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When the Wizards have the ball

Part II of a comprehensive first-round series breakdown.

Earlier, I was quite optimistic at the chance of playing the Cavaliers.  But that optimism quickly fades away when we switch to analyzing the Wizards offense.

Without Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, the Wizards offense stinks.  This is hardly rocket science, but there's a clear reason why.  

Without posting the Knickerblogger stats for the Wizards offense (since you kind of have to toss them out the door without Arenas and Butler), here's the basic gist of why the Wizards offense was so successful.  

The one factor where the Wizards were fairly average offensively (and have been for the past couple years) was with their shooting, which is commonly known as the most important element of a good offense.  The Wizards had a middling eFG%, but compensate because they do everything else well.  They hold onto the ball, they rebound on the offensive glass well, and most importantly, they got to the line at such an incredible rate.  If you can consistently get free throws, your so-so outside shooting really doesn't matter.  That's why Cleveland's offense stinks so much; even though they don't shoot well from the outside, they still don't make an effort to consistently get to the line.

But Arenas and Butler were really the two biggest reasons why the Wizards get to the line so well, and they're not playing.  In the meantime, you've robbed an inconsistent shooting team their best offensive weapon, and the natural result is the inconsistent, crappy offense we've seen down the stretch.

Looking at Cleveland's defensive numbers, the loss of Arenas and Butler hurts incredibly.  As before, all stats are from Knickerblogger.


[Not sure why that column says "G," but it's their offensive rebound percentage].

The only so-so point of Cleveland's defense is that you can make them foul you.  They're a middle of the pack team when it comes to fewest fouls committed, and this was also the case last year.  It's why the Wizards were able to score so much on the Cavs in last year's first-round series.  

But who do the Wizards have that can draw fouls?  Antawn Jamison has been doing a better job of getting to the free throw line, but other than him and Antonio Daniels, nobody really comes to mind.  DeShawn Stevenson has been trying, but he hasn't been successful at all.  

Unless they can find a way to draw fouls, it's going to be a difficult series for the Wizards offense.  I haven't broken those numbers down further, but I would guess that Cleveland's eFG% has gone up ever since Mike Brown switched Sasha Pavlovic into the starting lineup.  Cleveland can now trot out three long defenders on the perimeter in Pavlovic, Larry Hughes, and LeBron James.  They can sag off on their men a bit and still contest shots extremely well.  Combine that with Cleveland's incredible defensive rebounding ability--only Houston allows fewer offensive rebounds--and it's a recipe for a fantastic defense.

This is why the two wings--Stevenson and Hayes--have to have incredible series.  The more shots they can make, the less Cleveland can exploit their advantage on the glass.  And the more times they can get draw fouls, the more the Wizards can actually exploit Cleveland's "weakness," if you want to call it that.  Basically, the only chance the Wizards offense can acutally be successful is if Hayes is shooting, and hitting, good shots.  That's a really, really tall order.

The one area where the Wizards probably will be able to score is inside.  Drew Gooden, Anderson Varejao, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are great rebounders, but they're average defenders at best.  According to 82 Games, opposing power forwards and centers average better than the league PER average against the Cavaliers.  This probably doesn't mean much with Antawn Jamison, because his game is more perimeter-oriented.  But it does mean that Etan Thomas should be fairly effective inside.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas is long, but he's not that quick, and Etan is crafty scoring the ball.  The Wizards should be giving him a number of touches in the post during the series.

Ultimately, unless Stevenson and Hayes start hitting tough shots, I see Cleveland's defense dominating the Wizards.  Those two wings absolutely need to play at their highest level if the Wizards are to have a chance in this series.