Highest plus/minus: DeShawn Stevenson (+17).
Lowest plus/minus: Andray Blatche (-13).
Yet another Jekyll and Hyde performance. Yet another instance where smallball succeeds in spite of itself. Yet another game in which Darius Songaila saves the day.
Ivan pointed to Caron's big jam as the turning point in the game, but I don't necessarily agree with him. We had already shaved a 16 point deficit to four before the play even occurred, so obviously we were doing something right before that play. I just think our perimeter defense picked up significantly in the third quarter, and Sacramento countered with a lot of one-on-one play that wasn't condusive to their style. That, more than any dunk, was the biggest difference.
And once again, that change occurred with Haywood out of the game. Look, I don't want to say that replacing Songaila for him didn't help at all, but the perimeter defense breakdowns weren't Haywood's fault. DeShawn was playing awful defense on Kevin Martin in the first two and a half quarters, and Caron was doing his usual sagging thing, allowing the Kings to rotate the ball and find the open shooters. That changed during the team's march, but I don't see how one can credit Songaila for Stevenson and Butler's defensive improvements or Ron Artest's selfish one-on-one play. I just hope Eddie can recognize that correlation does not equal causation here.
Offensively, however, Songaila definitely made a huge difference. The Wizards' offense was fine in the first half (not great, but fine), but they hit a lull in the third quarter with too much one-on-one play. Songaila's presence improved the spacing and ball movement, which gave everyone more space to operate. In terms of individual impact, I think Songaila did more against Seattle, but he made everyone else better with his cutting. I also really like how he's developed a back-to-the-basket game, because we haven't had a post-up guy off the bench for some time. Initially, that's how I saw Etan Thomas fitting in, but Songaila does it better because of his passing skills.
Ultimately, I don't like that we only saw about a quarter and a half of strong play tonight, but that quarter and a half was beautiful basketball. DeShawn, for example, was awful on both ends for most of the game, but he hit some big shots down the stretch. If he can just focus on that, he's a better asset than Roger Mason because he's a better finisher, and while DeShawn's selection isn't great, at least he doesn't shoot much off the dribble. Jamison and Butler were both good as well, though neither shot particularly well, and Mason provided a quick lift before launching some really bad shots.
Basically, we played good enough to win. Good enough to win isn't going to work against better teams, but if we can just play that well more often...