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Wizards lose to Nuggets: Final wrap, where I step off the ledge a bit

I jumped the gun a bit yesterday after the loss to the Nuggets.  Now that I've had a day to calm down, a few things I want to say:

  • No, the Wizards aren't tanking, at least not in the traditional sense.  I shouldn't have implied it as much as I did.
  • Yes, the decision to play Earl Boykins instead of Randy Foye and Shaun Livingston in a close, winnable game (and not take him out when things went south) was questionable, to say the least.  In lieu of an explanation about Livingston's knee (which was what I was getting at with the "screw the knee" comment, but it came out very, very wrong), you have to wonder why he wasn't in the game. 
  • Regarding Livingston: the one positive to that ill-fated comment ("screw the knee") is that there was an interesting discussion that resulted about how much Livingston should be playing at this point.  There were a lot of good points made by both sides.  Personally, I think that if Livingston's knee is a problem, Flip Saunders should say so.  I didn't hear that, so I assumed he was taken out for a purely basketball reason, in which case, you have to wonder about the rationality of that decision.  

To defend Flip Saunders for a second, I really do think he's in a quandary with his point guards.  Last night's game illustrated the issue with bringing Randy Foye off the bench.  It's safe to say that the Wizards' best chance of winning now is getting Andray Blatche touches, and Livingston does that far better than Foye.  Blatche had 17 points in the 18 minutes that Livingston played and just six in the 18 minutes Foye played (he had two points when they both were in at the same time). As a team, the Wizards had seven assists in Livingston's 18 minutes and only three in Foye's 18 minutes (again, with one assist with both in the game).  Those are incomplete stats, but they illustrate the larger point: more people get involved when Livingston plays than when Foye plays, especially when Foye is reduced to being the requisite bench scorer.

Flip's therefore stuck.  He could start Foye, but Foye won't get everyone involved like Livingston. Or, he could bring Foye off the bench, but he then essentially encourages Foye's gunning mentality.  It's a tough call.  Then, there's the unspoken reality that Livingston's probably got more of a future here than Foye.  Both are free agents, but Foye will be more expensive and hasn't exactly been a world-beater in either of his roles.  Assuming the Wizards want Livingston over Foye, you then have to weigh whether it's more valuable to give Livingston more time to show his stuff or give him less time so he doesn't get hurt again.

No matter what, though, playing Boykins in the fourth quarter was not a good call, unless Flip just wanted to give his main guys a breather from their five-in-six stretch.  Boykins is like Foye, but way worse.  Foye at least possesses the ability to set people up, if not the mentality.  Boykins possesses neither the ability nor the mentality.  There were several plays where Boykins backed it out to try to dump it into the post, but was incapable of completing the play.  He literally couldn't throw an entry pass.  

I thought this line from Denver Stiffs was appropriate with Boykins.

Boykins remains as one of the NBA's all-time enigmas.  On the one hand, he's a fascinating, inspirational story.  On the other, he's a total ball hog and you'll never win with Boykins on your team.    

Probably a little harsh, but it's true - Boykins does hog the ball a lot.

What else?  Really, it's hard to fault the Wizards because the fifth game in six days is brutal.  That's all I got a day later.  Let's get to the stats.


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

Team Pace Off Eff eFG% FT/FG OREB% TOr
Washington 92 92.6 46.2 33.3 29.3 17.4

105.4 52.7 35.6 22.2 17.4

Snap reaction: No offense.

Lineup Details, via Popcorn Machine

  • Highest individual plus/minus: Shaun Livingston (+5 in 18:48)
  • Lowest individual plus/minus: Al Thornton (-16 in 26:36)
  • Best five-man unit: Shaun Livingston/Mike Miller/Al Thornton/Andray Blatche/JaVale McGee (+5 to start the game)
  • Worst five-man unit: Earl Boykins/Mike Miller/Alonzo Gee/Al Thornton/James Singleton (-8 in a closing stretch)

Snap Reaction: That is one funky lineup to close the game, though it should be noted that Andray Blatche was out with his ankle injury.