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Bench the bench

Box Score.
Game Flow.
Post recap.
Times recap.

Highest plus/minus: Dominic McGuire (+3).
Lowest plus/minus: Roger Mason (-19)

Quote of the night comes from Eddie Jordan:

"I told the team, if this is a test -- and it is because when you play the best team in the league; especially right now, they're the best team -- then you have to see how you respond to them," Jordan said. "And if this was a test, I give us a C or C-minus."

And I think a C- was pretty appropriate for last night's performance.  When it was our starting five versus their starting five, I think we did fine keeping the game within reach.  It was when both teams went to their benches that this game turned.  Jason Maxiell, as I feared, completely dominated Andray Blatche on the glass, and Roger Mason and Nick Young took turns getting abused by Richard Hamilton.  Even Jarvis Hayes hit some big fourth quarter shots, though he didn't do much else during the game.  

Really, what last night showed is how far our young guys still have to go to become impact players.  After a strong game against Miami, Blatche had a positively awful game tonight.  Offensively, he was constantly pushed out of position by Rasheed Wallace, and he didn't even come close to making an impact on the glass.  On one occasion, he made a nice fake on Rasheed, but despite giving up the entire baseline, Wallace was able to body Blatche slightly and completely eliminate his move.  It just illustrated how weak Blatche is in his upper body, because any other player in this league could have at least drawn a foul on the play.  There was another instance where he took a nice pass from Caron Butler underneath the basket, but instead of slamming it on Jason Maxiell, he tried to awkwardly scoop it around the rim.  Blatche did draw the foul on that play, but it told you all you need to know about his development.  He must get stronger, and he must do it fast.  

Making things doubly worse was Blatche's lack of concentration defensively.  There's no doubt that Jason Maxiell is a solid young big man, but there's no reason for him to get three putback dunks in the same game.  The backbreaker was the one to end the third quarter, when it looked like the Wizards had gained some momentum cutting the lead to 10.  Blatche was literally staring into space waiting for the quarter to end when Maxiell went around him for the slam.  When you lack upper body strength, like Blatche does, it makes it even more important to constantly be alert.  Blatche's lack of concentration concerns me a lot more than his upper body weakness.

Mason and Young were also both awful last night, though I credit Detroit for that more than anything.  One thing that has always impressed me about Detroit is their offensive recognition, though it's easy to get the ball to the right person when you have four bona-fide scorers.  As soon as Mason or Young checked into the game, they started running Richard Hamilton off screens, knowing Mason wasn't strong enough and Young not good enough to fight through them.  If they did catch up, Hamilton just isolated, did his annoying step through pivot, and created an open shot for himself.  Young, in particular, was abused a couple times on pump fakes even when he did catch up to Hamilton.  Offensively, Detroit's guards smothered Mason on the perimeter, and they bodied up Young any chance they got.  

Though it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference, I didn't like the way Eddie handled the rotation.  Antonio Daniels played way too many minutes in his first game back from injury, and I was shocked to see Darius Songaila get a DNP-CD.  Even if Songaila isn't quick enough to stop Maxiell at all times, at least he could put a body on him.  By far the silliest decision, however, was playing Daniels and Mason/Young together for long stretches.  One thing you can't do against Detroit is play two small guards against Billups and Hamilton, because they'll just isolate whichever one is being guarded by a smaller player.  It's why the Pistons beat the Bulls in 6 in the playoffs last year, and it's why Hamilton went off last night.  Either Eddie should have played Stevenson more than Daniels, or he should have shifted Butler to the backcourt and gone with a Jamison/Songaila/Haywood frontcourt.  Alas, neither happened.

The one positive was Butler, who looked very confident going against Tayshaun Prince.  It's true that Butler scored a lot of points against Jarvis Hayes, but when Prince was in there, I was impressed by Caron's assertiveness driving to the basket.  I just wish he shot more than 14 times.  

Oh well.  Life goes on.  I just hope the young bench players use this game as a learning experience instead of sulking because they didn't play well.