Hollinger's PER Diem: Nov. 26, 2008
The Wizards won their first game under Ed Tapscott, thanks largely to Andray Blatche, John Hollinger writes.
Nice of you to finally start playing, Andray Blatche.
That's what I'd be thinking if I were deposed Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, anyway, after the tame but talented big man suddenly decided to turn into Karl Malone in last night's 124-100 win over Golden State.
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Blatche finished with 25 points, 12 boards, five blocks and five assists, becoming only the second player in history to put up those numbers off the bench (Sir Charles was the first). He confidently stroked long jumpers, scored on drives, defended with passion and found the open man when the defense collapsed.
None of which he had done in any quantity in the season's first 11 games, in which the Wizards went 1-10. Blatche had previously looked out of shape and disinterested, registering only two double-figure scoring games and a high rebounding total of six; he'd blocked five shots all season before recording the same number on Tuesday. Just a week earlier I had seen him up close in an 88-83 loss to Atlanta, and he was quite clearly Washington's least effective player.
While Blatche's night was the centerpiece, Washington's frontcourt as a whole was far more productive in the first game under Ed Tapscott than it had been under Jordan. JaVale McGee started at center and made an immediate impact, dunking on a sweet play off the opening tip -- Antawn Jamison screened Golden State's Andris Biedrins as soon as the Warriors center landed after going up for the tip, McGee ran past him, nobody helped, and Caron Butler lofted a pass ahead for an easy two.
The one noticeable tactical difference for Tapscott was that he played much bigger lineups than what Jordan used. At one point last night, Jamison was the shooting guard, playing with Dominic McGuire, Blatche and an unearthed Darius Songaila. At several other junctures, Jamison played the wing with two true bigs up front; of course, this was much easier to do with Blatche showing a pulse, but Tapscott's substitution pattern ran big right from the start.
Of course, to discuss Washington is to see only half the equation. Yes, the Wizards played better last night, but their opponent was absolutely craptacular. I'm not sure it would have been possible for the Warriors to give less effort on defense or to take worse shots offensively; it was like there was a contest to see who could take the most hurried 22-footer early in the shot clock, and between Stephen Jackson, Jamal Crawford, Kelenna Azubuike and Corey Maggette there were several willing contestants.
The loss dropped Golden State to 27th in the Power Rankings -- one spot behind Washington -- and it's becoming increasingly difficult to see the Warriors as a Western Conference playoff contender, even with the recent addition of Crawford and the potential midseason return of Monta Ellis.
If that's the case, opting to tie up their cap space through 2011 will be an even more questionable move than it seemed at first.
John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.
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