Usually when Wizards coach Ed Tapscott conducts his pre-game press conferences with the media, all of the questions deal with his team, any adjustments he may have made from the prior game, or problematic match-ups on the other team.
Prior to the matchup against the Chicago Bulls, the media primarily asked him questions about how President Barack Obama would be in attendance for the game. After the Obama-related questions were completed, a wave of silence fell over the media room, and a perplexed Tapscott looked at the entire room and said: “No one’s going to ask me about the Bulls? That’s who we’re playing tonight.”
The entire media room broke out into laughter, and Tapscott began to walk away from the podium, when suddenly a light bulb went off in his head, and he thought of a point he wanted to make.
“By the way, good move by them [the Bulls], nice bench. If you think about a bench that has John Salmons, Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller, they did a nice job of enhancing their bench,” Tapscott observed. “I was just talking with Bernie Bickerstaff [current Bulls assistant coach and former Wizards head coach] an old friend who many of you know here, and he said that they have a good feeling going into the stretch. So our bench now has a real challenge coming off against those guys.”
Miller and Salmons who were acquired via trade from Sacramento, Tim Thomas who arrived via a trade with the Knicks and Hinrich have played together coming off the bench for just three games. In those three games, the Bulls bench, led by those four players, had averaged 37 points. During that same three game stretch, the Wizards bench had been much less prolific by averaging only 20 points a game, including a 10 point performance against the San Antonio Spurs.
The challenge of this task was not lost on Coach Tapscott.
“Each one of those fellows [the Bulls bench] has been a starter in this league for a number of years, and they are coming off the bench to give that team a real solid bench group. And our bench is going to have to play at a very high level to match their experience and savvy.”
And that is exactly what they did.
Although the Bulls’ bench led by Salmons’ 25 points, scored 49 points to the Wizards’ 36, the Wizards bench provided big baskets in the second and fourth quarters, which led to their eventual 113-90 victory.
In the second quarter, Nick Young (12 points) and JaVale McGee (10 points) both provided key energy plays that stymied the Bulls attempt at a rally. Young hit a series of fadeaway jumpers, while McGee provided spark in the paint, which included a monster alley-oop dunk from Caron Butler, after which McGee saluted President Obama. This allowed starters Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, who usually log heavy minutes, to get more rest than usual.
In the fourth quarter, it was Andray Blatche (12 points) and Javaris Crittenton who played key roles. Blatche, who formerly started 23 games himself, showed his entire repertoire by both dunking in the paint, and hitting outside jumpers. Also, in consecutive possessions, Blatche blocked the shots of Bulls guards, Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon.
While Crittenton did not score during the entire game, he played excellent on-the-ball defense on Rose, and only allowed the rookie to score four points during the last quarter.
After the game, when Hoops Addict asked Coach Tapscott to analyze the bench play of his team, he had nothing but high praise for them.
“Andray Blatche and Nick Young both came in, and I thought [they] played within themselves. And they should be scorers when they come in, they had moments when they were the primary scorers on the floor because we had one of the forwards [Jamison and Butler] out, so they shared that role, ” Tapscott explained. “And then when we have both of those forwards in, they have to know those guys are priorities, but if we play off of them like Andray [Blatche] did, we got some nice passes dropped to him, where he scored off the rim. I thought Javaris Crittenton played very good defense, he probably has the best lateral quickness on the team.”
Tapscott also mentioned the importance of a strong bench going forward.
“Everyone came in and made their contribution. That’s critical for us. We need more people to come in and give us some minutes and allow us to rest some people so they can stay fresh down the stretch.”
Although the Wizards are out of the playoff hunt this season, next season starters Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood will presumably be healthy and back in the starting lineup. This means that the current starters, Mike James, Darius Songalia and upstart Dominic McGuire will be pushed down in the rotation, to make this Wizards bench even stronger.
And if that is the case, Coach Tapscott should pull out the tape of this game against the Bulls as an example of how to play.