It all came together for one night.
At home, against a tired Toronto team on the second night of a back-to-back. Flip Saunders put in a new starting lineup of guys playing with some grit — Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker start, and Andray Blatche comes off the bench.
It worked — the Washington Wizards picked up their first win of the season, and quite easily at that, 93-78.
This was by far Washington’s best game of the season, particularly on offense. For eight games their offense had been simplistic, with pick-and-rolls or isolations on the strong side and a lot of standing around. But against the Raptors there were weakside cuts occupying defenders, slowing help, all the things you see in a good offense. It gave them room to attack the basket and they did, it was not a jump shot fest. It wasn’t consistent, it certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was a vast improvement over past games.
Meanwhile the Wizards defense was more aggressive, although it was certainly helped by a hesitant Raptors offense that did not attack aggressively. DeMar DeRozan has not found his groove for a couple games now. Jose Calderon has been aggressive off the pick and roll the last few games but tonight was pausing, then forcing some ugly passes that led to turnovers (the Raps had 22 on the night). Toronto only had 52 points through three quarters, the Wizards deserve credit for some of that but the Raptors do as well.
The Raptors are not a good team — they start Rasual Butler (1-of-6 shooting). They need Andrea Bargnani to generate the offense, and while he finished with 22 he was not as sharp as he has been in previous games. They are a team that is going to have nights like this.
The Wizards are not a good team either, but they were better for a night. John Wall had more assists than point (9 to 8). Rashard Lewis and Nick Young had 15 points each as the Wizards showed some balance. They had good bench play.
It’s a start. The Wizards have a long way to go, but for a night things were better. That is worth celebrating.
The Bulls suffered a rough loss in Boston last night.
It didn’t get better afterward.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge – who played for Boston in the 80s – pleaded ignorance to any nefarious plumbing:
I think the idea that teams plot to shut off the visitor’s hot water is often overstated. Arenas have complex infrastructure, and things can go wrong on their own. Sometimes, the home team loses hot water, but that never gets remembered.
But reasonable excuses don’t make a cold shower in the moment any more tolerable.
Robin Lopez had reason to be upset from the Bulls’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.
This miss was all on him.
Dwyane Wade (26 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) was the Bulls’ best player in their Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.
But the 35-year-old guard clearly didn’t go all out on every possession.
Players can justify not closing out by claiming they were prioritizing rebounding position. Wade clearly has no such excuse.
The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.
One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.
We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.
Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.
If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.
For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.