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Links and a quick thought

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I have a huge test tomorrow, so apologies for a lack of in-depth analysis in the last couple days.  Thankfully, Jake has really provided some interesting content, so we're not lacking for front-page stuff here.  Also, remember that the diaries section is your home, and if I particularly like something, I promote it to the front page.

Anyway, here are a couple links.

Ivan Carter doesn't quite say explicitly that the smaller lineup in the fourth quarter cost the Wizards Game 1.  But he certainly implies it with his reporting.  

The decision to use Thomas or the shorter Darius Songaila and Michael Ruffin on the 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas rather than the 7-foot Haywood backfired as Ilgauskas easily backed them down and shot over them, or drew fouls and made free throws.

With the Cavaliers leading by 11 with less than seven minutes to play, Jordan went to a small lineup that left the 6-9 Jamison on Ilgauskas. The Cavaliers patiently worked the ball around and dumped it to Ilgauskas, who backed Jamison down and made a jump hook."

But although Eddie hinted yesterday that we might see more of Brendan Haywood today, it doesn't really sound like that's his ultimate solution.  Instead, he's hoping for Etan to play better.

Jordan made it clear yesterday that he wants more out of Thomas. "We're looking for him to score," Jordan said. "He understands that we need him to be more aggressive down there. We're calling plays for him, singling out some plays for him to post up, and we'll see if he can be successful."

It's often silly to make a drastic tactical change so early in a four-game series, so I see where Eddie's coming from.  But at the same time, Etan's problem is never effort, and it sure didn't seem like he wasn't trying in Game 1.  No matter how hard he tries, he's still an undersized 6'10'' going up against a 7'3'' giant.  I don't really think there's much more the guy can do, and if we have another game where Cleveland dominates inside and Haywood plays only 5 minutes, it's going to be a major problem.  Haywood has to play good minutes for the Wizards to have a chance at neutralizing Big Z.

John Mitchell of the Times doesn't think a center switch is going to do anything, and he has a lot of harsh words for Haywood.

Now that the Washington Wizards have fallen in a 0-1 hole against a Cleveland team almost unanimously picked to win this first-round series, there is a rumbling for Brendan Haywood.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

For those who haven't accepted the inevitable, let's just say that as far as salves go, this is tantamount to treating a shark bite with Neosporin.

Ha...ha...ha.  But wait, there's more.

Those who support Haywood point to the stretch of games in which he supplanted an injured Thomas in the starting lineup. The Wizards won 24 out of 32 games and for two months easily were the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately for the Wizards, Haywood is at his best -- both as a teammate and as a player -- when things run smoothly, and every team experiences troubles at one time or another. The Wizards' woes came in the form of injuries to Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. When inconsistent play manifested itself, Jordan did what most coaches would do -- he made a lineup change, moving Haywood to the bench.

The article goes on to say that the Wizards are basically finished anyway, so there's no real point.  I guess it's a good thing that writers aren't coaches.  

I think Mitchell brings up a fair point here, but I also think he should take a look at Haywood's plus/minus splits this year.  The numbers should be analyzed in context, but the defensive improvement the Wizards make when he's out there is striking.  

Basically, this is exactly the situation I feared the most when Haywood got benched.  The Wizards actually need him now, but due to the benching and prior history, the relationship between him and Eddie is beyond repair.  It's like the Kwame Brown situation in 2005, except that Haywood's actually important to the team's success (look at Brown's plus/minus numbers in 2005).  Even if Haywood is needed, he's not going to play as hard as before, and Eddie's going to have a tighter leash.  In that situation, nobody wins.

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LeBron turned his ankle in the third quarter of Game 1, but will play in Game 2.  Meanwhile, despite getting his cast off, Caron Butler probably won't play in the series, as much as he wants to.  

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There was a minor controversy after Game 1, when Larry Hughes admitted that he knew all the Wizard plays and was tipping them off to his teammates.  The whole thing was just plain silly, and Eddie said so yesterday.

"Yeah, he knows, just like we know what they do.  When they call a play out [assistant coach] Wes [Unseld Jr.] stands up and relays the message to our guys. He says: 'It's going to be a flex cut or it's going to be a pick-and-roll,' so, it's the same thing. It's just that a whole lot is being made of it because Larry used to play with us and he scored 27 points."

Anyone who read Seven Seconds or Less knows that it really doesn't matter if your opponents know your plays.  In fact, at this point in the year, everyone pretty much knows what you do.  It's how you disguise and execute your plays that makes the difference.  

Hell, even the Cavaliers beat reporter knows the Wizard plays. In all seriousness, Brian Windhorst's latest blog entry is a good read to really get inside just how complex an offense can be.

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Finally, a quick thought.  Since Arenas went down, Eddie has smartly instructed the team to play slow.  He knows they have a talent disadvantage, and he also knows that the fewer possessions there are in a game, the fewer opportunities a better team can exploit their talent advantage.  It's an tactic that has been used for years, and Mike Fratello, when he was coaching, basically made this his default philosophy.

But this also has a double-edged sword, especially against a half-court defensive powerhouse like Cleveland.  When it comes to the fourth quarter, the Wizards aren't able to create good looks for their scorers.  They don't get any easy looks during the game, and eventually, the players wear down from having to struggle so much.  

So why not instruct the team to play more pressure defense, in hopes to force more turnovers and get easy baskets?  This has to be done extremely carefully, because anything that could potentially lead to a general increase in the pace is damaging to the Wizards.  But at some point, they need to get easy buckets, and the best way to do that is on the defensive end.  

It's just a thought, and it's hard in execution.  But it might make the Wizards offense that much better.