Monday, April 30, 2007

One Great Quarter Isn't Enough for the Wiz
Saturday evening, I went to the Wizards game. I know, but I had made the commitment to go well before the whole injury thing. And, looking back, it was still a better option than going to a four-hour Nationals loss, complete with drunken Mets fans and a Chad Cordero blown save. And it sure beat driving out to Raljon to celebrate the drafting of LaRon Landry. Which I actually think is a pretty good pick, despite the fact that he's a duplicate of Sean Taylor. I can't figure out how long Sean Taylor's contract is, but there is absolutely no chance that he'll re-sign with the Redskins. His reaction to the fact that Landry is going to be making more money than him should be interesting. I was puzzled by early reports that the Redskins wanted to make a deal so they could draft wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Yeah, that's what they need, another high profile offensive player who will complain about not getting enough touches. Right.

But this post is about the Wizards. I have to say that the game was fun, the Wizards do a great job of making big games like this an event. (Of course, this is from a guy who went to many many Bullets games at the Capital Centre, which was like going to a game in somebody's basement.) It's fun to walk around the concourse before the game, and check everybody out. Unfortunately, we kept running into Danny Ferry. It's easy to get relatively good food, and you don't have to stand in crazy lines and wait for fancy extras, like hot dog buns.

After the warm-ups, the lights were turned down, and Caron Butler came out to get the crowd fired up. Then the players were introduced, and Gilbert came out to an ovation. He wasn't limping that badly, not as bad as the last time I saw Nick Johnson, actually.

Then the game started, and things quickly went downhill. Pretty quickly, the Wiz put themselves into a hole. LeBron James can be pretty deceptive, he looks like he's just standing around the three-point line, but he'll kind of lull you to sleep and suddenly make a ferocious drive to the basket, or a pass that catches everyone off guard. He's good, and at half-time the Cavs had a 17 point lead.

Things got crazy at the beginning of the second half. Led by an inspired Antawn Jamison, the Wizards closed a 17-point gap in less than six minutes. The crowd went nuts, momentum changed and it looked like the Wizards could win. But they couldn't keep it up. Faced with an opportunity to take a lead, inevitably they'd miss a shot, and someone like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was usually unguarded, would make a shot. The Wizards fought hard, but just didn't have enough juice. They scored 31 points in the third quarter, and 17 points in the fourth quarter, and they lost, 98-92.

What this play-off series has shown me is that someone on the Wizards has done a poor job with the bench. It's either that Ernie Grunfeld has not gotten players that are capable of contributing, or the players are fine, Eddie Jordan just can't get anything from them. Given that the Wizards are missing their two best players, I think it's logical to think that they'd have to go deeper on their bench in this series than usual, and deeper than other teams. I read a couple of articles where it was suggested that, hey, this is a lost cause, give some guys a chance to show what they've got. Guys like Andray Blatche, who played four minutes in game one, and hasn't gotten off the bench since. That, I don't understand.

In fact, compared to the vast majority of other teams in the play-offs, all of which are healthier than the Wizards, the Wizards get fewer minutes from their bench. On Saturday, Wizards subs logged 43 minutes, Cavs subs logged 51. Here are the other teams that played Saturday, and the minutes they got from their reserves: Denver - 41, Detroit - 50, Houston - 61, Orlando - 75, San Antonio - 84 and Utah - 87. That doesn't make sense to me. Either the Wizards don't have enough horses, or the coach doesn't know how to ride them. That's a problem, whether you've got Arenas and Butler or not, and the Wizards won't get much better until it's addressed.

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