Wiz finish preseason tonight
Ivan here in shockingly cold Atlanta. Thought I'd put together a blog entry before catching a flight to Detroit for tonight's final preseason game. The Wiz won 110-105 last night in what turned out to be one of the most entertaining preseason games I've seen in a long time. Even though the cavernous Philips Arena had maybe 5,000 people in it, the teams got after it from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
The final box score looked a lot like boxes from last season: Gilbert Arenas cruised and I mean, cruised, his way to 29 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He made 4 of 7 from three-point range and appeared to be teasing the Hawks at times because it was so easy. At one point in the third quarter, Gil squared up on Josh Childress at the top of the key, dribbled back and forth between his legs three or four times and then released a smooth shot without really jumping. All net. He skipped down the court giggling like he was the only guy in the building in on a really good joke. Later, in the third quarter, Gilbert attempted, and made, a free throw with his eyes closed. Again, it's so easy for him sometimes.
Antawn Jamison made 10 of 22 shots and scored 22 points with 8 rebounds. His biggest basket was a nifty layup he made after cutting back door and taking a crisp bounce pass from Antonio Daniels with 2:31 remaining. If Antawn is bothered by the extra wear and tear that came with playing for Team USA this summer, it hasn't shown. His shot has been on the mark and he appears to be making a real effort to defend his man at all times.
Caron Butler scored 15 points on 5 of 11 shooting and had one of the game's biggest plays: shortly after Jamison's big layup, Butler came up with a steal, pushed the ball in transition and threaded a nice bounce pass through traffic to Daniels who was hustling down the wing. DeShawn Stevenson made all four of his shots and scored 11 points while Jarvis Hayes scored 14 and Daniels 7 off the bench. Brendan Haywood was extremely active early and wound up with 7 points and a team-high 9 rebounds in nearly 22 minutes.
From what I've seen so far, that will be a typical box score for the boys in the blue and white this season. One of the truly noteworthy things so far has been Stevenson's shooting touch. He's not reputed to be any kind of any outside shooter but in the preseason, he's consistently buried the 13-18 footers he will always get while playing in tandem with Arenas at guard. In six games, Stevenson has made 15 of 21 shots and 9 of 12 free throws. He doesn't take dumb shots from way out of his range, he's shown an ability to post up and take advantage of smaller guards such as Chicago's Ben Gordon and he can get out and fill on the wing in transition.
Defensively, Stevenson really got after Atlanta's Joe Johnson. Now, Johnson wound up with 28 points on 9 of 17 shooting but most of his damage was done when Stevenson was on the bench. I saw Stevenson get down in a good, aggressive stance, he moved his feet well laterally whenever Johnson tried to put it on the floor and Sevenson seems to be able to defend closely without fouling. In the modern NBA, that's essential.
Eddie Jordan was not happy with many of his reserves after the game and he really hasn't been thrilled with them all preseason. Last night, Donell Taylor played only two minutes, Andray Blatche played only 6, Roger Mason played 5 and James Lang played 8. From what I can see, Blatche may be starting to get frustrated. He's made only 13 of 50 shots, including 1 of 12 three-pointers and he has a whopping 27 fouls in 132 minutes. After a real nice drive and lay in last night, he was called for a dubious offensive foul. As he walked to the bench, Blatche whipped off his head band and tossed it on the floor. Shortly after that, Blatche was out of the game for good and he watched the remainder of the fourth quarter from the bench.
The main issue, as far as Jordan is concerned, is defense. Like a lot of young guys, Blatche gets out of position really easy and he's prone for just about any kind of head fake. For instance, Atlanta's Marvin Williams, himself just a couple of years removed from high school ball, earned a trip to the line by freezing Blatche with a pump fake and then driving hard at his right shoulder moments after Blatche checked into the game in the fourth. There is a ton of talent there but it's going to take some time.
Also, a quick note: for the first time this preseason, I saw Jordan experiment with Calvin Booth at the power forward spot. Booth was on the floor with Etan Thomas for a stretch of the third quarter. With Michael Ruffin out again tonight with a sore right foot (he said he'll be fine), it will be interesting to see whether Jordan tries a similar lineup again.
I'll check back in later from Detroit where I imagine nobody will be thinking about a Pistons/Wizards preseason game seeing as how the Tigers are playing in the World Series tonight. I wonder who many folks will come out to the Palace?
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