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Wizards can't finish the deal against Hornets: Final wrap and a lack of recognition down the stretch

How you view yesterday's loss to the New Orleans Hornets depends a bit on your perspective.  The Wizards played hard ... but they didn't always play smart.  The starting lineup played great ... but the bench guys did not.  Mike Miller's return once again sparked excellent ball movement ... but he then got hurt again.  Chris Paul was mostly kept in check ... but he emerged down the stretch and hit some huge shots.  The Wizards hung in against a pretty good team ... but they couldn't finish.

It's only fitting then that the end of the game can be viewed in a similar duality.  The stated explanation for the struggles down the stretch had to do with the insane number of turnovers at the end.  In other words, the plays were there for Nick Young and Randy Foye, they just didn't make them.  But the operative question here is, why the heck were Young and Foye put in position to make those plays anyway?  

Early in the fourth quarter, the Wizards decided that they were going to milk Antawn Jamison on David West.  They didn't do it because Jamison was owning that matchup (he did have 32 points, but as is typical with Jamison, he wasn't getting many of those in one-on-one situations), but rather because they noticed Chris Paul was double-teaming.  Paul would come to double, the Wizards would kick out to Earl Boykins and get a good shot as the Hornets were rotating.  For some reason, the Wizards went away from that simple play down the stretch.  The plays instead called for Young to run off screens and curl to get open, or Foye get a shot off a screen and roll with Brendan Haywood.  I'm really not sure why.

Flip Saunders was asked about this in the post-game press conference.

"We went to [Antawn] a few times and they started to take it away when they came over," Saunders said. "You got to realize, Antawn played 44 minutes.  You can't constantly keep on going to him.  You got to sometimes give him a little bit of a blow.  But, we shot 58 percent from the field, so it wasn't our inability to score.  It's a matter of not being able to turn the ball over in addition to when we score."

He's right in one sense: the offense wasn't really the problem.  But this is a red herring argument.  Flip himself was the one who played Antawn 44 minutes.  You do have to give Jamison a blow, but doing it down the stretch is bad timing.  Finally, the turnovers would have been mitigated if Jamison got the ball instead of Young or Foye.  The latter two just aren't good enough to make the right play down the stretch.

That's not what lost the Wizards the game yesterday, but it definitely hurt.

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

Team Pace Off Eff eFG% FT/FG OREB% TOr
New Orleans 94 122.3 60.6 22.5 15.4 10.6

117 61.8 21.1 25.8 20.2


Snap Reaction: Defense and turnovers.  That's what really killed us tonight.  We did an awful job getting to their shooters, which is a real shame because I thought we played Chris Paul pretty well.  He just hit some tough shots.  There's no excuse, though, for the Hornets shooting 13-23 from three-point range.

Lineup Details, via Popcorn Machine

  • Highest individual plus/minus: Brendan Haywood (+9 in 34:00)
  • Lowest individual plus/minus: Andray Blatche (-16 in 16:42)
  • Best five-man unit: Randy Foye/Nick Young/Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison/Brendan Haywood (+16 in the third quarter)
  • Worst five-man unit: Earl Boykins/Nick Young/Mike Miller/Caron Butler/Andray Blatche (-6 in a tiny stretch in the second quarter)

Snap Reaction: The bench killed us in the second quarter.  Blatche was a -16 and Earl Boykins was a -6.  Getting better bench production has been an issue recently and only drives home the adage that it's not the backup to the injured player that causes problems, it's the backups backup.

More notes below the jump:

  • I wasn't in the scrums with Mike Miller and Antawn Jamison because I was talking to Brendan Haywood for something larger I'm working on.  From the sounds of Michael Lee's report, it seems like Miller was in a ton of pain.  This brings back memories of Saunders' quote from before the game that he's not a trainer and plays guys as long as they ask to get in.  If Miller is indeed out for even longer, the decision to play him for 39 minutes against Orlando becomes even more baffling.  "I don't know [how long he's out]. It's one of those things that you have to wait a day and see how it is," Saunders said after the game.
  • DeShawn Stevenson made headlines with his tribute to GIlbert Arenas on his shoes.  However, when asked about it after the game, Stevenson said he's been doing it ever since Arenas was suspended.  He also competely downplayed the significance to it, shrugging several times when asked about it.  "I mean, he's still a part of the team," Stevenson said. "I'm going to stay with him through rough times." 
  • Brendan Haywood has hit his last 13 field goal attempts, which ties him for a team record with ... Kwame Brown.  When told of that, Haywood frowned and said "I don't want to be with him."  Apparently there's still some residue left over from Brown's departure in 2005.
  • Randy Foye was more talkative than I've ever witnessed after the game.  Before he talked to the media, assistant coach Don Zierden was talking to him by his locker.  Foye revealed that they were talking about defending Chris Paul.  "The way I was playing him was good.  I was using my length and my size on him, so he could shoot over me.  If he made them early on, it was good.  But I was saying to [Zierden] that I felt I should have adjusted a little bit towards the end, because he hit two big shots."
  • More Foye: "If he came to me, I was physical, because I know that most of the time, if you are physical with him [first], he'll flop and get the call.  I knew that if he came to me, I was going to be physical."