Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wizards lose to Heat; Miller injured

After starting out Wednesday night's game against the Miami Heat the exact opposite way they began the previous night against the Cavs -- getting behind early and playing horribly instead of jumping out to a huge lead -- the Wizards looked like they'd pull out a win this time even though they had trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half. But with the game tied at 89 and less than one minute to go, DeShawn Stevenson stepped to the free throw line with the chance to put the Wizards ahead -- and bricked two free throws. Stevenson was then punished for his misses when Dwyane Wade hit a 21-foot jumper right in his face that put the Heat up for good. Gilbert Arenas had a couple of chances to tie or get another bucket (described in more detail here by Michael Lee) but couldn't, and the Wizards fell 93-89.

For the second straight night, Arenas shot poorly from the field (7-18 on Tuesday, 9-27 last night) but did lead the Wizards with 32 points. In 37 minutes, he got to the free-throw line often -- a game-high 15 times -- and made 12 of them, but he hit only two of eight three-pointers, grabbed only one rebound, and had as many assists as turnovers (three). The next highest scorer for Washington was Brendan Haywood with 16 points, followed by Caron Butler with 13, Andray Blatche with 10, and Mike Miller with eight. Randy Foye chipped in six points.

Things haven't gone the Wizards' way the last two nights, and now they will lose Mike Miller for at least a week after he sprained his left shoulder in the third quarter. Even though Miller hasn't looked for his offense much, he's been a welcome addition and a good all-around player, grabbing rebounds and moving the ball well on offense.

But Miller should eventually return and be just fine. However, there does appear to be another issue: the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Arenas and Butler. Michael Lee explains:

Until Miller and Jamison return, the Wizards face a more daunting task because Arenas and Butler don't appear to be on the same page offensively. Butler had 13 points and 10 rebounds but it was really a subpar performance that frustrated him and Arenas.

After the game, Butler said, "I know my role, it's just obviously you just adapting to the new situation and having guys back and just got to stay aggressive and always be aware, stay aggressive, don't get caught watching the show."

Arenas . . . said, "I mean, he has to shoot the open shot. You know, Caron's a rhythm player, so in the old system he had enough time to get into his 'mojo' and shoot those shots. In this system, you have to get a lot of catch and shoots, so the first initial shot he has he doesn't usually take it and then everything just closes up from there. He's just got to get used to catching and shooting."

Butler should adapt and, hopefully, start playing like the old Caron. But, whether it's the fact that he's only played in four games and appears uncomfortable in a new offense, is adjusting to the styles of some new teammates, or is still dealing with knee issues (or a combination of all three), Butler is averaging the fewest points per game (14.0) that he's scored while he's been with the Wizards. He's also taking fewer shots per game (13.3) and is shooting a lower percentage (39.6). It's also not helping that he has more turnovers (10) than assists (three).

The Wizards need Butler to step up his game, even more so now that Miller is out. It's worth noting that, right now, Blatche is second on the team in scoring with 16 points per game, followed by Butler, Haywood (12.0), Foye (11.6), and Miller (8.4).

The Wizards' next game is on Friday in Indiana against the Pacers (1-3).

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