Flip Saunders: Wizards were “Discombobulated”

Michael Dwyer - AP

For much of the game the Wizards had outplayed the third best team in the East – after getting its tail kicked twice in a row by the 5th best team (Milwaukee).  Most surprising was how well the Wizards front line of Blatche (23 pts & 9 rebs), Thornton (24 pts & 11 rebs) and McGee (13 pts & 5 blks) played in this game compared with their older, more accomplished counterparts – Garnett (8 pts & 10 rebs), Perkins (12 pts & 7 rebs) and Pierce (17 pts & 2 rebs).

However as Flip pointed out, the Wizards became “discombobulated” during the final 6 minutes of the game.  The Celtics, who are a former champion and veteran squad, were able to turn up their defensive effort down the stretch and also had Ray Allen come to life.  This combined with the Wizards inability to go through the two players that lead them through much of the game – Blatche and Thornton – lead to a heartbreaking loss.  It was critical at that point in the game for the Wizards to initiate their offense through Blatche and Thornton, but then it is critical for open teammates to knock down open shots.  It is also important to not dribble away much of the clock and then hoist off balance or rushed shots, as the Wizards did on too many possessions at the end of the game.

While I agree with the ideas that Saunders was communicating, such as it is often a better idea to not get into a “wolfing” match with another player because there is no need to give them or there team any more incentive.  The fact remains that Garnett was largely invisible during this game.  His only points came from the foul line as he went 0 for 7 from the field.  He was embarrassed on his own floor by a bunch of young pups.  Players such as Garnett use “wolfing” both to provide themselves with additional motivation, but also to get into “lesser” players heads.  One could argue that he was successful in getting into Blatche’s head as he felt compelled to stand up for himself as a man, rather than increasing his focus and letting his continued play do all of his talking.

During the final stretch of the game, Garnett’s actions were embarrassing.  Given the amount and volume of his trash talking, you would have expected that he actually did something on the court.  The reality is he was 0 for 7 from the field, all 8 of his points came from the foul line and he had about 4 of his shots blocked – not the line that you would expect from a guy talking trash.  And while he did hit some important free throws down the stretch, if it wasn’t for Ray Allen’s clutch shooting his team would have lost the game.  I wonder if this point is lost on him.  I imagine it is.

I also find it fascinating that Garnett tends to reserve these sorts of outbursts for who he perceives as the younger or lesser talented players.  I do not recall this type of “wolfing” with Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Dwight Howard, etc.  It seems like classic bully mentality – pick on the ones that you feel you can beat, not on those that might “spank that ass.”

I don’t mind the player that wants to talk trash.  However, I have very little patience for those that don’t seem to know what the situation is.  Garnett was matched against Blatche for long stretches of the game and at last check Blatche outscored him by 15 points.  Blatche needs to take Flip Saunders advice and focus on the game and not Garnett’s words, ultimately by winning the game that would have been much more powerful than any words.  However, what does that say about Garnett and the current status of his game?  He could not physically outperform Blatche, so he had to resort to mental games.  Some will argue that that is a tool in the bag of a wily vet.  I would argue that it is like the glass encased extinguisher – break only in case of emergency.  KG’s emergency was he was getting embarrassed on national television, so he went to his only trick he had left – trying to get into Blatche’s head.  This time it worked, however, if Blatche accepts Saunder’s advice, that tactic should not be effective in the future.

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Third straight for Wiz over Celtics

The Wizard’s season is nearly over and I am disappointed that I have not been able to write about it. Work, school, life and more life have prevented me from commenting this season. But, enough about my troubles. 😉

I was in Las Vegas this week on business, but I was able to catch the end of the Wizards – Celtics game. It was a pleasure to watch the Wiz beat the NBA’s “best” team for the third time. Some could argue that the Celtics, who wrapped up first place in the East, did not have anything to play for. I would suggest that argument is hollow. Kevin Garnett and the Celtics have pride, they had lost the previous two games to the Wizards – back-to-back I might add – and they did not want to lose three straight. In fact, Doc Rivers suggested that his starters would not play as much in this game, but yet late in the fourth quarter there they were. This was definitely not a game the Celtics were content to lose, the Wizards won this game.

Games like this for the Wizards are encouraging, they show that they can, when focused and healthy, play with any team in the NBA. However, they have games like this every season, at least over the last four seasons. But, they don’t seem to capitalize off of these experiences. They often follow them up by playing distractedly, or at least with what appears to be less effort. It would be nice, if they could finally take an experience like this and use it to finally push their game to that next level. As players, they don’t seem to want to do the things that they need to do on a nightly basis. This team, in the Eastern conference, has the ability to be as good as any. Injuries aside, they have not stepped up to become one of those teams.

And while they have been troubled with injuries throughout this season, it appears that they will now have the opportunity to exercise their Cleveland Cavalier demons. If the Wizards are going to take that next step, what better team to do that to then Cleveland – a team that has had their number in the past two playoffs.

KG’s big ticket to Beantown

I was watching one of my favorite sports shows, Washington Post Live on Comcast SportsNet, when the host Russ Thaler said, about the reported KG trade, “this changes the whole balance of power… do we have a new favorite in the East?” I understand why Russ was asking the question. On paper the Celts have three All-Star caliber performers in KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. An issue that I have with creating their reservations for the Eastern Conference finals is…

  • They play a team sport and each of the Celts version of the “Big three” is used to being the man on his previous team, as such we do not know how well they will jell playing with each other and taking fewer shots
  • Just because a team has three prolific scorers, does not mean that it will translate into a playoff success. The last that I checked the Wizards have had the highest scoring trio over the last couple years
  • While it appears that the Celts have improved themselves greatly, there are still other teams in the East that they will have to contend with – Pistons, Cavs, Bulls, Heat, Wizards, Bucks, etc
  • At times, some franchises are just cancerous and even though you bring “talent” to them the cancerous franchises ruins the talent – see Oakland Raiders as one such example
  • Their version of the big three is getting old, which means that their window is not open very wide. KG is a a 12 year vet, Jesus Shuttleworth, I mean Ray Allen is a 11 year vet (but one year older than KG) and Paul Pierce is a 9 year vet. There big three is or will all be 30 years or older at the start of the season. And while 30 might be the new 20, it is getting a bit long in the tooth for NBA stars – especially for those who have had to be their team’s focal point for much of their careers

Now, with all of that said I believe that assuming the three stay healthy, the trades make the Celts viable again. If nothing else, they will be a fun team to watch in the regular season. Given the state of the Atlantic, they should easily be a playoff team. But, I do not believe that they will get anywhere near the Eastern Conference finals this season.