Pre-Season Game #4: Wizards 107 - Atlanta Hawks 92

The Atlanta Hawks missing six players, most notably Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford, and playing the second game of a back-to-back looked (and played) like a team that was tired.  And aside from an impressive performance by rookie point guard Jordan Crawford (30 pts, 5 Ast & 5 rebs); there wasn't much else for the Hawks to take from this game.

The Wizards, who were also dealing with some "injury" concerns of their own, used the opportunity to get some of the younger players some additional playing time.  The Wizards started the game with its familiar three guard line-up.  However, this game it included John Wall (G), Nick Young (G), Kirk Hinrich (SF), Andray Blatche (PF) and Yi Jianlian (C).  Gilbert Arenas (Sore left knee), Al Thornton (left ankle sprain), Sean Marks (right hamstring strain), Hilton Armstrong (Coach's decision) and Josh Howard (Coach's decision) were held out of the game.

John Wall continued his impressive pre-season play.  His line for the game was 19 points, 7 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal.  However, his turnover number crept up in this game as he finished with 5.  Kirk Hinrick in 25 minutes of play added 8 points and 8 assists.  Hinrich also hit half of the four three pointers that he took.

Coming off the bench for the first time in the pre-season, JaVale McGee had one of his most active nights and appeared to be playing much more aggressively.  McGee finished the game with a double-double (16 points and 11 rebounds).  He also chipped in 2 steals one of which leading to a typical JaVale highlight clip.  JaVale stole a pass, dribbled behind his back while he tightroped the sideline drove about ¾ the length of the court and finished with a slam.

Both teams hit a high percentage of their shots, and each team finished the game shooting over 50% from the field.  The Wizards, however, won the battle of the turnovers (WAS - 13 vs. ATL - 16).  Just as importantly, the Wizards were able to convert the turnovers into points (28 points versus 13 points for Atlanta).

The Wizards also maintained slight advantages in points in the paint (36 versus 34), second chance points (16 versus 10) and fast break points (14 versus 5).

Here are some other observations:

  • In the initial three guard line-up, Nick Young was initially matched up with Joe Johnson, Wall with Mike Bibby and Kirk Hinrich with Jordan Crawford as Atlanta led off with its on three guard unit.
  • We did not see the big front line of McGee, Blatche and Yi. Instead, Flip elected to start Yi at Center in place of JaVale.
  • On the first few possessions Nick Young was able to get in good defensive position versus Johnson, but Joe Johnson made some tough early shots.
  • At approximately 3:30 in the first, solid defense by Yi forced a tough shot by Josh Powel in the low block. He then followed it up with a nice drive in the paint, getting fouled on a dunk attempt.
  • McGee seems to be getting much more comfortable with his hook as he has gone to it on multiple occasions.
  • One disturbing trend is that JaVale McGee often appears to be flying in the opposite direction of the flight of the ball on rebound attempts.
  • Too many of Blatche's touches occur away from the basket. It would be helpful if Andray could get his first touch on the block.
  • I feel compelled to state the obvious; few people are able to stop John Wall when he is on a one-man fast break. Once again it seemed nearly impossible tonight.
  • It was a pleasant surprise to see JaVale McGee fighting for rebounds. He appeared to be much more active on the boards tonight.
  • Interestingly, the Wizards tried Adam Morrison on the top of the zone. However, on more than a few occasions the man at the top of the zone has gotten broken down which lead to easy baskets.
  • John Wall's jumper is improving and he has become much more comfortable with it.
  • Last season, Flip wanted Nick Young to develop a catch and shoot game. However, there are times when Nick could benefit from driving to the hoop rather than just shooting the ball nearly every time he receives a pass. Not so surprisingly Young played a little more than 30 minutes and didn't have any assists.
  • While not playing a significant amount of minutes. Late in the fourth quarter, the Wizards had their young guys on the floor - Adam Morrison, Lester Hudson, Kevin Seraphin, Kevin Palmer and Hamady N'Diaye.

Following the game, I was able to catch up with former Wizard Etan Thomas.  We covered a number of topics, but more on that in a separate post.  Here is a bit from our conversation:

  • When asked about his feelings on tonight’s game, he mentioned that this was only the third pre-season game for the Hawks and it will be important for the team to keep working hard regardless of what happens.  He said that the Hawks have a great group of players, a "talented group of players that won 53 games last year."  And he will keep working hard and will help this team every way that he can.
  • Etan worked with current Hawks Head Coach, Larry Drew when both were with the Wizards.  Larry Drew was an Assistant Coach on Doug Collins’ coaching staff.  Etan mentioned that while he had his problems with Doug Collins, he had "a lot of respect" for Larry Drew.  He said that Larry Drew is "straight forward and honest, you can respect him."  Etan also likes the fact that Larry Drew pushes all of his players, forcing them to work hard, while also providing positive reinforcement.
  • Etan, who maintains a home in the DC Metropolitan area, has not been around enough to notice all of the changes with the franchise.  He did say that he "had a lot of respect for Mr. Pollin" and "a lot of respect for Ted Leonsis."  He believes that Ted Leonsis "is definitely shaking things up, from what [he] can see, but that’s what you do when you take over something.  You put your stamp on it."
  • Etan believes that the Wizards have a really talented group of players.  "They have a lot of young talent.  They have Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee.  Josh Howard hasn’t played this year yet, but he’s great, he’s a good player.  And of course John Wall and Gilbert, and I think they will play together just fine.  Everybody’s talking about that they think they won’t play together well.  And I think they will play together just fine.  And they have Hinrich, I like this team."  Etan said, "maybe I am just more optimistic than some of you guys [in the media]."
  • When asked what his relationship with Gilbert was like, when he was with the Wizards.  Etan said, "I had a good relationship with him."  He went on to describe how he and Gilbert would discuss politics.  He remembered how on the night of the 2008 Presidential elections, Gilbert called him "three different times."  One of the discussions centered around the "electoral college" and its role in presidential elections.  Etan also mentioned how much respect he has for the way Gilbert has been able to battle back from injury and how hard he works.  He said that he wants Gilbert to do well and he wishes him well.
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