Wizards Lose to Wolves, 89-82
Another dispiriting loss for the Wizards summer leaguers Friday night, as they fell, 89-82, to a Timberwolves team led by electric guard Jonny Flynn, promising rookie Wayne Ellington, and yes, Oleksiy Pecherov.
The ending was fairly exciting; after trailing by seven with about two minutes left, the Wiz got two Javaris Crittenton layups and two sweet-as-Bubble-Mint Andray Blatche jumpers to draw within three with less than 40 seconds left. Pecherov then launched an errant three-pointer with plenty of time left on the shot clock, giving the Wiz a prime chance to tie and leading to some heckling from Brendan Haywood, who was sitting in the front row.
"Oh, I was laughing hysterically," Haywood said after the game. "I told him, he no longer plays for the Washington Wizards, so he can't take shots like that any more. When you're up three with 35 seconds to go, you can't take a shot with 20 seconds on the shot clock. You just can't do it."
I would agree. On the ensuing possession, the Wizards didn't call timeout, and ran Nick Young off a screen to the three-point line in the right corner. He had a wide-open look with about 10 seconds left, but it clanked off the rim, and the Wolves got two free throws and a garbage bucket to end the scoring.
"I wanted to run a play that was for Nick, and he did it beautifully," said Wizards assistant Don Zierden, who coached the team today. "I mean, everybody thought that that thing was going in and we were going to overtime."
"I thought it was good," Young said. "I should have knocked it down. I didn't have my feet set yet, but I should have knocked it down."
The Wizards are now 1-2 in Vegas, with two remaining games: Saturday against Blake Griffin and the Clippers, and Sunday against the Knicks with Sam Cassell behind the bench. More notes and quotes from Friday's game.
The main thing that was talked about in the changing area after the game was the Wizards' effort, particularly in the first quarter, when they were outscored, 27-16, gave up seven offensive rebounds, and committed five turnovers. Aside from Nick Young, the rest of the team shot 1-for-11 and scored five points in the quarter.
"Right now we're trying to set the tone, and the tone is that if you don't play hard, you can't beat teams," Zierden said. "We had felt that the last couple of games, we didn't play as hard as we needed to play to be a playoff or a championship team, so we're trying to make sure the young players understand that....With the addition of certain players, and you hope with the health of certain players, competition in training camp is gonna be tremendous. And so we're trying to let these guys know that you've got to come hard and bring it every night."
Flip Saunders apparently sent word down to the bench at halftime that he wasn't unhappy with the shot selection or their offense, but that the effort simply hadn't been good enough, and the second half certainly looked better, anyhow.
"We waited too late to play our game and play hard," Javaris Crittenton said. "We played hard at the end, but we should have came out and played like that from the get-go....We got coach up there watching us, observing us, and we're playing like that?"
Flynn is Fast
The Wizards really didn't have anyone who could remotely stay with Flynn. He danced through the lane all night, finishing with 21 points and 5 assists. He also drew the most oohs and ahhhs with an assortment of spin moves and behind the back passes, though there wasn't a lot of competition in that category, with JaVale McGee sitting this one out. (The Wizards can only dress four of their contract players at a time; McGuire, Crittenton and McGee have all taken turns in street clothes.)
"He's nice," Young said of Flynn. "He played with a lot of intensity. He got me going a little bit, talking trash. He was talking trash to 'Dre, so being a good teammate, I had his back. But it was all fun."
Flynn was certainly more impressive than Ty Lawson, whom the Wizards faced on Wednesday.
Blatche Is Off
After posting double-doubles in his first two games in Vegas, Andray Blatche was completely out of kilter. I didn't have a chance to catch up with him, but he was matched up with Pecherov a lot in the early going, and it sure seemed to me like he was trying (and failing) to take advantage of his former teammate. After three quarters, he was 0-for-8 from the field and had three points, with at least two of his shots having been blocked.
"The disappointing thing is that Andray's played two really good games here the first two games," Zierden said. "And tonight he had a rough one. To his credit, with five minutes to go in the game, we said, 'We're gonna stay with you--you're one of our roster players, and we want to see if you can play the last five minutes as hard as you can.' And I thought he did some positive things in the last five minutes of the game."
Indeed, the veteran scored all four of his baskets in the final three-and-a-half minutes, some in impressive fashion, and wound up with 11 points and 8 rebounds. His jumper certainly seems improved, though he had all kinds of trouble finishing around the basket.
Edwards > Heytvelt
It sure doesn't look like Josh Heytvelt is anywhere near the Wizards plans. He played less than three minutes, all in the first half. Journeyman center John Edwards started and played more than 23 minutes; he had 11 points, 6 rebounds, and at least 2 emphatic dunks. He also committed seven fouls, and had a technical. Love Summer League.
I'm not sure what point there is in commenting on any of the other players, who never had any sort of chance to catch on with the team.
Young Still Scoring
Young's 23-point night (on 8-of-17 shooting) has him averaging 25.3 in Summer League action. I'm not sure where that ranks right now, but entering the day, it would have been second highest behind Anthony Randolph (26.8). More importantly, everyone who watches him has praised how he's scoring; by moving without the ball, getting himself in the right position, coming off screens and taking high-percentage shots.
"Nick is being extremely efficient," Flip Saunders said. "When I first saw him, he was dribbling between his legs, trying to create. He's not doing nearly as much of that stuff any more."
"He's getting better at reading situations and getting open," Zierden said. "Because people aren't gonna let him just catch and shoot the ball. So I think he's been very good at being efficient and using screens and getting open. He's still got a ways to go, but I think that's been one real positive thing for him here in Vegas."
"Nick Young I thought played very well," Haywood said. "It looked like he has pretty good footwork coming off the pin-down screens and the curls. And in our offense, that's what's there a lot of the times. If you go back to what Flip did in Detroit, those were the plays he ran for Rip Hamilton. So if Nick can mirror what Rip did, I think we'll be very successful."
"I was a pure shooter before I was a creator," Young joked. "It comes natural for a player of my standards....Every day I've been thinking about Rip, Reggie Miller, just be watching film. It's been coming along."
He also got his first two assists of the month; after the first, a Wizards fan stood up and yelled "An Assist!" The Summer League ratio is now 76 points to 2 assists.
Same Old Pech
The Minnesota radio announcers called him Stewie. His teammates referred to him as "Pechie." And he was still gunning, just like always: eight three-pointers tonight, second-most in the game behind Wayne Ellington.
"He got a lot of shots up," Haywood said, when I asked him to access Pech's work. "Pech looked pretty good. He's trying to get comfortable, this is his first time really getting a chance to play. So he looked good at times, he looked rusty at times, but I think overall, Minnesota will be a good place for him."
Crittenton More Comfortable
The result was another loss, and the Wiz weren't facing a pressure defense like they had against Denver, but Javaris Crittenton clearly helped stabilize an offense that had looked ghastly on Wednesday night. The box score says he had three assists, but I don't think that was quite right. On a roster that's filled with erratic moments--Dominic McGuire had four more turnovers--Crittenton is a little pocket of calmness.
"This is a big stretch for Javaris," Zierden said. "We need people that can run the ballclub. Flip is an execution-type coach, so it's important for Javaris to get these reps and work on executing and running the offense. I thought he did better today. I thought he did. Especially in the second half, I thought he got us into some nice things. Even that last play, he did a nice job, delivered it, and if the shot goes in, we're still playing."
"I think I did a good job of running the offense," Crittenton said. "I had a bad turnover at one point, but other than that, I found the shooters, I found Dre, I found Nick....I think coach see that I can run an offense, I'm getting a good feel for the offense. I'm not completely comfortable, I just started running it, but I'm learning, I'm picking up on it quick, I'm finding out where the scorers are, how to deliver the ball. And when the vets get out there and I play with some of them, I think I'll have a better understanding, because they execute and they'll know where to be at."
Five Vets With Starting Experience Can't Win
Maybe I was naive, but I sort of thought this Wizards roster would romp out here. Granted, the role players aren't top prospects, but with McGee, Blatche, Young, McGuire and Crittenton, you're talking about five guys who started a combined 112 games last year. Four of them averaged more than 20 minutes a game. And they're playing against a lot of rookies. So, does this 1-2 record matter?
"We shouldn't be losing at all, man," Crittenton said. "Of course we've got to be concerned with losing. I hate losing."
"We're just trying to learn the offense, really," Young said. "There's no reason we should be losing like this, but that's part of the game of basketball. But we've got a big game [Saturday], and if we get this one, we can put these two games behind us."
"Every time you've got a scoreboard going you want to win," Zierden said. "Because you're coming off a 19-win season, it's important that you want to learn to compete. That being said, we're also trying to look at certain things....That's fine. That's what Summer League is for. But at the same time, you want to compete to win. We were hoping that shot by Nick went down, so we could still be playing."
[P.S.: I'm leaving on a red eye Friday night, so I won't have anything on Saturday or Sunday's games, but I have a few more Wizards items that will come next week.]
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