It's en vogue to call out the collective basketball IQ of this team. We're a stupid bunch that takes stupid shots and doesn't play together. Etc. etc. Games like last night's illustrate why this statement is probably true.
Picture this scenario for a second.
- You're playing the Phoenix Suns, who are among the fastest-paced teams in the league and love to run.
- You're on the second night of a back-to-back
- You just played the Golden State Warriors, the fastest-paced team in the NBA ever since the rule changes in 2004/05.
- You just beat the Warriors by playing your top two guys 43 and 46 minutes, respectively. (Not to mention that your third gun played 37 minutes despite shoulder and neck pain).
It would probably make sense, considering these conditions, to slow the pace down, work the ball inside and try to prevent Phoenix from making it a track meet. That means no quick jump shots early in the shot clock and a bunch of set plays designed to get shots in good positions that facilitate good transition defense.
If you watched the game, you saw what the Wizards did. Quick jump shot after quick jump shot. A bunch of high pick and rolls for Gilbert Arenas rather than any semblance of an offensive set. Arenas and Antawn Jamison hit a few buckets early in the shot clock in the game's early stages and felt that gave the entire team free license to keep shooting quickly. Predictably, Phoenix pushed right back, and the tired Wizards couldn't keep up. (Not like they were well-equipped to keep up anyway, but still).
After the first two possessions of the game, when the Wizards milked the clock pretty well, here's how much time was left on the shot clock in the subsequent possessions:
13. 17. 11. 15. 18. 15. 11. 12. 13. 6. 15. 17. 20. 5. 12.
So the Wizards paitiently worked their half-court offense and slowed the game down ... twice. In that same stretch, the Wizards had one layup and one trip to the free-throw line. All jumpers, all early in the shot clock.
Was the effort later unacceptable, as Flip Saunders said? Of course. But that's kind of missing the real issue here. The Wizards had to know that it was going to be tough for them to raise their energy level to play a racehorse game considering they played the night before. They had to know the difficulty of playing the second night of a back-to-back. And yet, they still tried to play a racehorse game against the best racehorse team in the league. That's being stupid.
The lack of smarts led to the lack of effort. If the Wizards were smarter, they probably would have had more energy to play with more effort.
Four Factors (Bold=very good | Italics=very bad)
Snap Reaction: At least they didn't shoot many free throws...
Highest individual plus/minus: Dominic McGuire (-1 in 18:30)
Lowest individual plus/minus: Antawn Jamison (-23 in 28:42)
Best five-man unit:
Worst five-man unit: Earl Boykins/Nick Young/Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison/Andray Blatche (-7 in the first quarter)
Snap Reaction: WE WON GARBAGE TIME! SCREW YOU SUNS! HAHA!!! (</sarcasm)