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Game 52 Preview: Blazers vs. Wizards

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The game isn't technically until Sunday morning local time but that's so early we're just posting the game stuff today.

A Look at the Wizards

Washington has lost three of its last four games but those three were against the Lakers, San Antonio, and Toronto, which are not too shabby.  The one game against a sub-par team, Seattle, they won handily.  They now sit at 28-20 atop a reasonably strong division, so you know they're having a good year.

Unless you've been living under a rock this season you already know that the main guy for the Wizards is Gilbert Arenas.  He's been hyped to the moon by blogs like this one and now averages 38 nicknames and 42 quotes per game to go along with his 29.4 points, 6.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 steals.  But it's not all hype.  Those are career numbers in every category.   He's scored over 30 points twenty-three times this season and gone over 40 seven times.  Yes he takes a lot of shots to get there, but his relatively low shooting percentage shouldn't hide the fact that he's deadly from range and from the line.  If you leave him open he'll hit.  If he's missing it's probably on shots mere mortals couldn't even attempt.  Arenas' wingman is newly-minted All-Star Caron Butler, who is also having a career year with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals a game.  Both of these are among the finest all-around producers in the game right now and they're very difficult to handle.

Third option Antawn Jamison and his 19 points and 8 rebounds are out with knee problems.  This is a small blessing because the Blazers are going to have trouble handling two offensive powerhouses, let alone three.  After that the roster becomes much more pedestrian, with DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood, Antonio Daniels, Etan Thomas, Jarvis Hayes, and Darius Songalia all filling roles, but all one or two dimensional.

Washington's first, second, and third game plan bullet points all say, "SCORE!"  They average a healthy 106.7 points per game, second best in the league.  Their defensive plan leaves a little to be desired, however, as they give up 106.3 points per game, second worst in the league to hapless Golden State.  (If you're curious how they compare to Phoenix, they score about 5 points fewer per game and give up about 4 points more.)  The Wizards want to get up and down as much as possible and they'll give up a lot of buckets to make that happen.  Their only goal besides that defensively is to steal the ball, force turnovers like crazy, and run while you're confused.  They are excellent at that.  If you do not give up the ball, however, they cannot stop you in any way, shape, or form.  They give up three more rebounds, four more assists, and two more percentage points from the field than they average.   They can't stop you inside, they won't stop you outside.  They also draw a lot of fouls because of their quick, slashing style of play and they need every one of those free throws to win.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  #1 Rule:  Don't run.  #2 Rule: Don't run.  #3 Rule:  DON'T RUN!  Just make this "Scissors in Your Hand Sunday".  Go slowly, deliberately, and work for the good shots they'll let you have.
  2.  Rules #4-6:  Take care of the ball!  You probably don't have to worry about their big guys but their guards will hound you but good.  We need Jarrett to have a smart, aggressive game.  I'm guessing part of their game plan will be to jump all over him and make him throw some of those loopy jump passes.  We may miss Sergio.
  3.  They're a decent offensive rebounding team but not a great defensive one.  That's a good combination to exploit.  Don't be lazy on the defensive end and you should be fine.  On the offensive end we should get some second shots.
  4.  Read my lips:  Get points in the paint in the first half!  If you let this team run off to a 15 point lead you're not coming back on them.  Blown jumpers are the quickest way to do that.  They're not shot blockers or interior defenders so don't be afraid to step on color before you put it up.
  5.  Arenas has already promised to tear us a new one.  I don't think you're going to stop him from shooting.  If you stay in front of him that'll be about the best you can do.  Make his shots tough, Ime!  The guy you want to try and throttle is Butler.  If he's not scoring that pretty much leaves Gilbert on his own.  Gilbert can win games on his own but at least we might have half a chance.
Seeing as how we won against Charlotte, how we have major trouble defending guards, and how we've shown absolutely no sign of being able to keep our hand out of the long jumper cookie jar in the first half of games, I don't have a very good feeling about this one.  Maybe it's better that it's not on TV anywhere.

And speaking of that... For our readers in the nation's capital:  Nobody here, including me, is going to be able to see the game at all.  If you go to the game, could you send an eyewitness report to the e-mail so we have some idea what's going on?  I will post it in lieu of my usual lengthy post-game report.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)