Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Seven points, 13 seconds

I realize that the Wizards (10-26) are a really bad team. I also recognize that they did, in fact, win the game last night -- 136-133, in overtime, over the Kings. Nick Young also scored a career-high 43 points, which is great -- more on that below. But at some point, even the worst teams should be able to execute basic plays at the end of games. The Wizards, frankly, did not, and that's why the Kings forced overtime in the first place.

Let's go back to the last 13 seconds of regulation. After a Young turnover gave the ball back to the Kings, Jermaine Taylor grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked the ball to cut the lead to 125-121. Rashard Lewis desperately tried to find a teammate on the inbounds pass and forced the ball to Kirk Hinrich (under the basket) instead of calling a timeout. Beno Udrih stole the ball, which eventually ended up in the hands of Francisco Garcia, who not only made the layup, but was also fouled on the play. He made the free throw.

Now leading by just one, the Wizards got the ball to Young, who was fouled. At the free throw line, he made the first and missed the second. With seven seconds left, the score was 126-124. What happened next was absolutely indefensible: Pooh Jeter -- who the Wizards somehow allowed to score eight points and dish out 11 assists in 21 minutes -- drove right past John Wall for the game-tying layup. Wall was beaten badly on the play -- it happens, I guess -- but no one was behind him to alter Jeter's shot or even make him think about passing the ball. The lane was so wide open that it looked like the Kings were still in their pre-game layup lines. Not only did Jeter's shot tie the game at 126, but the play only took four seconds. It took just four seconds for the Kings to get a wide open layup. The Wizards obviously seemed concerned with giving up a go-ahead three-pointer, but there's no excuse for defense that poorly. None.

With three seconds left, Wall missed the game-winning bucket on the other end, and the game went to overtime. (Since the Kings didn't have the ball for the final three seconds, I guess it's actually seven points in 10 seconds, but I'll leave the title alone. It sounds bad enough as it is.) Thanks to Young and Hinrich, who combined for nine of the team's 10 points in overtime, the Wizards still pulled out the victory, which should be applauded considering the monumental collapse at the end of regulation. But they're not getting off that easy. There was very little defense played in yesterday's game from either team, but the defense displayed by the Wizards in the fourth quarter was absolutely atrocious. Not only did they fall apart in the fourth quarter's final seconds, but they allowed 43 points in that quarter alone. Forty-three points! In Friday's win over the Nets, the Wizards didn't allow 43 total points until the third quarter. I know: The Nets are terrible and that's a completely different game -- plus the Nets were chucking up bricks left and right -- but where is the consistent effort on defense? The Kings were getting buckets way too easy; at times it looked like the Wizards weren't even trying.

I don't think it's just Flip Saunders's fault. It's not just the players' fault. And it's not just the assistant coaches' fault. It's everyone's fault. Performances like that make me wonder why teams don't force more pressure on opposing teams more often. I know every team won't fold under pressure and throw the ball away like the Wizards did, but some might.

There's no excuse for the level of defense the Wizards played for much of the game -- obviously in the fourth quarter -- and that's not even counting the fact that the Kings were playing without their best player, Tyreke Evans. Here were the high scorers for the Kings last night: Udrih (26), Garcia (26), Carl Landry (23), Omri Casspi (15), and DeMarcus Cousins (10). There were no Kobes or LeBrons, or Amare Stoudemires or Kevin Durants, etc., on the floor last night, and again, Evans was out.

Now, for the positives. Young had an outstanding game (on offense). He had 43 points on just 22 shots, making 14 of them. He also shot a phenomenal 7-10 from three-point range. Here's a breakdown of his production by quarter: 14 in the first, three in the second, 18 in the third, five in the fourth, and three in overtime.

As a team, the Wizards outrebounded the Kings by 15 (55-40). Three Wizards grabbed at least 10 rebounds -- Andray Blatche (13), JaVale McGee (11), and Rashard Lewis (10). Lewis also had a decent game, scoring 16 points on 11 shots and dishing out six assists. Blatche had 16 points (5-10 from the field), four assists, and four steals. Wall didn't have a very efficient game, pouring in 22 points on just 6-19 shooting. He committed six turnovers, though he had nine assists and six rebounds. He also made all 10 of his free throws.

Off the bench, Hinrich scored 14 big points, all of them coming in the fourth quarter and overtime. He needed only nine shots to get those 14 and also had four rebounds and four assists. In 12 minutes, Al Thornton chipped in nine points on 4-5 shooting.

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