Well, that pretty much sucked. Gilbert Arenas was really the only person that showed up tonight, and that's not going to cut it against the best home team in the East. Shockingly, the only other guy who had a decent game was Jarvis Hayes, who was actually making the type of shots he never makes.
Otherwise, the rest of the Wizards wore down as the game progressed. The defense forced only 5 turnovers, which is pretty ridiculous considering the Wizards do best when they're getting out in transition. Naturally, the offense bogged down into 1 on 4 in the fourth quarter, and for the second straight night, Arenas struggled as a younger wing (Thabo Sefolosha) guarded him.
It seems wrong to single out one player, but this game is a great example of what's been dogging Caron Butler recently (and yes, it's somewhat ironic that Sports Illustrated chose this week to write a fantastic feature on him in the magazine). Earlier in the season, Butler credited his improvement to losing 15 pounds and getting leaner, but it seems like that's now bringing him down. Defensively, Luol Deng was able to spring free for open jumpers because Butler was getting bumped on screens. Offensively, he's struggling to get to the rim, and once defenders body up on his first step, he's struggling with his mid-range shot. Even when he was getting by Deng, he was struggling to finish, and there were at least two times where he went up to dunk, but either had the ball poked away or slip out of his hands. In both cases, it seems like he's suffering from a lack of upper body strength, and teams are starting to play him closely to stop his first step.
I'm not necessarily saying that Butler needs to regain those 15 pounds, but with DeShawn Stevenson firmly holding down the shooting guard position, it may be time for Butler to bulk up at small forward. Otherwise, I'd expect to see much of the same defensive coverage on him.
I'm also a little curious about Antonio Daniels. It seems like he's lost his aggressivness taking the ball to the rim, and if he's not doing that, he's basically worthless. Hopefully this is one of those funks, and it's only temporary.
Finally, once again, Eddie Jordan curiously used Michael Ruffin during the fourth quarter after sitting him the entire game. Ivan Carter, perhaps in direct response to people here and in his blog, asked Jordan about Ruffin before the game.
Just wanted you faithful bloggers to know that I'm trying to address some of the burning issues you all have.
Sounds like overcoaching to me. It seems like Jordan likes Ruffin's ability to set solid screens, but with the way moving picks are enforced, can't Haywood or Blatche do that too? Why do you need to risk going 4 on 5 offensively for that? You may as well play someone that can do more than just set good screens.
But tonight wasn't about Michael Ruffin. It was about Chicago's wings, particularly Hinrich and Deng. Deng made a statement tonight against Butler, and as mentioned above, you have to wonder whether Tuff Juice has slimmed down a little too much.