Wizards Find Encouragement in Defeat
Effort vs. Pistons, Small Lineup's Play Stand Out
Monday, November 3, 2008; Page E12
The Wizards will carry an 0-2 record into Wednesday night's game at Milwaukee, but the team did some positive things during Saturday's highly entertaining 117-109 loss at Detroit, and Coach Eddie Jordan hopes those positives will lead to victories soon.
Jordan was particularly encouraged by the way his team performed in the second quarter. Thanks in large part to a smaller lineup that included Darius Songaila at center, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler at forward, and Nick Young and Juan Dixon at guard, the Wizards had a 16-0 run and found a groove that had been lacking throughout most of the preseason and in their season-opening loss to New Jersey.
Those players and others who performed well Saturday night will be the focal point of Jordan's planning going into Wednesday's game against the Bucks (2-2).
"It's not what you do, but who did it, and I liked the guys that did the things we were supposed to do, so that's step one," Jordan said. "Step two is, can we continue to build on it? We'll have [two] days of practice again, so that kind of throws off your rhythm as far as playing games, but we can get a little rest, look at some tape, work on some things and play well Wednesday."
Dixon, who scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting with three assists and two steals in 14 minutes, and Young, who hit 6 of 10 shots, 11 of 11 free throw attempts and scored 23 points, provided huge boosts on a night when the Pistons jumped to a 17-point first-quarter lead and threatened to blow the Wizards out of the building.
Dixon and Young played well off one another during their time together on the floor -- particularly during the 31-point second quarter -- and also gave the Pistons problems with their quickness in the half-court defense.
However, going small with the 6-foot-9 Songaila at center also had its disadvantages as the much bigger Pistons held a dominant edge in rebounding (49-24) and second-chance points (28-9).
With Brendan Haywood out for four to six months following right wrist surgery, Jordan will have to make nightly decisions about what to do with his big men. Etan Thomas is the starter, but the players behind him are Andray Blatche, who displeased Jordan with his effort early on Saturday night and played only four minutes, and rookie JaVale McGee, who did not get off the bench against the Pistons after playing nine minutes in the opener.
While Jordan was sending a message to Blatche by not playing him more, the decision to not play McGee was solely related to how Thomas and Songaila were performing. Jordan remains high on the rookie and will continue to look for opportunities to play him.
"He may see spot duty and if he plays well, spot duty may get to nine minutes like the other night" in the opener, Jordan said before Saturday night's game. "Look, he's a special sort of player even though he's young. He works hard, he's not afraid, he's athletic, he has good hands, good touch, good feel defensively and can really cover the rim so we're not shy about putting him in the game."
It will be interesting to follow the respective career paths of Detroit guard Rodney Stuckey and Young. Stuckey was taken with the 15th overall pick of the 2007 draft, one spot ahead of Young, and the two are well aware of the fact that they will be compared for years to come.
In fact, they are used to it. Young and Stuckey faced one another while traveling the AAU circuit as high schoolers and in college, Young's USC team faced Stuckey's Eastern Washington team.
Young got the best of the matchup Saturday night though Stuckey (11 points on 4-of-8 shooting) did score over Young on a couple of occasions and his team came away with the win.
"Oh, we've known each other for a while and we're cool," Young said. "When we're out there, we're going after each other a little bit. Before the game, we're shaking hands and talking a little trash but it's all fun."
Another of the team's promising young players is still trying to find his game. In nine minutes of playing time through two games, second-year forward Dominic McGuire has yet to score, has missed all four of his shot attempts, has two rebounds and one block.