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Jazz 103, Wizards 97

This road trip was officially a disaster.

The Wizards had a halftime lead in every single game of this trip.  What do they have to show for it?  Four losses, and one game that should have probably been a loss as well.  

The European Connection (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Tonight was pretty much a similar story.  The Wizards led 41-35 at halftime, and considering that Gilbert Arenas was only 1 for 8 from the field, you had to believe it would only get better.  It was starting to get better midway through the third.  Arenas was heating up, and the Wizards led by 9 with 3:54 remaining.  

Things should be good, right?  Well, not exactly.

A few major blunders killed things tonight.  First, Eddie Jordan found a way to get tossed, energizing the Jazz on a key 8-1 run.  The call was pretty ridiculous, so I'm not going to honestly sit here and blame Eddie for killing the Wizards' momentum.  The players still have to play, and once again, instead of stomping on the Jazz when they were down, they allowed them to get back into it.  

Then, after a nice offensive spurt pushed the lead back to 6, the Wizards let it get away again.  Boozer was unstoppable down the stretch, and did so against the decrepit defensive trio of Michael Ruffin, Darius Songaila, and Etan Thomas.  Again, I'm not going to sit here and blame the coaching staff completely, because the Jazz ran so many pick and rolls, leaving smaller guys on Boozer.  But why not put in Brendan Haywood, who's length might have frustrated Boozer?  It probably would have worked better than the Poet tonight.

Later, with the game on the line, the Wizards had a major defensive breakdown, allowing Derek Fisher a wide-open three with 44 seconds left.  Naturally, Fisher hit it, and Etan Thomas' boneheaded technical sealed it.  

Even Eddie's role is confusing (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

It's always tough to decide where to place the blame, because it probably goes to a lot of people.  You can blame the coaching staff for playing Jarvis Hayes over 20 minutes, but shouldn't you also blame Hayes himself for sucking over those 20 minutes?  It's probably a bit of both, to be sure.  

But at this point in the season, roles should be much more clearcut.  There have been injuries, yes.  Andray Blatche's injury hurt tonight, because it forced Ruffin and Thomas to play more (at least by Eddie's logic).  But why is Antonio Daniels playing only 11 tonight after being such a key contributor in crunch time last season?  Why is Roger Mason suddenly getting a DNP/CD after two so-so games?  Why is Michael Ruffin suddenly getting more minutes than Daniels after one good defensive play against Seattle?  Why is Brendan Haywood sitting in the fourth quarter?  Why is Jarvis now getting 20 minutes a game again?  

Beyond playing the right guys, Eddie needs to simply play guys in consistent spots.  I and many others here agree that Hayes and Ruffin play too much, and Daniels, Haywood, and Blatche don't play enough.  But even if you play the wrong guys, playing those same wrong guys consistently is better than the jumbled mess we have now.  

Last year, I thought this was one of the Wizards' greatest strengths.  They had a nice seven-man rotation where everyone knew their role, and stuck to it.  Even though Jared Jeffries and Ruffin played far too much, at least they knew they were there for defense and "veteran leadership."  This year, it's complete chaos.  We know Arenas and Jamison are the scorers, but otherwise, what is everyone's role?  Butler has been more of a scorer than a do-everything guy this year, and while it's made the offense better, it's hurt the defense.  Stevenson, similarly, has flip-flopped from being the lockdown wing defender early in the year to being more of a scorer now.  Haywood and Thomas have been all over the place with their constant switching in the lineup, and Songaila has been asked to do too much on both ends since he got back from injury.  Daniels is no longer used as the sparkplug, because Hayes is seemingly supposed to be that guy, except Hayes has also been used at power forward for some strange reason.  Meanwhile, Blatche has gone from playing 30 minutes as a starter to getting a DNP/CD in recent games.  How are the players supposed to be consistent when their roles aren't consistent?

This is the major flaw of the coaching staff, and it's why I'm thinking Eddie needs to go now.  I'm convinced that this roster is talented enough to be a top-3 team in the East with good coaching.  Instead, we're seeing a team that can look great in a given situation one moment, and awful the next.  Part of that has to do with Arenas' offensive nature, but that should make it even more imperitave that roles are defined around him.  Right now, they aren't, and that's why you're seeing so much inconsistency.