A Look at the Wizards
The Wizards march into Portland masters of inconsistency. It seems their whole second half of the season has been "win two, lose three, win four, lose three". Right now they're on "win two" having just completed their most recent round of "lose three". No telling what that means for tonight.
The one thing that hasn't changed since our last meeting is that these guys couldn't defend a jackrabbit from the corner mailbox. It just doesn't seem to be their style of play. They're third worst in the league by points allowed and fifth worst in field goal percentage allowed. (We're fourth worst in the latter category, which may make for an interesting game.) But with Antawn Jamison healed and back in the fold (he's averaging 23 and 8 in his last five) they now outscore people enough to win games...a fair amount of the time anyway.
Agent 3 (for 15) is still the straw that stirs the drink. His season has been nothing short of phenomenal. In a way his public relations notoriety has overshadowed how talented he really is. He's averaging 29 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds for the year and he's scored 30 or more in three straight games. He's cold-blooded in the clutch even though his overall shooting percentages are mediocre. He draws a stunning 10 free throws a game and he hits almost all of them. To say he's a handful doesn't do it. You need a backpack and some luggage too.
A small blessing for the Blazers is third-scorer Caron Butler's knee injury which will keep him out of this game. DeShawn Stevenson, Jarvis Hayes, and Antonio Daniels will try to fill in the athletic scoring gap.
The Wizards have a serviceable, if glamour-free, corps of big men. Brendan Haywood can score a little and rebound but other than a few blocked shots he's not a defender. Etan Thomas is a very good rebounder. Summer League superhero Andre Blatche got some serious playing time in their last game and acquitted himself well.
The Wizards' game is predicated on getting a ton of shots. They'll let you take as many as you want from wherever you want as long as you're willing to do it quickly. They want more field goals, more run-outs, and more free throws than you. They hope you leave the arena feeling really good about your offense but still having lost the game. They're decent shooters, very good foul shooters, and pretty good with their handles (and at getting the ball away from you too). If you get into their type of game you're going to lose. They've only won five games all year when they've scored under 100 though.
What I'd Like To See:
- We are going to have a very hard time without Zach. Perhaps the biggest danger is getting slaughtered on the boards. Jamaal Magloire would be the knee-jerk fix but I fear him getting run out of Dodge in the up-tempo game. Guys like Lamarcus, Travis, Martell, and even Brandon have got to come through on the boards...particularly defensively.
- We must take care of the ball. The quickest way to lose is to turn it over into their high-octane hands.
- Getting back on defense will be critical. My guess is we'll play a smaller, faster lineup to try and keep up with them. We should be able to get some bodies in between them and the bucket.
- I'm really worried about Antawn Jamison. I wonder how we're going to come up with a scheme that allows us to watch Fauxstradamus without letting Jamison pick up 40 himself. You're going to have to leave one or the other single-covered, and that's trouble. Somebody is going to have to step up defensively without a lot of help on one of these two guys.
- It's going to be a gang scoring effort for us. The good news is that their defense probably won't intimidate you. The bad news is that on certain nights even unintimidated Blazers miss a lot of shots. This better not be one of those nights. Lamarcus, Travis, Jarrett, Brandon, and Sergio (yes...I think this will be a Sergio-type game) will all have to step up offensively.
- They're going to get more free throws than we are. Prepare for it. That means we better hit all of the ones we get. There will already be a gap in fast break points and probably a gap in points off turnovers. A big gap at the line will just about do us in.