In Tuesday’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Washington Wizards' awful performance on the defensive boards was responsible for giving away possessions throughout the night. Anderson Varejao was making life miserable for the Wizards’ frontcourt until journeyman Earl Barron was called into action. Let’s take a look at how the Wizards handled Varejao before and after Barron saw the floor.
For much of the game, Varejao made the Wizards pay for their inattentive box-outs. There are many teams in the league that would rather get back on defense than crash the boards. In those cases, merely standing in front of your man may be good enough to prevent an offensive rebound. Anderson Varejao is not one of those cases. In the following clips, you can see how the Wizards defenders were in good box-out position, but simply didn’t complete the act of boxing-out. Instead, they lost contact with Varejao as they wandered toward the hoop.
Varejao also hurt the Wizards when Cleveland’s guards penetrated into the lane. There’s only so much that can be done once you allow dribble penetration. In the clips below, the Wizards’ big men were helping on the drives, which left Varejao alone on the boards.
Sometimes the help wasn’t completely necessary, and other times, Wizards guards could have done a better job rotating to help on the glass. Either way, dribble penetration will leave a defense vulnerable somewhere, and Varejao took advantage of the help defense.
After watching this for three quarters, Randy Wittman had seen enough and decided to send in the Varejao-stopper: Earl Barron. After racking up 11 offensive rebounds in the first 32 minutes, Varejao was held to one offensive rebound in the final 16 minutes with Barron on the floor. (That rebound was over Jan Vesely at the third quarter buzzer and was essentially meaningless.)
So how did Barron have so much success in keeping Varejao off the boards? Instead of watching the ball on shot attempts, Barron focused the majority of his attention on Varejao. When shots went up, Barron found Varejao and initiated contact. Unlike the clips above, Barron wasn’t that interested in getting the rebound himself; his main responsibility was to close down the free space Varejao got in the first three quarters. Previously, Varejao was getting a free run to the hoop, but now Barron was hitting Varejao first and dictating where he could go.
Earl Barron clearly provided a spark with his work on the defensive boards, along with some surprising offense. While Nene and Kevin Seraphin are out of the lineup, the team may have to rely more on Barron than originally expected.
Would you like to see more of Earl Barron, or do you think this was a one-time poor performance by the usual frontcourt players?