The Wizards had a tough opening game against the Cavs. It’s not the way WE wanted to start season but for a team missing their two best players and a key contributor and as my colleague Abdullah Sharif pointed out yesterday there were some lessons to be learned from the loss. And with the Celtics coming up for two games in a row, they need to learn pretty fast.
- Nonexistence on the glass: Against the Cavs Anderson Varejao looked like Dennis Rodman circa 1996. Only Earl Barron was able to slow the rebounding onslaught by Anderson but no one could stop him or even hope to contain him. All they could do was watch as he pulled down board after board.
Two games of Kevin Garnett is just what the doctor ordered, just kidding. While Garnett hasn’t been the rebounding force that he was early in his career, he still pulled down 12 boards in the season opener against Miami and is quite capable of putting on a Varejaoesuqe performance if the Wizards don't figure out how to box out. As the league transitions toward smaller front court players, boxing out is becoming a lost art in the NBA. The opening game looked as if the Wizards front court players were not even familiar with the concept.
- Players unware of their designated roles: With a veteran team like the Celtics coming into town, they will seek to confuse and confound the young Wizards players. They will do just that unless Coach Randy Witman makes the game a little simpler for them by designating specific roles. Clearly defined roles slows the game down for the younger guys and allows them to focus on just a few things. While WE're talking about roles, let me reiterate that under no circumstances should AJ Price should be the closer. Despite the monster game Kyrie had, the Wizards were still in the game until Price started to repeatedly jack up bad shots late in the game.
While Price has taken a lot of well-deserved flak, he was decent when he played within himself, moving the ball and not committing turnovers. However, it seemed as if there was no one knew how to nor wanted to check Kyrie Irving. After the beating he put on the Price-Pargo combo, I shudder to think what Rondo (who carved the defending champs with 20 points, 13 assists, and seven rebounds) has in store for them if they don’t play within themselves.
- Improving player rotations: AJ Price and Jordan Crawford led the Wiz in minutes played with 29 apiece and shot a combined 6 for 26 from the field. I understand not wanting to rush Bradley Beal along or heap the entire scoring load on his back, but he was the number three pick in the draft and he has to learn at some point. Due to the rash of injuries, it has to be baptism by fire. While he was brought in to close out the game, he sat only logged 22 minutes, sitting on the bench for most of the second and fourth quarters. I expect to see a much heavier dose of Beal against the Celtics.
The weakest position for Celtics is at shooting guard with Courtney Lee, who is a serviceable pro, Jason Terry and Leonardo Barbosa, who both are a little long in the tooth. While all three possess offensive talents, none of them are known for their defensive prowess and this would be a perfect match-up to unleash Beal. The battle at small forward between Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster was a draw against Cleveland. The next two games should provide a chance to see who does better at the unenviable job of defending Paul Pierce.
- Ill-advised shot selection: This is simple, you’re not going to beat most teams in the NBA shooting 35% from the field, 25% from three, and 60% from the line. The 3-point percentage hurts the most because the Wizards attempted 32 of them!! Five guys had more than four 3-point attempts, with AJ Price attempting nine alone. For the Wizards to knock off the Celtics in the next two games, they must take advantage of the Celtics lack of size in the front court by taking the ball to the rim and not settling for long, contested 3-pointers. The Celtics front line of Garnett, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, and Jeff Green is one of the smallest front courts in the league and the Wizards have to find a way to dominate the paint.
With all that said, the fact remains that the Wizards were able to erase a 16 point deficit despite great performances from Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao. At times they showed flashes of the potential they possess even without their two best players but now comes the key question: Can this Wizard team learn from and correct their mistakes on a game by game basis? With two games in a row against the Celtics, I sure hope so.