As mentioned yesterday, the Wizards defense was lights out yesterday, allowing 90 points on 97.6 posessions, for a defensive efficiency/defensive rating of 92.2. (As a point of comparison, the Wizards' defensive rating last year was 112.5).
Without even looking too closely, it seemed the tall lineup of Arenas/Butler/Jamison/Blatche/Haywood, when they were in the game, played a major role in that. They played the majority of their minutes together in the last 3:28 of the second quarter, when the Wizards turned a nine point lead into a 15-point one. Let's take a closer look at what they did during that stretch. Time codes are based on the NBA.com play-by-play.
(Please note...my memory of each possession is hazy, so if I don't describe it well, let me know).
3:11: With the shot clock under 10, Shawne Williams takes a contested mid-range jumper. It missed, and the Wizards gang rebound.
2:37: After Brendan Haywood misses two free throws, Jeff Foster grabs the rebound, and Indiana advances the ball quickly. Danny Granger gets an open look, but he misses it. Williams grabs the rebound, but Andray Blatche stuffs him from the weakside, and Jamison grabs the rebound.
1:40: Gilbert Arenas hits a three after Blatche grabs a rebound of a Jamison miss. What ensues is probably the Wizards' best defensive possession all game. Indiana swings the ball around to Granger in the corner, but Arenas closes really quickly to block his three attempt as the shot clock is running down. 24 second violation.
1:14: Marquis Daniels, the one guy who played well for the Pacers yesterday, breaks free from Butler off a screen. He misses the layup, but Williams gets the tip-in.
0:39: Daniels again gets free in the lane, and slams it home off a pass from Jeff Foster. Again, Caron Butler is the one picked off (I think).
0:13: Danny Granger gets a rebound, but muffs the outlet pass.
In the end, there were two great posessions, two bad ones, and one where Blatche bailed the Wizards out. When Blatche entered the game, immediately the defense was awesome, and while it slowed down by the end of the half, it still was better than what we are used to seeing.
Another note: When Blatche was in the game, the Wizards allowed 34 points on 36.8 posessions (using this method for calculating posessions), which averages out to a defensive rating of...92.4, worse than the 92.2 for the entire game. Again, it's very early, and it's a tiny samply size,but it's interesting to see that Blatche didn't affect the defensive effort as much as we expected.
Honestly, that can only be a good thing, because it means the non-defensive guys in the past have been playing better defense recently. So long as that continues, and Blatche begins to assert himself more effectively as a defensive-first player, you might actually see a Wizards team that plays a little bit of defense. Not great, mind you, but good enough.