Thunder 127, Wizards 108
Whose fault is it now? Who is going to have to take the brunt of the criticism for this 3-8 start? The Wizards had an easy target last season, placing the blame on their miserable start with a group of not-ready-for-prime-time players because Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood, among others, were out with injuries.
But on Friday night, the Wizards sent a veteran lineup, featuring their dream starting five of Arenas, Haywood, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Mike Miller, on the court against the Oklahoma City Thunder and got completely outplayed and outworked. The young guys --- JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Dominic McGuire -- sat for all but the final minute of an embarrassing 127-108 loss.
The Wizards never led at any point in the game and allowed three players on the Thunder to score 25 or more points, including Kevin Durant, the local kid who scored a game-high 35 points and continues to blossom before our eyes (and I swear he has grown another two inches or so over the summer).
Coach Flip Saunders rarely likes to criticize his players after losses, offering explanations for their poor performances. But he let 'er rip after this game, blasting his team for surrendering a season-high 127 points and allowing the Thunder to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor and beyond the three-point line.
"You score  points, you should win," Saunders said. "We didn't defend."
Saunders said that every time his coaching staff focuses on one weakness, the team forgets everything else that it has learned. After training camp, the team focused on rebounding and became a better rebounding team. They focused on defense and became a better defensive team through the first 10 games. But the past few practices, the Wizards tried to address their offensive woes, then decided not to play defense against the young and exciting Thunder. So much for that carryover from the big win against the Cavaliers.
"We focused on offense and we forgot all of our defensive concepts," Saunders said. "We have not evolved to be a total team, where we can grasp everything."
When asked if he should expect more from a veteran team, Saunders said, "You hope so, but they haven't shown any ability to carry over. That's what most disappointing. They scored, we came to our bench worried about our offense."
The Wizards certainly didn't have much trouble scoring, especially with Butler scoring 24 points, Arenas getting 23 points and Jamison adding 22 points and 12 rebounds. But the Wizards again found themselves in a 10-point hole at the start. They played uphill for the rest of the night. "We need to come out aggressive. I don't know what it is, but we need to get stuff going," Arenas said.
I don't know what they need to do to get off to better starts, either; if Butler needs to start going back on the Mountain Dew or something. But the slow starts are getting quite ridiculous. They were able to recover from a 17-point hole against Cleveland on Wednesday, but they cannot expect to do that every night. It is so much harder to play from behind in the NBA because the opposition is so good. No matter what an opponent's record is, this isn't like college, where you can coast against Division II school then magically flip the switch.
"You keep on doing that over time and you have to exert so much energy," Saunders said. "It's like a boxer, he gets hit with body shots and eventually, it's going to wear you down."
Eleven games into this season, the Wizards already appear a bit worn down -- and somewhat desperate. It is still mindboggling for me to see Miller out there on the floor, playing with only one good arm. He aggravated his left shoulder injury in the first quarter and had to head to the locker room for treatment. He came back and winced his way through the rest of the game, with his left arm glued to his side.
Miller tried to cover for the lack of mobility in his arm by holding onto his shorts, but it was obvious to me that the man was in some serious pain. I kept asking, "Does anybody else notice this?"
I asked Miller afterward about playing through the pain and he said he could handle it. "It's one of those things that's going to keep lingering and hopefully, it's going to go away sooner than later," he said. "Right now, it's something that I got to deal with. The doctors said there isn't a chance for it to get worse structurally, so it's going be really painful. Right now, I can bear it, so I'm going to play. So, it's not an excuse."
But for a team that spent the entire offseason boasting about its increased depth, you have to wonder why a guy with one arm gets more minutes combined than two-armed players Randy Foye, DeShawn Stevenson, McGuire and Young. Miller is incredibly tough, that's not a question, but the team has to show some restraint. Things are bad right now, but they could get worse if Miller has to take a pounding every night and his body -- that left arm in particular -- doesn't get the necessary rest.
As for the Thunder, that is one exciting young team. They have a nice threesome with Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook, but when you added the bearded James Harden to the mix, this team is really going to give teams problems -- right now and certainly in the future. It is still startling that a group of barely 20-somethings was able to execute so much better than a team of veterans. The most telling thing from that game was how the Thunder responded to each Wizards run with a timeout and subsequent run of its own.
Youth certainly wasn't an excuse for Oklahoma City on Friday. The Wizards continue to search for what's wrong with a team that hasn't won back-to-back games since February. Ouch.
Posted by: bpybay | November 21, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rphilli721 | November 21, 2009 1:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Darnell1 | November 21, 2009 1:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bpybay | November 21, 2009 2:05 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bozomoeman | November 21, 2009 2:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: bpybay | November 21, 2009 2:41 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rphilli721 | November 21, 2009 2:51 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: kalo_rama | November 21, 2009 3:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: kalo_rama | November 21, 2009 3:06 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: kalo_rama | November 21, 2009 3:08 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: wiz_fan | November 21, 2009 3:15 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rphilli721 | November 21, 2009 4:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MeviousMan | November 21, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: SDMDTSU | November 21, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bailey51 | November 21, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: midlevex | November 21, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rnbrown4 | November 21, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rnbrown4 | November 21, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | November 21, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jeremybozz | November 21, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | November 21, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | November 21, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | November 21, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dovelevine | November 21, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: CBell29 | November 21, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: JoeTink | November 21, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rnbrown4 | November 21, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kalo_rama | November 21, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.