This was a confidence win. Anytime you lose six really close games in a row, you kind of just need to win one to feel good about yourself. The first step to turning it around is experiencing some sort of success, whether it's an actual victory or a moral victory.
It's also especially important to win a close game. The Wizards got some help from the Warriors (bad defense, three missed free throws), but stuff like that happens in close games. When the game is close, you are going to win some, even if you are a poor "clutch" team. There's just too much variance. The key is putting yourself in a position where you have that chance, or on the flip side eliminating that chance against an inferior team.
But it's very important for the Wizards to maintain perspective here. This is the Warriors, an extremely fast-paced team who played no big guys and forces you to play the up and down game. What works against the Warriors will not work against other teams. Brendan Haywood will not be able to score in the post that easily. Caron Butler will have to fight for post position harder against most other teams. Even Gilbert Arenas won't be able to penetrate that easily against most teams.
There are certainly important positive things to remember, don't get me wrong. Gilbert learned that when he's aggressive, good things can happen. Caron learned that he's better closer to the hoop than further. But if both players think they can play the exact same way against another team and have it work, they will be sorely mistaken.
(More stuff below the jump):
Four Factors (Bold=very good | Italics=very bad)
Snap Reaction: The extreme fast pace of this game obscured a pretty good defensive effort, all things considering. You're going to suffer breakdowns against the Warriors because they played so unconventionally. The Wizards had some breakdowns in transition, but overall they did a good job forcing the Warriors to shoot jumpers rather than layups.
Lineup Details, via Popcorn Machine
Highest individual plus/minus: Antawn Jamison (+20 in 36:48)
Lowest individual plus/minus: Andray Blatche (-12 in 21:54)
Best five-man unit: Gilbert Arenas/Nick Young/Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison/Brendan Haywood (+10 at the end of the first quarter)
Worst five-man unit: Earl Boykins/Nick Young/Dominic McGuire/Antawn Jamison/Andray Blatche (-4 in the second quarter). Note: a lot of units were -4 in short stretches.
Snap Reaction: Our bench has given us nothing all trip. Tonight was no exception. More on this later.Quick notes:
- Gilbert was very aggressive tonight. If I'm the Wizards staff, I show him these clips and hope that gets him going down the road.
- Antawn was high on the +/- scale, but had a really poor game. I think his injured shoulder/neck had something to do with that, but when you aren't 100%, don't shoot the same shots you normally would. That means you should move the ball to an open Nick Young on the weakside instead of launching a three early in the shot clock with two guys on you. Thanks.
- Other than Jamison, the Wizards did a great job of going to the basket instead of shooting contested jumpers. Golden State is going to make the game a track meet, so what you have to do is work the ball inside so you get easy hoops. The Wizards starters did a great job of doing that.
- Monta Ellis had a good game statistically, but Nick Young defended him very, very well. Ellis just hit some tough shots. Ellis also had eight turnovers - worth noting.
- Anthony Morrow looked bad. Maybe I don't want him so much after all.
- The only guy that really got off was Stephen Curry, and the Wizards have nobody to blame but themselves for that. Too many wide open looks for him. If he doesn't play well, this is a blowout.
- Our bench officially needs work. We played Gilbert 24 straight minutes in the second half, which got us a win, but is a dangerous long-term precedent. Then again, even a tired Gilbert is better than Earl Boykins at this point. Boykins was a -8 in less than five minutes, playing awful defense and stunting ball movement on offense. The shine has certainly worn off. Randy Foye continues to play really poorly at shooting guard, so many letting him play the point is worth a shot to get his game going.
- Andray Blatche has also played pretty poorly recently. Really, ever since Jamison came back, he's struggled. The Wizards need to figure out how to get him going. Maybe the secret is playing him with Jamison at the four rather than as a small-ball five. Give JaVale McGee some backup five minutes and play Blatche exclusively at the 4.
And finally ... we can't go on without making reference to Flip's pre-game comments about reining the team in. Here are the relevant comments:
"I think I'm going to have to rein it in," the coach said. "In all my years of coaching – and this is CBA and 15 season in the NBA – I have never had to yell at a player for taking bad shots in a game, until this year. I think there's no question, it's a catch-22. You try to give them their freedom so they find their confidence, but then when you have to keep talking to them about what's a good shot and what's a bad shot, you get to the point where you say, 'To hell with the confidence. You have to understand.' "
"I probably at this point in my career, compared to any team I've ever been on -- and I'm talking CBA when we had 22 guys called up in one year, coming and going – anywhere I've been, this is the shortest as far as playlists I've had because you want to keep it simple," Saunders said.
"We did our running game against [the Clippers] and we were up , and then all of a sudden Caron takes a 1-on-5 jump shot, and Gil takes a 32-foot 3-point shot with 18 seconds on the shot clock over a guy on the pick and roll," Saunders said. "Those are not playoff-type basketball shots. Ideally what you try to do is not only win games, but learn the process that down the road is going to help you be successful."
"When I took the job I looked through all my reports from when I was in Detroit, and all of them said [about the Wizards], 'No matter what the score is just keep on playing because they'll shoot you back into the game.'"
I'm actually pretty discouraged by all of this. It's December. These are the types of things you should have known about your ballclub in training camp. It's particularly disturbing to read that Flip knew the Wizards took bad shots and still didn't try to reign it in early, rather than during the season.
And why the sudden change in heart? Ten days ago, Flip desperately encouraged Gilbert Arenas and his team to push the ball. When you make it clear that you want to increase the tempo of your games, you're going to get players that take advantage of that and take bad shots. Now, just ten days later, Flip is talking about eliminating all bad shots. It's a dangerous thing to change messages so quickly.
I realize that you could craft a gameplan centered around your point guard pushing the ball so you can get your halfcourt offense set up quicker. I realize you could theoretically push the ball only for layups and wide open threes. But people are human, and they have to be pulled one way or the other most of the time. Either focus on a half-court oriented game (like what they do in Portland - Nate McMillian is a "push for layups, but otherwise bring it out" type of coach), or turn the horses loose and live with a bad shot or two.
I think Flip has always been the first type of coach, and I think the Wizards needed to shift into being that first type of team (half-court oriented, but one that pushes for layups). It's good that he's now preaching that style now. But he should have been consistent with it all season, and he shouldn't have only now decided to "rein in" guys for taking bad shots. The time to do that was preseason. Now, it might be too late.