Another game, another close loss. Another game where we have one amazing stretch, one awful stretch and mostly listless, average play in between. I apologize for not writing more about all these losses, but I'm honestly frustrated by what I'm seeing all around. I won't say these guys don't deserve our attention - that's false - but they certainly are painful on the eyes for a fan. (If you're not a fan and you like watching close games and train wrecks, this is a great team for you).
In last night's game, nobody had it going except for the Big 3. The other eight players that played last night shot a combined 10-33 and scored 27 points. That's bad production, no doubt. But I'm more concerned that three players combined to take 60 percent of our field goal attempts. Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler scored points - a combined 68 - but they took a hell of a lot of shots to get there. And I think that illustrates the problem.
Flip Saunders' basketball philosophy has two key imperatives. One is balanced scoring. This is not a star-studded system, even though Kevin Garnett was one guy who played in it. The big knock on KG was that he didn't shoot enough, but it fit Saunders' way of thinking perfectly. Spread the ball around, make the extra pass, make plays for each other, etc.
This seems pretty remedial and basic, but few coaches practice what they preach more than Saunders. Saunders is not the type of coach to fit the philosophy around the player - he'll have the player fit his game around the philosophy. He might tinker around the edges to make sure that transition goes easier, but fundamentally, he has his players play his way.
The other tenant is efficiency, and not solely in terms of scoring a lot per possession. What I mean here is, shots come in good places, with rebounders under the hoop and guys easily able to get back in transition. Saunders' teams can potentially fast break, but only for layups and wide open threes. They don't fastbreak for mid-range jumpers.
The problem here is that the Big 3 continues to show they're all "flow" players. They have to get a lot of shots up in order to feel into games. And now that they aren't just given free reign to "attack," they're getting to the free-throw line less. In tonight's game, none of Arenas, Butler and Jamison shot over 50 percent from the field, nor did any of them shoot more than eight free throws. I honestly thought most of them had efficiency in them, but it was stifled by Eddie Jordan's system, which channeled the ball to the top players because the others weren't very good. I'm beginning to wonder if they just don't have it in them to be efficient players, at least in the Saunders-ian sense.
(Oh, and I don't think a different coach changes much. Sometime or another, those guys needed to get away from being "flow" players. I didn't think the transition would be this bad, and that's on them, though Gilbert's case is complicated because of the knee).
I'll leave you all with this thought - in tonight's game, there was exactly one efficient scorer out there (the Clippers have a lot of the same issues as the Wizards, except they have a way worse coach). His name? Eric Gordon. 29 points on 15 shots, with nine free throws and three threes built in. He's a player. He played for the other team. That's why the other team won. The Wizards don't have a guy anywhere close to Eric Gordon (a healthy Gilbert was like that), therefore, they won't be able to score. That pretty much says it all.
Four Factors (Bold=very good | Italics=very bad)
Snap Reaction: That's a ridiculous lack of efficiency by the Wizards. Awful shooting, awful ball-handling. Those numbers really drive it home. The Clippers were nearly as bad and still won. This game was there for the taking.
Lineup Details, via Popcorn Machine
Highest individual plus/minus: Caron Butler (+16 in 39:24)
Lowest individual plus/minus: Earl Boykins (-12 in 13:54)
Best five-man unit: Gilbert Arenas/DeShawn Stevenson/Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison/Brendan Haywood (+11 in the second quarter)
Worst five-man unit: Earl Boykins/DeShawn Stevenson/Dominic McGuire/Antawn Jamison/Brendan Haywood (-6 at the end of the third quarter)
Snap Reaction: Flip trotted out some weird lineups there. Dominic McGuire and DeShawn Stevenson shouldn't share the court, and it probably doesn't pay to sit all members of the Big 3 when you're also not playing with Mike Miller. But that's exactly what he did for a -4 stretch early in the second quarter. I'm not really sure why.