were very promising, as we saw last night, there's still a lot that the team has to learn. Some of it involves developing offensive cohesion, some of it involves coming out of the gates with better execution and focus, where they've struggled in their last two losses. A lot of us said before the season that Flip Saunders would have some bumps in the road early in the season as he gets acclimated to his roster and vice-versa. Well, these are what bumps in the road look like. Let's hope that both can adjust accordingly as the season goes on.
"I was trying to get someone to play hard," Saunders said. "I told those guys, I can't coach effort. You got to come out and be prepared and play hard. "I thought our effort was poor. I was extremely disappointed. I told them I take responsibility because evidently right now we've got to keep pounding away because we're not getting through in doing the things we need to do in order to be successful."
He tried the traditional lineup (although it was his third different one of the season thanks to injuries). He tried a small lineup. He played Gilbert Arenas on the ball. He played him off the ball. He used all 12 players at his disposal. But none of that did the trick. The Wizards put on a listless performance and fell 102-86, their third straight loss. Although the score indicated otherwise, the Pacers' play couldn't exactly be described as dominant.
It's only the sixth game of the season and it looks like Flip Saunders may be running out of ideas. The Wizards head coach addressed the criticisms of the past games. Critics said Caron Butler had to get more aggressive offensively, and the former all-star put up 24-12. The Wizards bigmen got into foul trouble early in the teams last two losses, but tonight Haywood played 35 minutes and grabbed 19 rebounds.
Nick Young and Paul Davis were the only two players who didn't commit a turnover on Friday. It was the third consecutive game in which the Wizards had more turnovers than assists. It's easy to lose three in a row that way. "If we keep playing like this," Arenas said, "we're going to keep getting our [butts] whipped."
Mike James turned the ball over and missed his first shot almost immediately after entering the game in his first appearance of the season. Pretty much summed up the night. James still played 22 minutes, finishing with 6 points and 3 assists.
"We've got to get better as a team," Haywood said. "Everybody from the starting unit to the bench, you have to be ready to play at a certain level. And if you're not, then don't play. That team played very hard tonight, and I'm not sure that we, as a unit, as a team, matched their energy. Everybody has to come out as a team and match their energy night in and night out. "You're not always going to make shots, but you can control your effort."
Second-year center, Roy Hibbert set the tone early with a couple of hook shots and blocks along with a few rebounds all delivered with a genuine enthusiasm that lifted teammates and fans alike. No doubt, playing against his home town's Wizards gave Hibbert extra motivation. He was so pumped at times it seemed like he was high fiving family and friends back in D.C. right through the television screen. Roy finished the first half with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Hansbrough looked like a fullback when bullied his way to the basket for 13 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes. Coach Jim O'Brien said before the game that Hansbrough wouldn't play more than 16 minutes. The stat that stood out was the 10 free throw attempts. Hansbrough's either going to get called for an offensive foul or he's going to get fouled when he goes up for a shot in the paint.
[The Pacers] two victories are most encouraging because of how they were accomplished. They didn't ride hot shooting or explosive offensive runs. Granger scored 22 points but shot 7-of-21 (3-of-11 from the arc). As a team, the Pacers shot just 40 percent but they had strong balance. Dahntay Jones scored 18 with five rebounds, five assists and two steals; T.J. Ford had an odd double-double for a 5-10 point guard with 10 rebounds to go along with 18 points; Roy Hibbert had his third straight double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, adding five blocked shots. "Winning solves a lot of problems in this league," said Ford. "We’re still getting familiar with each other and the system. Everybody’s role is evolving."
Best of Twitterville
Twitter / Michael Lee
Pacers are shooting 39.4 percent and leading by 13?!? Are the Wizards even into this game? No energy right now.
Twitter / Jared Wade
I'm a big fan of these TJ Ford 1-0 breakaways. Pacers up 18. HandsBro and AJ Price not looking like rooks.
Twitter / Agent Dagger
it'd be good to see "the takeover" right about now...#wizards
Twitter / danny rouhier
Watching Hansborough get buckets on your team is like watching your own rectal exam. #Wizards
Twitter / Mike Jones
Davis gets a standing ovation from a pair of dudes who have been calling for him to enter the game since halftime. Davis knocks down a J.
Twitter / George V. Panagakos
Awesome game for fantasy owners tonight, not such an awesome night for Wizards fans. Wizards blown out 102-86 by the Pacers on the road.