Defense Remains the Issue
This is my fourth season covering the Wizards on a daily basis and there has been one constant throughout that time: This team does not consistently play defense. Nothing new there -- you fans have been harping on it for years -- but the defensive issues are a huge problem now that Gilbert Arenas and his 30 points a game are becoming distant memories.
The recent defensive issues were outlined in a story I wrote in today's paper.
The problems are familiar: too much dribble penetration, sloppy or late rotations and an inability to grind down and really play solid defense late in close games. That is a big reason for the team's 0-8 mark in games decided by seven points or less. Basically, all a team has to do is move the ball from side to side a couple of times and an open shot or drive to the basket will materialize.
Go back to last January when this team played some really good basketball. During one stretch, it won 102-98 in OT at Atlanta, beat Boston 85-78 and then 88-83 one night later and later in the month posted a 102-84 win at Dallas. In each of those games, defense was crucial. Then again, Brendan Haywood, Roger Mason Jr. and a healthy Antonio Daniels were a part of the mix.
Until this team -- and that includes all-stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler (who was really playing energetic defense during that stretch I mentioned from last season) -- digs in and improves defensively, the playoffs will slip further and further away (cue Jim Mora Sr.: "Playoffs? Playoffs? How about winning a game?")
As much as statistical analysis has become a part of the game for teams, fans and sports scribes, the really simple truth can be found in one stat: opponent's field goal percentage. The teams that rank 25th through 30th are the T-Wolves, Raptors, Wizards, the team formerly known as the Sonics, Knicks and Kings. Each of those teams is below .500, three have already fired a coach and Sacramento's Reggie Theus is on deck. Meanwhile, look at the team's with the opp. field percentage: Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Dallas and the Lakers. Go figure.
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