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Washington Wizards 124, Golden State Warriors 100

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Nice to hear from you, Wilbon

Highest Plus/Minus: Antawn Jamison (+25 in 38:04)
Lowest Plus/Minus:
Juan Dixon (0 in 13:18)
Best Five Man Unit: Juan Dixon, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Antawn Jamison, JaVale McGee (+6 for a 2:06 period in second quarter)
Worst Five Man Unit: Juan Dixon, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Darius Songaila, JaVale McGee (-5 in garbage time in the fourth)

Four Factors:

Team Pace Off Eff eFG% FT/FG OREB% TOr
Warriors 100 100 49.4% 18.8 29.5 20
Wizards 124 53.3% 11.4 46 14.4

I can't think of a better debut for Ed Tapscott.  He pushed all the right buttons, playing all the right guys in the right spots.  He kept Darius Songaila at power forward, tethered Etan Thomas to the bench and trusted Andray Blatche.  Tapscott went with a big lineup with Caron Butler at the 2 and relegated Juan Dixon to mostly scrap minutes.  This is exactly the rotation I want to see for the rest of the season.

Defensively, we were obviously awesome as well, though I can't really figure out the breakdown between better schemes, better effort and Warrior ineptitide.  I liked our hybrid Princeton/other stuff offense as well, though again a lot of that was Golden State's problem.

But the story of the game was obviously Andray Blatche.  Twenty-five points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks.  Those are numbers we probably aren't going to see again, but the bigger question is whether Dray's turned a corner with this game.  Is he really better off without Eddie Jordan, or was this just your typical great game in a sea of inconsistency?  

I think it's pretty obvious that Blatche plays his best when he does less.  Less dribbling, less pump-faking, etc.  He also does his best when he catches the ball in a consistent spot every possession, whether it's the high post, low post or somewhere else.  My feeling is that he's also best when he's screening and rolling/popping instead of dribbling, because it gives him space he doesn't have to create by dribbling.  If Dray does all of those things, he will feel into the game, and when he feels into the game, he'll rebound better, like he did yesterday. 

Upon first viewing of this game, it seemed Blatche was doing less and doing it in more consistent spots, but I think a second viewing is in order.  I decided to watch exactly what Blatche was doing on the 25 possessions he ended with a shot (18), assist (5), turnover (1) or free throw (1).  For each of them, I'm going to list where he caught the ball, how many dribbles he made and the end result of the play.  Without further ado.

Make the jump for the results.

5:34 first

  • CATCH LOCATION: Left baseline, 17 feet from the hoop 
  • RESULT: Blatche takes one dribbles toward the middle and hits a tough runner over Andris Biedrins from about 12 feet away. 2 points

4:53 first

  • CATCH LOCATION: Left corner, just inside the three-point line, off a screen and pop with Caron Butler
  • RESULT: Blatche is open, but elects to pump fake and take one dribble in for a tougher baseline jumper over Biedrins.  It still goes in.  4 points

2:59 first

  • CATCH LOCATION: Right elbow
  • RESULT: Blatche comes off a down screen and makes a hard pump fake and dribble for the short runner.  Swish.  6 points.

2:40 first

  • CATCH LOCATION: Left wing, 17 feet
  • RESULT: Blatche misses a wide open jumper in transition.

11:19 second

  • CATCH LOCATION: Right elbow
  • RESULT: Blatche holds the ball for a couple seconds and delivers a nifty bounce pass to a cutting Caron Butler for the easy layup. 6 points, 1 assist.

9:55 second

  • CATCH LOCATION: Right corner by three-point line
  • RESULT: This is one of the few plays where we see the old Blatche.  He stands in the corner waiting to make something happen.  Eventually, he makes two dribbles to the middle, but can't shake his defender.  Instead of regrouping, he drives some random scoop shot that gets swatted away by Ronny Turiaf.

3:11 second

  • CATCH LOCATION: Offensive rebound
  • RESULT: Blatche skied to steal a rebound away from Biedrins on the weakside after a miss by Caron Butler.  Biedrins didn't put a body on him, so credit Blatche there.  He spins back baseline, losing Biedrins in the process, all while making one dribble.  He gets a clean look at a reverse layup that misses, but JaVale McGee tips it back in to give the Wizards the score.

2:27 second

  • CATCH LOCATION: 17 feet from the hoop on the right side, back to the basket
  • RESULT: Blatche immediately spins, getting by Biedrins on the baseline.  He covers a lot of ground in that one dribble, getting all the way underneath the rim.  It's unclear whether he plans this or not, but Blatche scoops a bounce pass underneath the hoop to McGee.  McGee bobbles it because it's a tough pass, but eventually banks in a short jumper. 6 points, 2 assists.

0:51 second

  • CATCH LOCATION: Left side, just inside the three-point line.
  • RESULT: Blatche sinks a long open jumper off a crosscourt pass from Antawn Jamison.

0:21 second

  • CATCH LOCATION: Right elbow.
  • RESULT: Blatche immediately bounces a pass to Jamison in the post.  Jamison spins and scores.  6 points, 3 assists.

8:53 third

  • CATCH LOCATION: Right wing, 17 feet away
  • RESULT: Blatche makes a hard jab step at Biedrins and nails the face-up jumper.  We see it again.  Quick move, quick decision, good shot.  8 points, 3 assists

7:24 third

  • CATCH LOCATION: Deep in the paint
  • RESULT: Blatche makes a nice cut into the middle of the lane, gets a lob pass and kisses a reverse layup off the glass.  To this point, we've mostly seen Blatche standing around offensively.  Here, he makes a nice cut.  Need to see more of that going forward. 10 points, 3 assists

5:04 third

  • CATCH LOCATION: Left corner, off a screen and pop with DeShawn Stevenson.
  • RESULT: Blatche tries to pump fake and drive, but shuffles his feet.  This is his only turnover of the game.  10 points, 3 assists, 1 turnover

4:36 third

  • CATCH LOCATION: Left corner, near the three-point line.
  • RESULT: Blatche goes baseline around Biedrins, who is getting torched tonight.  He takes one dribble and delivers a tough pass to Caron Butler for the layup.  10 points, 4 assists, 1 turnover

2:53 third

  • RESULT: Blatche tips in a missed layup after some great pressure by Antawn Jamison. 12 points, 4 assists, 1 turnover.

0:53 third

  • CATCH LOCATION: Left corner
  • RESULT: The ball is swung around the perimeter.  Blatche catches it in the left corner, shoots quickly, and hits again, 16 points, 4 assists, 1 turnover

11:41 fourth

  • CATCH LOCATION: Inside the paint, right side
  • RESULT: I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw his one.  Blatche made one hard dribble on Brandan Wright and strongly stuffed it on him with the right hand.  That's something we haven't seen at all from Blatche this season, to say the least, 18 points, 4 assists, 1 turnover.

The rest of the game was garbage time, but you should be seeing a trend here.  Only once did Blatche take more than two dribbles.  His catch locations on the floor are very consistent.  Sometimes, he get it in the corner after a pick and pop, sometimes he gets it on the elbow, and occasionally he'll get it on the block, but all those locations are consistent.  The end result?  Quick moves, combined with quick decisions and a good shooting touch.  When Blatche says he's playing free, this is what he means.

This is hardly a sign of a true breakout for Blatche, of course.  He still stands around too much offensively and seems to take offensive possessions off.  He also won't hit as many open jumpers in future games and he won't have Andris Biedrins around to guard him poorly.  But at the very least, Blatche is back to playing like he did at the beginning of last year.  He's shooting a lot, but he's shooting quickly and decisively instead of trying to force something out of nothing.  As long as he does that and plays passable defense, he'll play a lot under Ed Tapscott.

Other thoughts:

  • Clearly, this was Dee Brown's best game as a Wizard.  He flashed the ability to hit the outside shot, which is going to be key to his development. 
  • DeShawn Stevenson is still mostly worthless unless he's hitting his shot.  He had seven assists last night, but I didn't notice him until he started jacking them up in the third quarter.
  • It might have been because of foul trouble, but I found it interesting that Tapscott chose to play JaVale McGee in really short spurts.  If Blatche plays this well every game, then it's understandable to do this, but if he's not, JaVale needs to learn how to play extended minutes by playing them.
  • See how much more effective Darius Songaila is as a power forward?  
  • I'm really happy that Tapscott got Dominic McGuire some solid burn.  I was surprised that McGuire didn't get a chance to earn some minutes earlier in the year, particularly with all the problems in the backcourt.  But now, he's getting that chance, and while he's not scoring, he's rebounding well and playing pretty solid defense.  He was only 1-5 from the field, but grabbed 5 rebounds, blocked two shots and had two steals in 16 minutes of play.
  • Let's not get too carried away here.  Golden State looked really bad last night, particularly defensively.  Andris Biedrins is a rising star, but his attempt to guard Andray Blatche was pathetic.  And Stephen Jackson has got to be the most frustrating player to watch.  He shoots so much, plays way too many minutes and is never punished for the mistakes he makes.  Oh, but enjoy having him for seven more years, Warrior fans!