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Lakers 118, Wizards 102

This recap is unbelievably late, but in the meantime, check out a couple great recaps here and here.

I think Gilbert went a little overboard last night.  He shot a lot of free throws, but also shot 15 three-pointers and 14 two-pointers.  Whereas Kobe was incredibly efficient, Arenas was not.  Understandably, Arenas isn't the most efficient scorer in the game, but he really did control the ball a ton.  

Herein analyzes the problem with shooting a lot of jumpers.  Long jumpers lead to long rebounds, which leads to quicker transitions.  Notice I said that it doesn't lead to transition baskets.  It can, but more accurately, long jumpers mean you have less time to set up your halfcourt defense.  After watching the way the Lakers picked apart Washington and created so many open looks, it's clear that the long jumpers were key.

More than any other team, the Wizards' offense and defense are intrinsically related.  The Wizards defense improves when they're shooting open jumpers and getting easier layups.  When they're shooting contested jumpers, it leads to more misses and worse defense.  It's safe to say that the Wizards defense is always the dependent variable, and the offense is the independent variable.  Unfortunately, there just aren't enough good defenders (even with a healthy Antawn Jamison) for the converse to be true.

The one guy who really struggled today is Caron Butler, who was an awful 5 of 18 from the field.  On first glance, it seemed that lots of those shots were tough-luck misses - shots that Butler normally makes.  On second thought, however, I'm willing to consider this point by Shoals over at Free Darko.  

First, the basketball. Without Jamison, it's Butler who still struggle. He looked positively average tonight, while Arenas ping-ponged between flummoxed illusion and white-hot brilliance.

The one area where Jamison will be missed tremendously is with offensive spacing.  The Wizards won't miss Antawn defensively, and they still have enough three-point shooters to compensate for his shooting.  But one thing Jamison does extremely well is get to the right space in the offense.  The Wizards offense is predicated on turning Butler and Arenas into the facilitators.  The other three players space the floor effectively, giving Arenas and Butler as much space as possible to exploit their one-on-one talents.  Team can't clog the lane because Jamison could always beat you with perimeter shots.  Now, with Jamison out, those open lanes for Butler and Arenas are going to be tighter.  Teams won't have to fear Jarvis Hayes in the same light as Jamison.  

By the way, while we're here, I need to air my grievances at Eddie Jordan.  Please, for the love of God, reconsider your decision to start Jarvis Hayes at power forward while Jamison is out.  This quote really gets me.

Jordan said Hayes's ability to spread the floor with his shooting and ball handling makes him a better option.

"He gives us the tempo we want, the spacing of the floor that we want and Jarvis is a good rebounder," Jordan said. "Once in awhile he can put it on the floor. Calvin couldn't do all of those things. And [Hayes] is experienced so we hope that will help."

A good rebounder?  Hayes averages less than 5 rebounds per 40 minutes (4.8, to be exact).  By comparison, Gilbert Arenas averages 4.6, and you wouldn't play Gilbert Arenas at power forward, would you?  For all of us ragging on Hayes' struggles, Jordan doesn't make things any easier by playing him at power forward.  That's a no-win situation for Hayes, who is better suited as a backup swingman.  There's no way Hayes is going to have a chance against guys like Chris Wilcox or Nick Collison, who the Wizards face tomorrow.  

In the end, I'm not overly concerned - a healthy Lakers team is an impossible matchup for the Wizards.  At the same time, I'm casually worried because Arenas and Butler haven't looked good in a while.  With all these upcoming games at home, however, I'm a little less worried.  If we see a bad performance against Seattle, a team the Wizards should crush at home, tomorrow, then there's real reason for concern.