It looked like the Washington Wizards might come away with their first victory of the season, but a pivotal letdown midway through the fourth quarter allowed the Boston Celtics to do just enough to come away with a 100-92 win. The Wizards fought back several times after that stretch, cutting the lead to five points with the ball inside of three minutes, but couldn't get any closer.
Some more notes on the game.
- In case you missed it, here's Flip Saunders getting tossed less than two minutes into the game. Hard to really do too much more than chuckle. I wouldn't jump to conclusions over how it affected the Wizards' play.
- Another slow start cost the Wizards, which has happened in every game since the opener. The beginning of the game is when teams establish their sets and figure out what works. The Wizards consistently can't find anything that works, and their opponents always are able to figure them out on defense.
- Luckily, the Wizards got a nice energy boost from Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin to close the quarter. Overall, I thought Seraphin acquitted himself well in his chance for extended minutes. If he understands that his court time is determined by how he slides his feet, and not how physical he is, he'll make a jump.
- Paul Pierce just lit up Chris Singleton in the second quarter, teaching the rookie some veteran lessons. On one play, Singleton decided to trail Pierce on a flare screen to the middle, gambling for the pass. The Celtics simply held the ball, and Pierce cut down the middle for an easy layup. Singleton will learn that he can't gamble and go for steals in this league. That said, he should have been given more minutes in the second half. Way too many minutes for Rashard Lewis in this one.
- JaVale McGee was outstanding all game, and especially in the second quarter. My favorite play of McGee's really good second quarter came late, when Ray Allen beat Nick Young on the baseline. McGee came over a bit late, but instead of going for a flying block, he stood next to the rim and put his hands up. Allen was bothered and missed the shot, and McGee got the rebound. That play showed growth.
- The Wizards let the Celtics back into the lead early in the third quarter. The play that stands out to me came when Blatche caught the ball on the right baseline, held it, didn't drive to the rim and instead launched a wild contested 20-footer that missed badly. Boston got its rhythm after that. Overall, he did rebound to have a very good scoring game, and he fought on the glass. It was his best game of the year.
- I thought John Wall was more under control again, save for the end of the fourth quarter when he was trying to make things happen. The play that sticks out was on a secondary break midway through the third quarter. Instead of forcing the drive, he drew the defense and kicked out to Blatche for a nice 18-foot jump shot. Those are the kinds of shots he and the Wizards need to get more often to take advantage of their athleticism.
- Nick Young really struggled in this one. Someone mentioned it in the comments section, and I agree: his next step is finding a way to get to the free-throw line when his jumper isn't falling. He tried one time in the third quarter, but took it in pretty weak and then yelled at the official for the call. It seemed to affect his game, along with chasing Allen ragged all game.
- I'm not wild about the Wizards' substitution pattern with Wall. They tend to play him the entire third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter, sitting him for a few minutes in the middle of the fourth. I'd rather they rested him to end the third and start the fourth, when the other team is playing their reserves.
- Instead, the Wizards let Jordan Crawford play point guard against Boston's starters, and it was a disaster. Crawford did everything a point guard could do wrong in that stretch. He didn't get the Wizards into their sets quick enough. He forced shots. He played poor defense. It's Crawford's fault for not playing well, but the Wizards also shouldn't have put him in that position. That's the stretch that cost the Wizards the game.
- The way McGee defended Rondo at the 5:30 mark was fantastic and it led to a three-point play for Blatche at the other end on the fast break.
- The Wizards just couldn't guard Allen all night. He freed himself from Young way too often in half-court sets, and there's no time to complain about illegal screens. Worse, the Wizards couldn't find him in transition either. There were even two times when the Wizards helped off Allen to cover Greg Stiemsma. How that happens is beyond me.
- Unlucky break on the shot-clock violation, as the Wizards had an easy fast break. It was the right call, but still, unfortunate. On the ensuing possession, Wall tried to do too much and threw a one-handed crosscourt pass for the interception. Hard to kill Wall too much for the play -- he's trying to make something happen -- but clearly it was not a good decision.
- On the final backbreaking three by Paul Pierce: it was a tough shot, but someone needs to recover to help Wall, who correctly tried to disrupt the 3/4 pick and roll. I have to re-watch the play, but looked at first glance like that was on Lewis.
The Wizards do appear to be making progress, but it is slow and there's a long way to go. If you're looking for a positive, there's that at least.