If the Wizards were fully healthy this would have been a difficult game for them to win. However, the Wizards are anything but healthy right now. The Wizards began the game without John Wall and Andray Blatche, but then they also lost Yi Jianlian early in the first quarter due to a knee injury - they hope to have more news on him tomorrow.
"It's tough, we've been hit by this injury bug for the last couple of years, but we'll keep fighting and keep pulling for each other," said Gilbert Arenas.
The Wizards 'thinness' at the Power Forward and Center positions meant that Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Hilton Armstrong saw additional playing time. In fact, Booker got the second half start and played significant minutes (34:29). When asked about his attitude going into the second half, Trevor Booker said, "I just wanted to bring a lot of energy, and play great defense and take what comes to me on the offensive end." He finished the game with 9 points and career best 9 rebounds.
After the game when Flip Saunders was asked about the impact that injuries are having on the team. Sauders responded by saying, "What happens is every time you lose people, roles change. When you continue to lose people, now you're looking at a guy like [Trevor] Booker who is an energy guy for you, and now he has to become a main guy. And were asking someone who is not really ready to do that."
Unlike some of the other Wizards losses, effort and energy were not the main culprits. Flip Saunders said, "I thought overall as a team we competed." He later added, "At no point did I think that our team did not play hard tonight. And that's something that we have to build on."
The Wizards most significant issue appeared to be its inability to make shots. The Wizards finished the game shooting 40.7% from the field, yet the Lakers finished shooting only slightly better (45.3%) - it is important to note that the Lakers shot 50% during the 3rd quarter when the team did most of its damage. Saunders seemed to think that the Wizards cold shooting, in part, could be attributed to the Lakers size. He said, "there is no question that their length bothered us. We missed seven layups, we shot 13 for 29 in the paint. Just their size and their length bothers you in [the paint]."
And while this is true, the Wizards also settled for too many jump shots. One illustration of this is how infrequently the Wizards were able to get to the foul line. The Wizards managed 16 foul shots as compared to the Lakers 40. Worse yet, neither Gilbert Arenas or JaVale McGee took a single foul shot.
Gilbert Arenas finished the night with a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds) - he also had 1 blocked shot and only one turnover - that line might be something to cheer for a lesser player. This team, minus John Wall and Andray Blatche, needs a higher scoring output from him. Gilbert did put up 15 shots, hitting only 5, but he was overly reliant on his jumper. There were other times when he seemed to disappear for stretches of the game. Tonight's Wizards roster would not beat many teams, particularly the Lakers, with only Nick Young scoring 20 or more points.
Once the Lakers realized that Nick Young was the Wizards primary scoring threat, they focused in on making his night more difficult. Nick Young commented on this after the game saying, "it's tough you know because they were running more guys at me, being more physical and they had a lot of focus on me. It's something that I have to learn from. I have to learn how to maneuver and learn how to score out against different defenses." Defensively, the Lakers have assets that not every team has. "Kobe is a first team all-defensive player, Artest is a first team all-defensive player and Derek Fisher never gets the recognition but he might be one of the best team defenders who have played in a long time," said Flip Saunders.
Given the team's current condition, it was highly unlikely that the Wizards would have won this game. Ultimately, Flip Saunders hoped to use this game as a teaching tool for his young team. "I told the guys afterward, [the Lakers] play how you want to play as a team. They share the ball tremendously, very unselfish in how they play, they have a killer instinct and they do the dirty work inside. Within six feet, seven feet of the basket they punish you physically," he said.
Let's hope that the young Wizards were listening.