Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wizards fall to Thunder, 127-108

First off, one quick thought: "Thunder" is a horrible team name. That's not anything particularly enlightening, but it just doesn't sound right. Then again, maybe Wizards doesn't either.

Now, here are some game thoughts:
  • Even though the Wizards were outscored in every quarter and never held the lead, this really was a game of runs. Almost every time the Wizards tied the score or cut into the lead, the Thunder answered on the offensive end. A lot of that is bad defense by the Wizards, but Oklahoma City deserves some credit for staying poised.

  • For the most part, the "Big Four" got theirs: Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and Brendan Haywood scored a combined 83 points. Arenas had 23 points and eight assists, Jamison had 22 points and 12 rebounds, Butler scored 24 points (with four rebounds and four assists), and Haywood scored 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.

  • Mike Miller, the fifth starter, somehow played 35 minutes despite being in obvious pain with a shoulder injury. He had a decent all-around game, but he still scored just five points and accumulated just two rebounds and two assists -- plus he took only four shots. I respect Miller's toughness, no question, but if he's not healthy, he shouldn't be on the floor.

  • Unfortunately, the bench didn't play particularly well in this game. The starters played big minutes -- all were on the floor for at least 35 minutes -- so there weren't a whole lot of minutes to go around. Still, Earl Boykins got a bench-high 17 minutes (more on Boykins below), Andray Blatche played 15, and DeShawn Stevenson and Randy Foye each had 12. Blatche was relatively ineffective, scoring only six points and taking a few ill-advised jump shots instead of knocking down open ones like in previous games. Blatche shot fine (3-7 from the field), but he only grabbed one rebound and had a lazy turnover in the second half that looked like the old Blatche (dribbling behind his back in traffic for no apparent reason). Foye only took two shots and scored one point; is his ankle still bothering him?

  • What exactly is Boykins's role? Is he the backup point guard? I guess he is, and for the most part, I don't have a problem with that. Boykins played the entire fourth quarter and took all seven of his shots then (making five), scoring 11 points. But when Boykins is in the game, he has the ball a ton and dribbles a lot, which means Arenas doesn't have the ball. At least for right now, I'm not a huge fan of the Boykins-Arenas backcourt.

  • To be blunt, the defense was terrible. Before this game, the Wizards allowed their opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field -- ninth-best in the league. Last night, Oklahoma City shot 53 percent from the field and 52.4 percent (11-21) from the three-point line. Kevin Durant was unstoppable, scoring 35 points by repeatedly slashing into the lane. Rookie James Harden was almost just as good, scoring 25 points (with four three-pointers) in 26 minutes.

  • Turnovers were a problem again last night. In the win over the Cavs, the Wiz turned the ball over only 12 times, yet last night they returned to form, giving the ball away 20 times. Through 11 games, the Wizards are tied for ninth in turnovers per game (15.2). Also, Arenas is averaging a league-high 4.1 turnovers per game.
Obviously this wasn't a particularly well-played game for the Wizards, but they were still in the game until Oklahoma City's big run in the fourth quarter. There's still a lot to work on, but hopefully the awful defense in this game doesn't become routine.

Next up for the Wiz: At San Antonio

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