Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

Darius Soriano —  March 21, 2010

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Records: Lakers 51-18 (1st in West), Wizards 21-46 (14th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.1 (10th in NBA), Wizards 104.1 (24th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.7 (5th in NBA), Wizards 109.2 (18th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Wizards: Shaun Livingston, Mike Miller, Al Thornton, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee

The Lakers Coming in:  By now, you’ve all heard or read that Andrew Bynum’s achilles injury is not a tear or rupture and that he’s out at least a week and likely two.  So the Lakers must now play today’s game and at least a few others without their starting Center.  Sadly for Bynum and the Lakers, this is nothing new and is really becoming a yearly occurrence.  Just as in season’s past, the Lakers will move Lamar into the starting lineup and make adjustments to the players’ minutes allocation and rotations from there.

The News on the Lakers as a whole, though, is much better than the news that their young Center received.  The team has won five games in a row and is starting to play better basketball on offense (something that has been up and down all season) and seem to be narrowing their focus as the post season approaches.  To a man, I think every member of the team is excited about this closing stretch of games and are looking to find a rhythm in order to successfully defend their title.  We’ve been talking all season how Phil likes to have his teams peak at the right time and how no coach (save maybe Popovich) has a better sense of how to prepare a team for the playoffs over a long regular season.  So, as the this first stretch of 82 games is coming to a close, I think we’ll start to see an even more engaged Phil and a responsive set of players who will start to show that they are rounding into form for the second season.

The Wizards Coming in:  The Wiz are a mess.  They’ve lost 10 games in a row and 12 of their last 13.  And while it would be nice to say that this recent stretch of futility is a fluke, it’s not.  The Wizards have been bad all season and as the end of the season approaches it’s only getting worse.  There’s just been too much to overcome this season for Washington.  There was early season injury to Jamson that disrupted the team’s rhythm under new coach Flip Saunders,  then there was the death of owner Abe Pollin, then we all know how the Arenas/guns saga (and the resulting suspensions to Agent 0 and former Lakers Javaris Crittenton) affected this team, and most recently the trades that sent Jamison/Butler/Haywood to other cities and ultimately left the Wiz a shell of the team that many thought would compete for a top 5 seed in the Eastern Playoffs this season.  Ultimately, from an organizational perspective, this has been a sad, sad season that doesn’t have a lot of progress to show for the suffering that the team, its players, and its fan base has endured.

However, most recently there are two stories that have developed into positives for the Wizards.  First is the development of Andray Blatche.  Long considered a tremendous talent that couldn’t put it all together, Blatche has really stepped up his game since the trade of Jamison.  Maybe all he needed was consistent playing time or long minutes, but now that he’s in the starting line up he’s producing numbers that are eye opening (over 21 points and around 9 rebounds a game) and have me checking boxscores whenever the Wiz play.  The other feel good story for Washington is the recent pick up of Shaun Livingston.  As LA fans, we all know the history of this once promising young player and the horrific knee injury that seemingly sapped all that potential away.  But, after being released by the Thunder earlier this season, Livingston has latched on with the Wiz and is making the most of the chance that he’s been given.  His 10 day contract was recently extended to last through the end of the year and he’s now starting for Washington at point guard.  Livingston is a player that I’ve always rooted for, so it’s nice to see him playing ball and continuing the dream of playing in the league.

Wizards Blogs:  Check out Truth About It and Bullets Forever.  They’re both very good sites to keep up on the latest happenings of the Wiz.

Keys to game:  The Lakers are facing another bad team this evening so they should have no issues imposing their will on Washington.  Sure, missing Bynum will hurt some, but it’s not like the Lakers don’t have a ton of talent at the other positions to make up for Andrew’s absence – especially against a team like the Wizars.

What I hope to see tonight is more fluid offense from the Lakers.  In recent weeks, we’ve all seen a higher comfort level between Bynum and Gasol when they’ve been paired together on offense.  However, that chemistry still pales in comparison to what Gasol and Odom have exhibited when they’ve shared the front court.   So, I hope to see better spacing on offense in general and specifically more two man game between our bigs.  We should be going into Pau early on offense and with that see more cutting and passing with Odom being a dive man after initiating our sets.  I also think we’ll see a lot of Kobe breaking down Mike Miller from both the wing and the post.  Just because Bynum is out doesn’t mean our post offense suffers it just means it takes on a different face as there will be less power finishes but more passing and activity from the players playing off the ball.

On defense, stopping the Wizards means paying attention to four players – Blatche, Mike Miller, Al Thornton and Foye.  As mentioned earlier, Blatche is a tremendous talent and an all court player.  He’s got a good enough jumpshot and great turn & face game that he uses to attack the basket off the dribble.  Odom is going to have his hands full tonight, but LO is the exact type of player and defender that can give Blatche problems.  Shade Blatche to his left hand and if need be collapse on him when he makes his move to make him a passer in traffic in order to force turnovers.  Dealing with Miller will mean marking him around the three point line but also being aware that he’s taken on a play making role for the Wizards this season.  Miller is an underrated passer and a better creator off the dribble than he’s given credit for.  That said, Kobe should be familiar with Miller from their time together on Team USA and should know what Mike is capable of.  As for Thornton and Foye, they’re very similar players only playing different positions.  Both are attack players that have decent jumpshots but would rather go to the basket.  Thornton operates best in isolation while Foye is a good P&R player, so guarding them effectively in those scenarios will be key to limiting their efficiency.

Looking more marco and from a team standpoint, one thing that Washington does do well is crash the offensive glass.  They’re 9th in offensive rebounding rate and will generate extra possessions by hitting the offensive glass hard with both Blatche and McGee (two ‘plus’ athletes).  So, find those two players and body them up when the shot goes up.  If the Lakers can control them on the offensive glass and make this team shoot from the outside (save Miller, who we want to drive into traffic) this should be another (relatively) easy win where the Lakers aren’t pushed too much throughout the course of the game.  The Lakers have more talent at every position and should control this game from the outset.  That said, don’t be surprised if the game is closer than what you expect just because (like Minnesota) the Lakers don’t always play their most inspired ball when the opponent isn’t a true threat.  I know we’d all like that to be different, but this is the team we root for.  I’m just saying.

Where you can watch:  6:30pm start time out west on Fox Sports West, also on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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62 responses to Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

  1. This one is for Warren!

  2. I think it’s safe to have a 2-fer for Warren tonight.

    looking forward to seeing LO in starting role again, he really excelled when Kobe was out too.

    so did the Nuggs and the Mavs lose last night?

  3. This may be a bit crazy, but I would consider starting Mbenga. Odom is a bit banged up right now. And it’ll give Pau more minutes at the forward without being crowded in the paint and just for the sake of keeping the rotations the same. And if there were a game to experiment, this would be it. Otherwise, just start Odom like expected, but I hope that he just doesn’t mentally dial out of the game because he’s a injured.

    Hopefully the lakers can finish the Wiz off by the 3rd quarter and let Odom and the starters rest. Its a big week coming up. The lakers can’t look past the wiz and lay an egg, but they should keep what they have coming up in mind and blow this team out.

  4. Final game, of a 4 game stretch, against weaker opponents. Once again, I expect us to play down to the competition & then finally pull away sometime either in the late 3rd or early 4th quarter. Hopefully, we can get through this game with relative ease & without suffering any injuries because we all know what’s in store for us after 2nite.

    Interested to see how Phil X treats Sasha 2nite. Will he b given some freedom or will he b removed @ the first sign of adversity. If my memory serves correct, he didn’t receive any burn in the 2nd half against the Wolves (for reasons unbeknowst to me). Lets hope he gets an opportunity to get into some type of rythm b4 the playoffs begin.

  5. I bet against the Lakers covering the spread.

    So here’s hoping for a single digit win. =P

  6. 2, yes, both teams lost so the lakers consequently enjoy a 5 game lead in the loss column.

    this would be a good game to get our reserves some minutes that might help them re: the playoffs in case of foul trouble. Specifically thinking of DJ and Powell.

    Also, is there any timetable for Luke? Although his minutes are few, I think he’s a key part of the roster– when the triangle spacing or passing falls apart, Phil often brings him in and instantly the cuts become sharper and the passing stronger (likely because the cutting player actually considers he may end up getting the ball, go figure).

    A final question in this hodgepodge post: is there an argument for using the play fox and shaq used to run with ron and bynum, specifically, the 3 initiates from the corner to the C who is coming from weak to strong (sometimes helped by a pick), ideally getting him the ball just as he’s passing beneath the basket…? i know bynum doesn’t seal as well as shaq used to, but its an easy way to get him the ball in position….

  7. I would risk losing a few games by starting DJ. The worst things about one injury is is increases the chances of anither injury by putting platers in different roles and extending their minutes. And I’d love for Gasol to be able to stay at PF where he doesn’t have to bang with bigger players.

  8. spell check A

  9. Anybody watching Spu-Atl? Ginobili looks like his old dominant self and then some. Jefferson and Hill are being aggressive and effective. If they get Parker back and they can continue to play with chemistry it looks like the West could get a whole lot of interesting real soon.

  10. For some of you who say you would rather play Spurs then Blazers.

    Oh wrong!

    Spurs are a smart, pick and roll team/ Not what Lakers need.

    Manu and Jefferson are playing great and Hill is good.

    I expect tough games and probable losses to Spurs, Nugs and also a very quick Rockets team in up coming roadie.

    Don’t wish for Spurs in first round.

    trust me on that.

  11. 11 – I’d look at a potential Spurs matchup from a different angle. In short, preparation helps. A cakewalk to the conference finals and finals (though all of the West teams are tough) may not help the team’s mindset and readiness for teams like the Nuggets, Cavs, and Magic.

  12. Mohan-We would see Spurs in 2nd round where we can hope Andrew will be back to full strength.

  13. Come to think of it we wouldn’t see them until finals but I like idea of Nugs or Dallas having to play Spurs in 1st round.

  14. Any working links? atdhe not working for me..

  15. Does anyone else use Opera? I swear my comments with Opera don’t show up on here.

  16. We could at least pretend we give a damn

  17. I kind of expected a 20 point lead by now, but we are playing a professional basketball team after all. Good to see the bench out, hopefully they will play most of the game tonight and let the starters rest.

  18. Is Phil planning on resting Pau till the playoffs?

  19. The Kobe bounce in full effect.

  20. I think the Nets would beat the Wiz in a 7-game series.

  21. Simonoid @ 17: I also use Opera and haven’t ever had a problem with comments not appearing. What version?

  22. I think Northern Iowa could beat the wiz in a 7-game series.

  23. oh stop it kobe! Nice to see a blowout early

  24. Oh no. This means Ammo time. Wondered if he sat down and cried when his collage team lost yesterday

  25. Would it be unprofessional to only play our bench the 2nd half? This is great practice for them you know, in a game like environment.

  26. 27 – They get those opportunities every game…end of the 1st/early 2nd and end of the 3rd/early 4th. No need to send the Taco Unit out early.

  27. Yeah, unfortuneately the way the Lakers play against teams like this, it will probably be a 3 point game again eventually.

  28. Look at Lamars line…only 4 pts, sure – but 11 boards, 6 ast, 4 steals and 3 blocks. Talk about a complete player.

    And nice to see Pau finding his stroke from the line again.

  29. I hate Farmar and Brown right now. Seriously. Run the gorram offense!

  30. Seems like a poor 4th quarter.

  31. Typical. Laker. Performance.
    I just hope the playoffs start soon. Boy, do they look bored.

  32. Where’s Sasha?!

  33. gasol is the weekest PF in the league… pathetic

  34. Is phil trying to teach another of his stupid lessons. Put Kobe back in before you have the worse melt down in team history!

  35. I love this! Now I hope we lose because dumba** phil decides to take kobe out with over 4 minutes remaining. And then, as usual, he just sits there like the corpse he is as does nothing while the sh*tbox wizards continue to make a run. Good job, phil.

  36. And the negativity starts…

  37. Haha!
    According to ESPN Gamecast, Singleton was given a SEVENTH personal foul for hanging on the rim.

  38. Mark u dont agree? we aint hating we just telling the truth. theres a difference… out—>

  39. #36 & #37. This game was never in doubt. Why should Phil keep Kobe in the game? Because the game got down to 8 or 10 or whatever it was? The Lakers still have Pau and LO in the game and unless there’s a miracle this game won’t even get within five points.

  40. that’s great I had lakers and gave 12

    just kidding.

    betting is wrong.

    a win is a win

  41. Who cares if the Lakers win by 10 or by 30? These are the Wizards we’re talking about here, not someone we’re going to be seeing in the playoffs. Our bench players aren’t going to learn how to perform under pressure by sitting on the bench. As fantastic as it would be to play a 6-man rotation, such things are not feasible in real life. Contrary to popular sentiment, we really do need Farmar and Brown to pick up their play, and it’s not going to happen magically over night. Players grow through adversity, and Phil understands that. It’s just a shame that so many of us fans don’t realize this.

  42. #35 & #40. Gasol the weakest PF? Really? 28 and 12 while getting fouled a ton and making is FT’s is weak now? Ha. I’ll take it every day if he can give it. I’m happy with the win. If anyone finds too much that’s negative with this game, they’re nit picking.

  43. ken, you dufous – when’s the last time they beat *anyone by 12?! :-D

  44. Did I just say “hating”?
    This Jekyll-and-Hyde thing is bothering me.
    Even the fans have now acquired it.

    Pau Gasol the weakest PF in the league? Pathetic? Sure most of the time he shies away from contact, we label him “soft”, but is he really the weakest PF in the league? 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks a game?
    Seriously, if that wasn’t a stupid comment, then I don’t know what is.

    Right on, Darius.

  45. I am sure its hard to keep your focus when you are much better and way ahead.

    I had the same problem last week in Vegas.

    I was way up and lost my focus.

    Yea I lost it all.

  46. Phil seems to be making a statement by leaving Farmar and Brown in the lineup, i.e. telling them this is what happens when you don’t run the offense, don’t play defense etc. A 20+ lead is whittled down to single digits. I just hope they are not thick enough to get it.

  47. 37.

    What would that exactly prove to you if the Lakers lost? That Phil is a bad a coach? I am pretty sure that he is considered by any one who is involved with basketball that he is among the best to ever do it, if not the best. He does have 10 championship rings.

    He knows what he is doing. I trust in Phil.

    The Lakers have won six in a row and now face a challenging five game road trip without Andrew. I see the Lakers dropping one on this trip either Spurs or Houston on the second night of the back to back. Ginobili looks like he is 25 years old out there. The Spurs game will be a tough one. The Rockets with Kevin Martin have become more deadly offensively. Aaron Brooks is going to have a field day. I’m going to avoid the comments on that game day. The amount of Fisher bashing will be too much to handle.

  48. 45 pre-season.

    actually Lakers have 3rd worst record aganist the spread this year in league.

    Not that I pay attention to that stuff.

  49. PJ was probably trying to teach Brown and Farmar a lesson, by keeping them in and they were not running the triangle. Nice stats by the starters for sure, and a nice win also tonight. I also like Pau Gasol, and he is not weak at all, a very good player to have on your team (especially running the triangle offense), indeed.

  50. When I first started on this site, I asked Kurt why it seems so many fans are so upset with everything. His response was: “Ray, I think a lot of laker fans wont be satisfied unless they win 2 championships in the same season.”

    Anyway, I watched 8 minutes of this game and left because you could see that Washington wasn’t in it. In those first few minutes, only Thorton and Livingston were trying. (And I’m happy Livingston is back starting, his knee injury video still gives my knee nightmares.) There’s no need to nit pick for these games. Washington was never in it. You can usually see the energy right away when these “bad” teams play the Lakers, but not today.

    Now, why shouldn’t Phil put in the bench? Aren’t we all in agreement that 1) the bench will be important in the playoffs and 2) we are all tired of Kobe having to “save us”? So isn’t it a good thing that Phil had him sit for the last part of the game and make the other guys “man” up? Is it a “stupid lesson” to have our bench not give up a lead in the fourth quarter? And to not have them rely on Kobe?

    Great game by LO and Pau and Ron and Kobe. Pau with 8-14, 12/14 FT, 12 boards, 3 assists and a block. I enjoy having the “softest PF in the league” on our team. LO was true to his word wasn’t looking to shoot but still helpful. Artest 7-10 3 steals. Kobe shooting less than 20 shots. No Free throws though? Can someone tell me if he was just shooting jumpers all day? If that’s the case, then that makes sense.

    And did Sasha have a quick hook tonight again?

    Next three games will be more challenging than the previous 5. Spurs are clicking right now. Thunder are fun to watch, and I always liked the hustle of Adelman teams (houston.)

  51. Lakers didn’t play with much fire the second half. after the Lakers blew this game open in the second and got the 26 pt halftime lead, I really thought it was going to be a bonafide blowout.

    *Surprised Kobe, Pau and Odom logged so many minutes tonight.
    * Good game from Artest tonight. nice step back jumpers.
    * 9/17 on 3s as a team !
    * Kobe with 0 points the second half (!)
    -not nitpicking, just seemed like he was on a major roll and would finish with a lot of points

  52. nitpicking:

    outscored 40-59, 17-32 in 2nd half, 4th quarter respectively; in spite of big minutes from Kobe and Pau (40 and 38 for the game).

    /nitpicking

  53. Hey stop nitting. Next thing some will complain that for the second game in a row Fisher had 2 points.

    What bad fans we are.

  54. Did Fisher only having 2 points have a negative impact on the game? Did he over shoot? I saw him do a couple of PUJITS early in the game, but shooting 4 times in a game really bothering you?

  55. #42 ken, haha. I had T’wolves for +13.5. “Lakers” and “blowouts” don’t mix in the same sentence.

  56. re: Kobe chilling in the 2nd half. I’m pretty sure he deferred as it was clearly a night where Pau should take the spotlight.

    It’s not as if the game was ever REALLY in doubt.

  57. Ray I was kidding. Playing the angry fan. My tongue is usually firmly planted in my cheek on this sight.

  58. ken,

    sorry for jumping on you. i really cannot tell when you are joking or not.

  59. Neither can my wife.

    Lots of coach time for me.