Andray Blatche approached the scorers’ table to check in the second quarter of the Wizards’ 101-83 defeat at Philips Arena, when a heckler seated nearby decided to give him a hard time. The man shouted, “Have another burger, Dray!”
Blatche may have had a decent retort to a detractor, but he and the Wizards didn’t have any such response to the Atlanta Hawks on a night when the Wizards didn’t bother jumping out to an early lead only to get disappointed as they did in the season opener. They simply got down early, came back against the Hawks’ reserves, then went down for good.
Since jumping out to a 21-point lead in the second quarter against the New Jersey Nets in their first game, the Wizards have been outscored by 45 points over their past 79 minutes.
The Hawks scored the first 11 points of the game and led 19-4 before John Wall decided to send a charge into his team by scoring eight consecutive points for the team. But his frustration was apparent early on, as he looked at Coach Flip Saunders and shouted about one the Wizards’ starters, “Get him out of the game!”
It was hard to tell which player Wall was talking about, since Saunders could’ve decided to sit any member of the first unit in the first few minutes of the game. Blatche was in an early funk, missed his first shots, and was unable to get a decent look with Josh Smith and Marvin Williams defending. Surprisingly, Jordan Crawford was unusually passive in his first game as a visiting player in the arena he once called home. McGee missed two shots near the basket and was out of position on defense. He also wound up being the first starter to get substituted.
“You’ve got to find that chemistry. That’s the only way you’re going to win in this league, is if your starting five, or your main guys can find a chemistry and play together,” Wall said afterward. “We do it in practice, but practice don’t mean nothing if you’re going against each other. Got to do it when you’re going against other opponents.”
If not for a surge that came from Saunders inserting Nick Young for offense and Chris Singleton for defense, the mercy rule could’ve probably been implemented at halftime.
Young again led the Wizards in scoring with 21 points off the bench, and while he said he’s still only “90 percent” after missing all of training camp, he appears set to take the starting shooting guard spot from Crawford as soon as he’s ready to handle more minutes. Singleton scored seven points, four rebounds and two steals, spending most of the night guarding all-star Joe Johnson and former all-star Tracy McGrady.
“The second group has come in and done a lot of things defensively and it’s carried over what they do with the offense. They’ve moved the ball,” Saunders said. “Our plus-minus for that first group, I don’t know what it is. But it’s got to be in the minus-20s or something like that. Dray and JaVale, you can’t have your two, upfront big men in that kind of situation.”
While plus-minus isn’t always the best gauge for how effective a player has been, the numbers from Wednesday were downright dreadful. Blatche was a minus-16, Lewis was a minus-19, Crawford was a minus-22, Wall was a minus-23 and McGee was a team-worst a minus-25. In the opener against New Jersey, the Wizards were outscored by 20 points when McGee was on the floor.
So, while McGee had 15 points – including an impressive steal and dunk late in the game – with 12 rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot, the team hasn’t benefited from his presence. He also had two goaltends in the first half that could’ve been avoided with a little restraint.
Blatche was unable to make good after demanding the ball in the low block after the season opening loss to New Jersey. He had his first attempt inside blocked and blew several other scoring opportunities close to the basket. By the end of the night, Blatche was back to taking long fallaway jumpers, as he scored just four points on 2-of-13 shooting.
Before the game, Maurice Evans waited for every starter, hugged them and offered encouraging words. As Crawford approached, Evans smiled and told his former Hawks teammate, “You arleady know what time it its.”
But Crawford also struggled in his return, taking just one shot in the first half, and jacking up crazy shots from distance in the closing minutes. Saunders was critical of Crawford’s shot selection at the end of the game and may have to call on Young to soon help the starting five.
Young scored from all over, completing a four-point play and a three-point play, with a high-arcing jumper in the second half. “I think I’m there. I think a good day of practice tomorrow, get some more running in, I think I should be good,” Young said, adding that the team can’t be successful falling into the early holes. “We can’t let them get up like that. It’s hard, but it’s no excuses. You’ve got to come out with that fire, and come out ready to play.”