In a parallel universe somewhere, the Denver Nuggets survived a third quarter implosion behind Ty Lawson's clutch heroics in the fourth. In our universe, this game never happened because of the NBA lockout. The parallel universe sounds more fun, so let's discuss five topics from this game based on that.
Unsettled rotations are killing the team's ability to achieve and sustain tempo. It seems like every time the Wizards start treading water or gaining ground in a tough game, Flip Saunders refuses to make substitutions. Key starters (today it was John Wall and Andray Blatche/
Nick Young/ Javale McGee) were visibly gassed when the third quarter ended. When the pressure's on, our guys don't know when (or if) they're coming out for a breather and as they start to flag the team loses control of the pace.
How about Javale going at Nene Hilario like hero? Sure, he got injured (his ankle checked out fine post-game, he was kept out during the fourth quarter as a precautionary measure. My heart stopped when he went down on the fast break, but that was the best big man dirty work I've seen from him all season. Instead of hunting for blocks, Nene's physical play seemed to draw Javale into the post version of a knife fight and it was a beautiful thing to see. Maybe it brought back trauma memories of Dwight Howard's tender ministrations several games back...whatever it was; more, please.
Kevin Seraphin versus Kenneth Faried was more entertaining than it had any right to be. I always figured watching a good defensive rebounder go at good offensive rebounder would be entertaining, but everyone seemed to take things so wondrously personally. We knew Kevin was a hard-nosed player; to watch Faried challenge Kevin so furiously while keeping his foul count (relatively) under control was a treat tonight.
How about that Chris Singleton-Trevor Booker-Kevin Seraphin front court to close out the game after Andray Blatche fouled out? When Javale McGee tweaked his ankle, I wondered if Jan Vesely was going to see some meaningful burn. Instead, we got treated to the Wizards version of Redskins defense. Smashmouth basketball to make Bill Laimbeer cry. Chris Singleton shut down Danilo Gallinari from behind the arc, Trevor Booker frustrated Kenyon Martin and Al Harrington inside and out while Kevin Seraphin switched onto Nene/Chris Anderson. Sure, Ty Lawson was able to take advantage with an aggressive pick and roll attack, splitting defenders who simply didn't look used to playing together. But despite the apparent mismatch, the Nuggets more experienced frontcourt was unable to take advantage and pull away, even with Ty Lawson doing the heavy lifting. And, as I noted with malevolent satisfaction, they were not happy about it.
Is anyone else ready for the Nick Young-Arron Afflalo NBA rivalry to take shape? They're in different conferences, I know...but their history in the Pac-10, the free-agent bidding war between both of tonight's teams and the Chicago Bulls (with their clear preference for Afflalo)...it seemed to coalesce tonight in a performance from Nick I'm not accustomed to seeing outside of L.A. Afflalo never backed down and with the contracts both players signed with their drafting teams I'm a little sad I won't see any playoff battles as both players approach their prime.
What were your big storylines?