Thunder 88, Wizards 83

It's easy to look at the final score, see that the Wizards failed to make a field goal in the final 3 minutes, 17 seconds remaining, and think the Wizards lost simply because they couldn't execute down the stretch. That's only part of the problem. The real reason the Wizards lost was because the team let down its guard during a sloppy six-minute stretch in the third quarter.

Andray Blatche brought the Wizards within 52-50 with 8:07 remaining in the third quarter, but Thabo Sefolosha, whom the Thunder acquired from the Chicago Bulls at the trade deadline, and reserve Damien Wilkins combined to outscore the Wizards 16-8 and took a 68-58 lead with 1:46 remaining in the period when Wilkins nailed a pull-up three-pointer. The Wizards came back to take the lead on a few occassions in the fourth quarter, but as Dominic McGuire said, "We shouldn't have fell down in the third quarter; that was big."

After the game, Nick Young applied a bag of ice to his left cheek, which was swollen after he received an elbow from Nick Collison with 1:25 remaining and the Wizards trailing by one point. Young lost the ball on the play and had to get yanked. On the Thunder's next possession, Collison rebounded a Sefolosha miss, setting up Russell Westbrook's key jumper with 33.3 seconds remaining.

"It kind of knocked me out," Young said of Collison's elbow. "I lost the ball, but I got elbowed. It's hard. We had the momentum going. Being a player that can create, I just wanted to be out there. But I really couldn't be out there, my vision was a little blurry."

Even without Caron Butler, this was one game on this trip that the Wizards really should've had -- especially with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green sidelined with injuries. But once again, bad teams find ways to lose games, even against other bad teams.

"I don't think it was confidence," McGuire said. "We didn't make plays."

The most interesting thing about this game is the progress of the Thunder. When the Wizards beat the Thunder on Dec. 27, it dropped Oklahoma City's record to just 3-28. Since then, the Thunder has gone 13-17. That's some serious progress.

Think about that. The Thunder has won 13 of its past 30 games while the Wizards have won just 14 of their 61 games all season. Since beating the Thunder back in December, the Wizards have gone 8-24. The Wizards have lost of couple of players since then -- Etan Thomas, DeShawn Stevenson -- but it's hard to find real, tangible progress right now.

By Michael Lee |  March 5, 2009; 12:00 AM ET
Previous: Wizards (14-46) at Oklahoma City (15-45) | Next: Race to the Bottom

Comments

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If this doesn't convince Tapscott to start Nick Young, nothing will. What is his hangup about this, his defense? We are LOSING! To OKC! "He's the bench scoring." WE ARE LOSING, ED! Its like what Jordan did to Caron for awhile, was just too dense to realize Caron should be starting, and its the same now with Nick. Please start Nick Young, let him be the potential 30 pt scorer on any given night he can be, but better chance of that happening with him being a starter.

Posted by: franktiger | March 5, 2009 12:40 AM

We have the roughly the same chance of making the playoffs next year as the Clippers. Even with Gilbert and Haywood back. The Clippers will have Baron Davis and Chris Kaman back next year, Eric Gordon will be much improved, the Clippers might win 50 games if everyone's healthy.

Every team in the league can play this "what if?" game. The reality is this team is not as good as we think it is.

Posted by: twigmuffin | March 5, 2009 12:53 AM

Two really poor posts.

@franktiger,

Nick Young was embarassingly bad tonight and cost the Wiz the game. I am all for letting Crittenton, McGee, McGuire and Blatche play as many minutes as possible but Nick Young looks completely lost. He cant do anything but play 1-on-1 and thats not gonna cut it in the NBA.

@twigmuffin,

The Pistons went from mediocre to pretty good by subtracting Iverson/adding Rip Hamilton to the starting lineup. 1 player can add/subtract that much from chemistry and so a night when you are missing 4/5 starters doesnt tell you too much.

However, it is hard to fathom how bad Tapscott is as a coach. Bad effort, bad organization, bad approach bad everything.

Posted by: UltimateFootballNetwork | March 5, 2009 1:16 AM

I agree, NY is horrible right now. And as bad as NY is, ETapp is worse. At one point he had Critter, MJames and Juan out on the floor...no spacing, almost running into each other on every set play. It was very sad. ETapp is clearly the worst coach in the NBA right now, by far. And NY is clearly the worst player on the Wiz right now by far...maybe he needs to stop playing GA in one-on-one and play the team game. His quote "Being a player that can create..." just about says it all. His head is all about what he can do, not what the team can do. ETapp needs to sit NY down for a while and work on his knuckle-head. I still like JM very much, but he needs more playing time...and AJ a little less--he is playing so much I fear a major injury is just around the corner. Also I don't understand why AB is still so out of shape. As the game goes on he seems a step slower than the rest.

Posted by: oddjob2 | March 5, 2009 5:42 AM

oddjob:"Also I don't understand why AB is still so out of shape. As the game goes on he seems a step slower than the rest."

I've wondered that myself. Might just be conditioning -- I've heard that a lot of players lose the stamina they had after camp as the season goes on. Wear and tear, traveling, etc. But you can see he's slowed down some from the early games.

Of course, it might be all the losing...

Posted by: Samson151 | March 5, 2009 5:49 AM

The Wiz had a chance to win it but........I don't understand why Nick ALWAYS take off like a bat out of hell and loses the ball before he makes it to the basket instead of passing it. He did it again last night and the result was a loss. Tapscott is a joke and I cannot understand for the life of me why Grunfeld did not bring in a real NBA coach after he fired EJ. Grunfeld is just as much to blame for this horrendous team/season as is Tapscott. I can't wait for this season to be over because it is quite painful watching this team. There are some positives(McGuire,McGee,Crittendon,Blatche) but this has been an awful season. So much so that I have not had the desire to attend one game. I love my Wiz so much that I just can't stomache watching them lose.

Posted by: ivyleague | March 5, 2009 7:54 AM

The thing about Nick Young is, it's clear the guy has a ton of talent, but can it be applied in an NBA-game situation? And the answer is sometimes but not when it counts. When it's a wide open game and he's got plenty of room to maneuver, he can light it up. He takes big, long dribbles and uses his leaping ability to create space. But when the D tightens up, he can't get away with these long-striding moves that involve lots of dribbling. He's constantly working to break down his man, only to be stripped at the last second. He doesn't understand the time to get open is BEFORE you get the ball. Anyway, even though he's very young, you see a lot of other young players playing far smarter than he does. It makes me think he's another playground-legend type who never really makes it happen in the NBA. I don't want to slam the door on him, and I agree with everyone who says he should start and get a ton of playing time for the remainder of the year. But I don't think he's got the head or the fire for this league.

Posted by: jweber1 | March 5, 2009 8:16 AM

THABEET in this upcoming draft not GRIFFIN. We need a franchise center. We need players that deliver knock-out punches instead of receiving them.

Posted by: glawrence007 | March 5, 2009 8:27 AM

Let's see - On Monday, McGee plays 32 minutes against a play-off bound team and records 14 points, 9 boards and 3 blocks.

On Wednesday against the second worst team in the league, he gets 12 minutes. Did he deserve to sit on the bench? No. He was 0 +/-, scored 4 points and had one block. He had only 1 rebound, but Songolia had only 2 rebounds in 30 minutes.

The bigger issue is inconsistency in utilization. The young guys need some confidence and consistent minutes.

Taps has given that to McGuire, but there are better alternatives. For example, on the first play of the game, the Wiz ran a play for McGuire and he missed a lay-up.

On the other hand, I have never seen the Wiz run a set play for McGee in the post, and Young and Blatche are forced to make their own plays - which leads to unnecessary turnovers.

How is it possible for Tapscott to have been Director of Player Development? At some point there is something called accountability. The cat is out of the bag now that Taps is in the lime light.

The Wiz will continue to suffer for the lack of player development into next year - even if all of the vets are healthy (which is a dubious proposition anyway).

Get real guys. Playing .500 for the remainder of the season does nothing for the team or the ticket counter.

Soon there will not be enough games left to matter for player development.

Posted by: Izman | March 5, 2009 8:31 AM

Blatche has also been injured lately. That takes a lot out of an athlete, if he misses 3-4 weeks of conditioning.

Posted by: psps23 | March 5, 2009 8:34 AM

At the begining of the 1st quarter, it seemed like McGuire handled the ball and kind of ran the offense with some nice passes. When the Wiz got rebounds, the big guys looked to McGuire to dribble it upcourt. Was McGuire a point last night? Did I see that correctly?

If McGuire was the defacto point, I'd have to say that McGuire outplayed Crit.

Posted by: cballer | March 5, 2009 9:07 AM

Blatche doesn't seem to have his wind since coming off the injury. It's really tough to maintain conditioning with a leg injury in mid to late season.

Wes Unseld used to always say that he'd seen more guys with NBA talent manage to eat their way out of the league then any other single factor. I've heard and read about how important MJ felt diet was.

Bill Walton was one of the most talented players ever to come into the league. At that same point in his life he tried to live a vegan livestyle. I've heard him speculate about the connection of diet to his multiple micro fractures in his foot that cost the better part of his carreer.

Blatche is one of those guys that I wonder about his diet and off season conditioning. He was supposed to have been more dedicated this past off season, will feeling the effects of struggling to stay in games have an impact on his level of prep this summer?

In Nick Young I'm seeing more and more of a Vinnie Johnson type of player. He can't start right now because as simple as this present offense is, he can't run a simple play. He's turned himself into a second unit instant offense type of guy with all of the one on one play.

Right now McGuire, Blatche, Crittenton, and even McGee have moved ahead of him in their development. Izman, I'm with you on McGee's minutes, they're like a YoYo. That's hard on player development.

Collisan's elbow to the jaw, it won't appear in a box score, but it could have sealed the victory. We need a few more of those kind of guys here.

If the Wiz get the number one and OKC remains in position to take Thabeet, I don't think I've two more natural trading partners. After watching Pitt pull away from Marquette last night, I'm looking forward to the Conn/Pitt showdown on Sat.

As much as I like Thabeet's potential, I become more impressed by Blair all of the time. That guy's one rugged player down low.

Posted by: flohrtv | March 5, 2009 9:14 AM

Just found this:
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3951002

Lo and behold, NBA is going to legalize 'Brone's "crab dribble!"

Posted by: sagaliba | March 5, 2009 9:55 AM

At the begining of the 1st quarter, it seemed like McGuire handled the ball and kind of ran the offense with some nice passes. When the Wiz got rebounds, the big guys looked to McGuire to dribble it upcourt. Was McGuire a point last night? Did I see that correctly?

If McGuire was the defacto point, I'd have to say that McGuire outplayed Crit.

Posted by: cballer | March 5, 2009 9:07 AM

CBaller, yes you did notice correctly that McQuire was running some point as he was doing the game prior.

However, that is more an indictment of Mike James than Crit. DOM is good and I bet he comes back next year better and with an added outside shot threat.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 5, 2009 10:29 AM

As to the legalization of LeTravels crabbie dribble or whatever it is. I am not surprised. This league bends over backwards to make things easier for Lebron since he is the "darling" of the NBA. If there was any other player consistently walking as Lebron does there would be no new policy to allow such stuff. This kind of crap is what makes it hard to watch NBA games anymore.

Posted by: ivyleague | March 5, 2009 10:48 AM

I have never seen the Wiz run a set play for McGee in the post,

Besides the fact that they have and do post him up and toss the ball in from time to time, there's a good reason that you don't see it much.

Young and Blatche are forced to make their own plays

In Young's case, its by design, because 'creating' is his only strength. For Blatche, I have seen him more and more incorporated into the offensive flow over the course of the year, but he also has a decent 1-on-1 midrange game, and there's no reason not to utilize it.

Posted by: jones-y | March 5, 2009 11:52 AM

When the Wiz got rebounds, the big guys looked to McGuire to dribble it upcourt. Was McGuire a point last night? Did I see that correctly?

McGuire does indeed bring the ball up, but that's moreso a function of having CB in the backcourt for so long. In addition to the fact that McGuire has good enough handles to do it.

He does not, however, play point-guard or even point-forward. He comes down, passes to somebody, and gets to his proper location on the floor, and nothing more.

Posted by: jones-y | March 5, 2009 11:56 AM

It makes no sense to have mcgee play 32 one night and 12 the next, there's surely no need for size and rebounding help while collison grabs 5 offensive boards

Posted by: bford1kb | March 5, 2009 12:58 PM

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