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Wizards drop to 2-7 with loss to Pistons: Final Wrap and the little things that made the difference

There are so many reasons why last night's game was so frustrating.  The inability to stay in front of Will Bynum, a guy that once toiled for the Wizards' old D-League affiliate, Roanoke.  The late-game foul by DeShawn Stevenson, which really was an incredible mental lapse (and he did foul Gordon - if you watch the replay, Stevenson grabbed Gordon around the waist with two hands as soon as Gordon made his cut).  The inability to score down the stretch.  The late-game snide comments, if you want to call them that (which I don't - more on this tomorrow) between Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler.

But the really frustrating thing about tonight's game is that the Wizards actually did a lot of really, really good things.  The offense awoke against a pretty good defensive team (at least this season), particularly in the third quarter, when the Wizards dropped 25 points in about six minutes.  Mike Miller had a truly outstanding game, and Earl Boykins provided an unexpected spark, to say the least.  And yet, even with all of that happening, the Wizards lost to a Pistons team playing on the road while missing two big parts themselves. 

I did a lot of over-analysis of this loss in my head last night, and as far forward as right now, I'm still not sure what points to include and what to leave out.  The bottom line, though, is that when you play as well as the Wizards did for stretches of that game and still lose to a pretty average team missing two key players at home, there had to have been a coalescence of little things that cost you the game.  That's what happened tonight, and with the team struggling so much, you can't afford these kinds of losses.

Four Factors (Bold=very good | Italics=very bad)

Team Pace Off Eff eFG% FT/FG OREB% TOr
Detroit 90 117.8 51.2% 28.4 34.8 14.4
Washington 114.8 51.3% 27.8 31.7 17.8


Snap Reaction: You can just see how Detroit's ability to get dribble penetration killed the Wizards last night.  The Pistons shot well and grabbed a ton of offensive rebounds because the Wizards were out of position so much. 

Lineup Details, via Popcorn Machine

  • Highest individual plus/minus: Brendan Haywood (+6 in 38:06)
  • Lowest individual plus/minus: Andray Blatche (-9 in 31:06)
  • Best five-man unit: Gilbert Arenas/Caron Butler/Mike Miller/Andray Blatche/Brendan Haywood (+9 to start the third quarter)
  • Worst five-man unit: Same one (-13 to start the game)

Snap reaction: This just baffles me.  The same unit, against the same Detroit unit, has the best and worst stretches of the game.  It's a real shame that happened.  If you're a coach, what exactly are you supposed to do when your starting unit is this inconsistent?

What "little things" coalesced to cost the Wizards the game?  In no particular order.

  1. The flat start: The -13 says it all.  Two problems caused this.  On offense, Gilbert Arenas was very, very passive during this stretch, and while you want to get your teammates involved, this was the type of game where they needed a jolt.  As it turned out, Boykins provided it, but too late.  Then, on defense, the Wizards did a really poor job guarding Detroit's weakside action.  Charlie Villanueva was able to get free a lot of the time when the ball got swung to him on the weakside.  That's on Andray Blatche.
  2. The end of the third quarter: When Caron Butler tipped in his own miss to put the Wizards up nine with 2:48 to go in the quarter, it seemed the Wizards were going to pull away.  I remember even turning to Kyle and saying that third quarter stretch may have saved the season (silly me).  Instead, the Pistons, specifically Will Bynum, closed to within two by the end of the quarter.  More than anything, that stretch was the killer.
  3. The defensive scheme/decision-making on Will Bynum at the end of the third quarter: I put the slash in there because I'm not sure whether to blame Flip Saunders or Fabricio Oberto, but someone has some explaining to do.  Bynum was breaking the Wizards down off the dribble, so the Wizards went to the matchup zone to slow him down.  Because Bynum has tunnel vision and no jumper, he still called for isolations and high pick and rolls.  But instead of laying back and letting him shoot jumpers, Oberto left his position underneath the basket and tried to trap him.  What happens when a big man who isn't the fastest guy in the world, to say the least, tries to trap a jitterbug like Bynum?  Bynum gets around him and gets a layup.  And another.  And another.  I find it hard to believe Flip actually wanted Oberto to not protect the basket, but I also find it hard to believe a heady player like Oberto was constantly ignoring the scheme.  So ... I dunno.
  4. Gilbert Arenas in the fourth quarter: This one's a little tricky.  Because he was playing so well, Earl Boykins played crunch-time minutes, with Arenas moving to the two.  The idea was to have Arenas operate more like a shooting guard with the game on the line.  But what ended up happening instead is that Arenas couldn't get open and Boykins kept pounding the dribble trying to make something happen on his own.  It's certainly true that the Wizards come nowhere close to winning without Boykins (mea culpa, for now), but I question the logic of taking the ball out of Arenas' hands in the fourth quarter.  In the first three quarters?  Absolutely.  It might keep Arenas fresher.  But down the stretch, why make it harder on Arenas to catch the ball?  The goal should be to have him start with the ball to open up opportunities for others, not vice versa.  Then again, if not Earl Boykins, who do you play?
  5. The overuse of zone: I continue to not like how much Flip Saunders deploys his matchup zone.  I get the logic in this case -- the Wizards couldn't guard Detroit's guards man-to-man -- but zone wasn't the answer.  The Wizards continue to be confused about where they're supposed to be, with exhibit A being the Bynum point made above.  Even if the Wizards contest a jumper decently, they're totally out of position on the glass.  Ben Wallace got basically all his offensive rebounds off the zone.  With a smarter team, the zone is a good look, but with this team, I really think they need to keep things simple. 

There were more things, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.  We'll have more content up from this game tomorrow to discuss, since the Wizards don't play again until Wednesday.  In the meantime, what other little things did you guys think cost the Wizards tonight?