Jan 22, 2012

Double Down

The NBA's Chinese New Year Celebration (a totally real and important thing, get your shooting shirts) got underway Monday afternoon with a Wizards-Celtics game featuring a Frenchman, a Serbian, a Czechoslovakian, and a Guadaloupean. Those hoping the Zards' Chinatown roots and Steve Buckhantz's joyful Mandarin expectorations pointed to victory were sadly disappointed, as the Wiz fell 100-94 to a depleted Boston squad. And though the outcome bore a striking similarity to Friday night's loss to the Nuggets, this one was a step back.

Here at ZA, we felt the outcome Friday night was due to poor luck as much as anything else (or good luck, for our friends in Denver). The Wiz certainly made mistakes, like John Wall pulling up for a transition triple with a minute to go (John is shooting a nice round 0% from downtown this season, so perhaps he felt he was due). But in the aftermath, we were ready to argue that if the ball bounced the other way a few times, the Wiz win. When Al Harrington hits a prayer from 30 feet as the shot clock expires, maybe it's just not your night.

Somehow this did not work

Sunday, on the other hand, was a failure. Yes, Paul Pierce was red hot in the 4th quarter, piling up 14 of his 34 points and torching a variety of defenders in the process. But that's all the C's had going. With Rondo sitting out, Avery Bradley played 41 minutes! Friday night, the Phoenix Suns held this group to 71 points. Phoenix! Stop Pierce and you win, simple as that. Unfortunately, the Wizard's coaching staff examined this problem and proposed an insane solution. They elected to double. For your reading pleasure, here is a breakdown of how that broke down:

  • The double made its first appearance with 7:15 to go and the Wiz down 80-79. Andray Blatche leaves Brandon Bass to double Pierce on the perimeter, but he does it so softly Pierce can just whip a pass to Bass, wide open, under the hoop.
  • At 4:15, Blatche again leaves Bass to double Pierce on the perimeter. Pierce gives it up to Pietrus, but Blatche sticks with Pierce instead of finding his man, so when Pietrus shoots Bass is all by himself for the offensive rebound. Bass kicks it out and here's where things get really crazy, as Blatche STILL stays with Pierce, who drives right past him and finds, guess who, Brandon Bass all alone under the hoop.
  • With a minute to go, just the thought of a double team creates an open look. Pierce is posting John Wall, and Dray, too far away to double himself, starts pointing and shouting at Trevor Booker to double. While Blatche has his head turned, Brandon freaking Bass cuts to the hoop and Pierce hits him in stride, but somehow Bass misses the layup.
  • To be clear, Dray isn't the only offender, he's just the funniest. With 30 seconds to go, down three, Garnett is being guarded by Booker. When Garnett sets a screen for Pierce, Booker leaves him and doubles Pierce. Pierce throws it to KG. Mason initially rotates, but he and Booker get confused and Garnett gets an open look at a 15 footer. Game over.

The double team is a tempting option when one guy is lighting it up, and for some teams, in some situations, it's the right call. But doubling is a language the Wiz don't speak yet. Right now our defense is incredibly prone to standing around and watching. That's a problem in any situation. But when we're doubling, and one man is WIDE OPEN, it becomes a much bigger problem. The coaching staff has to know that and it's tough, without getting cynical, to understand why they'd go that route.

Stepping back from the ledge, this week was still the Wiz's best of the season, by far. Four games, one win, three competitive losses. Tomorrow the momentum probably comes to a crashing halt, when we head back to Philly and Flip realizes he played John Wall 41 minutes today (Jan at point forward!). But after that we get two games against the Bobcats and one against Houston. If we're going to start the long trek back to respectability, now's as good a time as any.

1 comment:

  1. Its really disheartening we feel like we have to double Paul Pierce despite the fact that he hasn't been a double team worthy player for 2 years.