Dec 26, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) dribbles as Washington Wizards guard Garrett Temple (17) during the second half at the Verizon Center. The Cavaliers defeated the Wizards 87 - 84. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA Today Sports

The Washington Wizards drop a close one to the Cleveland Cavaliers

The Washington Wizards lost another close game, this time to the Cleveland Cavaliers, to the tune of 87 to 84. Once again, the Wizards fail to score over 90 and once again the Wizards faltered down the stretch.

This is exhausting.

 

Four factors: I am going to try and include this in all my recaps from now on. Via Basketball-Reference, Dean Oliver identifies in his book “Basketball on Paper” what he called “The Four Factors of Basketball Success”. Instead of calculating Oliver’s formula for each factor, I plan to use each factor as a springboard for a larger discussion:

  1. Shooting: The Wizards shot 46% from the field tonight, shooting 6% better than their season average and 9% better the Cavaliers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Wizards were better shooters then the Cavs. The Cavs shot 3 pointers as about 37%, which was about the same that they shot from the field overall, while the Wizards shot only 22% from downtown.  Without any really effective three-point shooter, the sad fact remains that the few times the Wizards do get a lead; it can evaporate quickly with very little ability to stop it. Edge: Slightly Wizards
  2. Turnovers: More than fading down the stretch, more than giving up the easy three, and more than anything else in the game, this is where the Wizards lost the game. The Wizards had 20 turnovers in the game, twice the numbers of turnovers by the Cavs. In this game, it is not only bad because it kills the Wizards possession and gives the Cavs an extra one. It was uniquely bad because it gave the Cavs a better opportunity to score, either through transition mismatches or the psychological effect of a momentum swing. The Wizards gave up 20 points off 20 turnovers, which means that the Cavs scored much more efficiently off of turnovers then when the defenses were set up. If the turnover differential between the two teams was even, or just -5, the Wizards win. And I would guess pretty easily. Edge: Cavs.
  3. Rebounding: When I initially looked at the rebounding margin, it seemed clear why the Wizards seemed to do so well. Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao, one of the league’s best rebounders, was sitting out with a right knee contusion. So at first glance, that seemed to explain why the Wizards had 13 more rebounds than the Cavs. But on second examination, I don’t think that’s the case. The entirety of the Wizards 13 rebound advantage over the Cavs comes from defensive rebounds. And I think that the Wizards defensive rebounding numbers were much inflated because the low Cleveland field goal percentage meant there were simply more balls for the Wizards to grab on defense. That the Wizards rebounding domination did not extend to the offensive side of the court helps confirm to me that my explanation is most likely right. So while good rebounding helped the Wizards, I don’t think it was any kind of game changer. Edge: Slightly Wizards
  4. 4.      Free Throws: The Wizards shot 71% from the line, which is slightly worse than usual, but still better than the Cavs 65%. Shocking almost no one, however, the Wizards were unable to get to the FT line as much as the Cavs. Still, bad free throw shooting down the stretch, by Kyrie Irving of all people, gave the Wizards a chance to tie the game at the end. Edge: Slightly Cavs

 

Overall:

Make no mistake; this was not one of the Wizards worst games of the seasons. This wasn’t either of the Detroit back to backs or the second game against the Heat. And at times, the Wizards actually put together terrific runs and looked like the team we hoped they’d be before the season. But each time, sloppy play and awful execution allowed the Cavs to either get back in it or retake the lead. The only thing I can do is tell myself that it’s just growing pains. And that it gets better. But I don’t think even I believe that anymore.

Bullets Points:

  • Shelvin Mack was terrific at the point in the first half. He controlled the pace and had some quality assists. Wittman was right not to play him down the stretch after some untimely turnovers, but he has a lot he can offer the team. One of the main roles of a backup point guard is to try to alter the pace to make things happen. I think Mack can maybe do that.
  • After seeing Mack, I’ve decided I want Vesely to take a stint in the D-League. I don’t feel like he’s doing a whole lot of good up here, and he could get some confidence and work on adding new things to his game away from the NBA.
  • That being said, he was more useful in the game then Seraphin, which is problematic on a bunch of levels. So maybe we should wait.
  • I had a long string of tweets about this at halftime, but even though our frontcourt was incredibly efficient, they also were very sloppy. Nene, Okafor, Seraphin, and Webster combined for 12 turnovers a piece.
  • Still, it was a terrific game from Nene, Okafor, and Webster, who all shot over 50%. Even with the turnovers, they were a definite plus.
  • The turnaround I’ve had regarding Jordan Crawford since the beginning of the season, where I thought he was an irredeemable chuckster, is extraordinary. While I don’t think he’s the Wizards best player by any stretch of the imagination, he is certainly my favorite player to watch. And while he might have had some bad decisions down the stretch, his series of increasingly acrobatic shots was incredible.
  • I’m not convinced that some Thunderstruck-talent stealing scenario didn’t happen to Beal before tonight’s game. Has the curse befallen Beal? Do the sneakers from Like Mike counter such a curse? Are we on good enough terms with MJ to get his shoes? Only time will tell.
  • Tip of my hat to: Kyrie Irving, who is always amazing to watch, to Tristan Thompson, who has only a brief window between Steve Nash and Andrew Wiggins to become the best Canadian basketball player, to Dion Waiters, whose shot got blocked by Nene in what I thought would be the funniest Cavs miscue of the night, and to Alonzo Gee, who then proved me wrong.

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