After I got home from last night's game I spent the rest of my evening trying to come up with appropriate food metaphor for the defensive effort I saw last night. I spent a good hour brainstorming and trying to come up with something that made sense, only to grow frustrated and fall asleep on the couch.
This morning I had my "eureka" moment. Pudding. The Wizards interior defense reminds me of pudding. Now pudding isn't a particularly resistant substance and if you found yourself stuck in a swamp full of pudding, well it would be slow going, but you're eventually going to get to your destination. Pudding doesn't impede you as much as it makes you aware of its presence.
"Oh hey, I'm trudging through pudding, this situation is less than ideal."
Most of the postgame criticism was directed to JaVale McGee who perhaps the largest perpetrator of the "pudding" defensive stratagem. Much has already been made in the comments of the teaching moment where Saunders pulled McGee for the majority of the first half because he decided to put the ball on the floor. "That's what we have John Wall for", Saunders stated, and truer words have never been spoken. Saunders then went on to point out that while physical errors can happen and they are hard to correct (getting beaten off the dribble, slow to a play), it's the mental errors that are correctable and should happen less frequently at this point of the season. "The concern", Saunder stated, "is that these decisions keep repeating over and over."
If the Wizards staff is still beating itself up over McGee's decision making in transition, I remain concerned over the repeated mistakes on the defensive end. Now, I understand that Dwight Howard is going to make anyone look bad. He is the preeminent center in the NBA and is given more leeway in the paint than others at his position. However, last night should serve as example 1A in how McGee's ball hawking, alter every shot philosophy is not a long term tenable style of play. When McGee refuses to stay home on Howard and challenges Nelson and the other guards on every drive, it allows those guards to throw up junk that Howard can dunk home uncontested. It is what allows Howard to go 10-10 from the field before deciding to experiment with his jumpshot. McGee can get away with his style of play against the Brook Lopezs and Spencer Hawes of the world. Against Dwight Howard and tonight's tilt against Al Horford, well that style of play is only going to have him riding pine.
Flip also pointed in postgame to the lack of energy from the starters, which for the first time in quite a while I found myself nodding in agreement to his analysis. The Wizards are not a good enough team where if the entire squad doesn't play with energy they will win a game. Further, it's Fool's Gold to hope that the improved play of Jianlian, Booker and Hinrich will be enough to carry the team towards the finish. The Wizards need a solid and energetic effort from their starters if they expect to break this losing streak anytime soon. Right now, the bar seems stuck in listless.