Hoping to rebound from a tough loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday night, the Wizards returned home to the friendly confines of the Verizon Center. For the second straight home game, the Wizards looked relaxed in pregame warm-ups, joking around, hitting both short range and long range jumpers. But as we know from what happened against the Bucks last Friday, pregame does not always translate into a good game:
By the time the Wizards were ready to hit the floor the Verizon crowd had started filing in, not looking much different than the rest of the home games this year. Considering the team's record and recent stretch of so-so play, I guess there is not much room to complain about those who do show up on a regular basis. At least the Wizards players are still jumping around during warm ups and they still do seem genuinely excited to be playing pro basketball for a living.
The first half of this game was like many the Wizards have played this year. The two teams traded buckets, one taking a lead then relinquishing it to the other team. Andray Blatche came out hot in the first quarter and then disappeared until the end of the second quarter. Luis Scola, Orberto's Argentinian teammate along with Blatche led all scorers with 12 points after two quarters. Mike Miller who has shown signs of life only to quickly turn them off had a strong half in the rebounding department but after putting up 5 shot attempts in the first quarter only managed 4 more the rest of the game. Unfortunately for the Wizards, after a fairly balanced 1st quarter they just didn't have any answers for the Rockets who scored 27 points to Washington's 18 in the second quarter as they slowly increased their lead, one which they would never end up giving back. At least from where I sit, there are times when I'm watching the Wizards and wish they would trade the behind the back dribble for a simple hand switch. Trade the alley oop for the bounce pass or instead of slashing to the basket and taking on 4 defenders, moving the ball around the perimeter. It would also be nice to see a guy who is known to be a sharpshooter stop leaving his feet on all his drives while looking to pass the ball. Shoot the damn ball already Mike Miller! As I was typing that last thought, a fan from the section behind us in 104 yelled out "can you get the basics right?".
This squad as currently constructed would be well served to ditch any and all flashy antics and just get back to doing the simple things. By that I mean, getting over top of screens, boxing out, making the extra passes, and some more help defense. You know, all the things that good basketball teams do. All that said, it's easy to bury a team like the Wizards in a season like the one we have before us. In the second half there were some bright spots. After coming out from the half and going down by 14, Shaun Livingston entered the game at the 8 minute mark and would not return to the bench. His stat line will not show anything earth shattering, 4 points on 2 of 5 shooting, with 5 assists and 1 block, but the Wizards seemed to be getting into their sets a little bit better than when Foye was running the guard. We're not going to get carried away with Shaun just yet and anoint him the Wizards new PG of the future but the young man has got court vision, and on this current roster, you'd be hard pressed to find somebody with better PG skills. One of my colleagues in the media said after the game that Livingston can't score and ultimately successful PG's need to be able to score. On the team I'm building I'll be more than happy with a 6'7 point guard who is happier distributing the ball than shooting it. And to say that he can't score is not all that accurate either. Is scoring Livingston's strong suit, absolutely not, but on this team a pass first point guard who doesn't dribble the Spalding off the ball is not such a bad thing to have.
Blatche had another decent statistical night finishing with 18 points and 8 rebounds but faded towards the end of the 4th quarter, and was actually pulled by Flip finishing the game on the bench. After the game Flip mentioned that Dray is trying to put the team on his back but it's not working. Again, to his credit, Andray said after the game that it's on him to get his game back on track and he'd get back to work first thing in the morning. Another bright spot came from Nick Young who continues to smile in the face of what has been a long season as he finished with 18 points off the bench. Saunders mentioned Young in his postgame presser and said the key for Nick is to continue with the energy he showed tonight whether he makes his shots or doesn't. Our WizardsExtreme players to watch for the game were Kevin Martin and Al Thornton. Martin had a decent game with 21 points and 3 rebounds while Al Thornton came on strong at the end of the game to finish with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.
Our player of the game through these eyes was Louis Scola who played a game high 41 mintues and dropped 23 points and 10 rebounds. All in all, I believe very few people outside the Wizards locker room thought that Washington would pull this game out but the Wizards would be well served getting back to the type of play they had coming out of the trade deadline. Being in the locker room after the game you can tell these guys care, they are bruised, tired and hurting but they care. Some might not take solace in that but when you are 21-40 it's real easy to call it quits and there isn't a single person in that locker room who has any intention of doing that, at least from my perception. As a tribute to one of my favorite artists, the Wizards will have "One More Chance" to show that they are a better team than what they've shown lately. That chance comes Thursday against division rival Atlanta.
Joe Glorioso Wizards Extreme Correspondent
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WIZARDS HEAD COACH FLIP SAUNDERS: On Shaun Livingston: “I thought he did some good things. He got us into an offense. It was the best flow we had in the game during the end of the fourth quarter. It’s the first time he’s played extended minutes. We will see how he reacts tomorrow with his leg, and we will see what we do as far as Thursday.”
On the game: “Right now, every team we play, they are fighting for that eighth spot. They are a game out. When they come in and play against us, they know that these are big games. They are trying to send messages in the first half. We didn’t get a lot of calls because we were not physical early. We were taking a lot of outside shots and not attacking the rim. To our credit, we kept fighting back and we made some plays and didn’t quit.”
On Nick Young: “He played with some more energy. What he has got to do now is play with that much energy whether he is making shots or not. Making shots cannot dictate how hard he plays. The only thing that is constant is how hard you play. You do not have a say in whether you make shots or not even though you want to make everyone one. I thought he played with better energy.”
On playing in transition: “We missed a lot of shots going to the basket early. They just had numbers and their guards had great quickness. What happened really is that their bigs out ran our bigs. That has been the scouting report on JaVale (McGee) and Andray (Blatche). We run up hill on defense and downhill on offense. For some reason, we think our court is tilted. We do not go as fast from offense to defense as we do from defense to offense. Teams are making a conscious effort of really getting out. It is not that they are scoring initially, but they are getting a lot of second chance opportunities and second chance points off of that.”
On the next stretch of games: “It’s the Rock Star tour. The next five games are against teams that fighting to get to second, third or those types of seeds. Detroit is not, but Atlanta and Orlando are. Then we go on the road to Utah, Denver, Portland and Los Angeles and they are all fighting down the stretch.”
WIZARDS FORWARD ANDRAY BLATCHE: On the game: “Today was by far the worst game I’ve played in the second half. I started off good; the rims were wide to me and then it just tightened up. We had to play so I keep forcing my shots and the same results kept coming. I tried to make some passes and get my teammates off but it wasn’t going in for them either. I kept trying to fight harder and harder but it just made it worse for me. It was just a bad shooting game for me.”
On his game: “It was just all me. It wasn’t like they were doing a super double team, I just had a bad shooting night. The rim was tight and the ball kept coming in and out I was shooting air-balls. That was the worst game I had by far. Chuck Hayes is a big strong guy I was trying to back him down but he wasn’t moving. I just have to come to the gym tomorrow and get some shots in.”
WIZARDS GUARD MIKE MILLER: On the game: “We picked up the energy a little at the end, but we have to find ways to have energy the whole game. We need to be able to get out there and run and play through Dray in the post.”
On Shaun Livingston: “Shaun is a great player. He has a lot of potential and we know what he is capable of, but it’s just a matter of him getting comfortable with what we’re doing. He creates a big time mismatches.”
On the next three games: “It should be fun. The bottom line is we have 82 games this year and we have to play with a lot of energy. I have to take care of my body especially when you know you’re going to play five games in six nights.”
WIZARDS GUARD NICK YOUNG: On his game: “I was just thinking on the bench that I have to come out and be aggressive. I was just being me and trying to get comfortable and playing the game I play, playing with confidence.”
On Shaun Livingston: “Shaun is a great point guard. He has good vision and he’s starting to get back to normal.”
ROCKETS HEAD COACH RICK ADELMAN On the game: “We got two out of three on this trip and it’s good to have Kyle (Lowry) and Trevor (Ariza) back. Our guys did what they had to do to get the win.”
On Luis Scola: “Luis played over 30 minutes and with players back it gave us a lot of flexibility.”
ROCKETS GUARD AARON BROOKS On the game: “I think we were able to pull out the victory tonight because we were able to play good defense, box out and win the rebounding battle. We need wins like this to make a push.”
On playing time: “I felt a lot fresher at the end. Kyle (Lowry) is one of the best backups in the league, so the fact that he was able to come in and play a lot of minutes helped my legs.”
ROCKETS GUARD KEVIN MARTIN
On playing better: “I think we have the motivation to execute better down the stretch, because we had that game on Sunday slip right away from us so we knew what we needed to improve on.”
On Washington: “Washington is a team that will play hard every night and they are still trying to find their identity. We can’t take a team like that for granted.”
On the game: “At this time of year you don’t want any type of games to slip away. In the past couple of weeks we felt some teams that we should have beat we let slip away. Our mindset is to capitalize on every opportunity.”
Other PostGame Interviews James Singleton: