-Prior to the Chicago Bulls game, Coach Tapscott and Juan Dixon had a talk about the playing time or lack thereof he had been getting over the past few games. Tapscott told Dixon that although his minutes had been diminishing, that he planned on increasing his minutes for the Bulls game and again for tonight’s matchup against the Pistons. Tapscott said that Dixon’s performance tonight would go a long way in determining when and how much he’s in the rotation going forward. Against the Bulls, Dixon had eight points and four assists in just 12 minutes of play. Tonight, Dixon played 24 minutes, scored 16 points and dishes out seven assists. There were times tonight when Dixon struggled to bring the ball up in a timely fashion, and he couldn’t get the team in the offense. But the majority of the evening, his passes were perfect, and when he had the open shot he hit it. Dixon has assured himself a significant amount of playing time on Thursday against the Celtics.
-During the many Wizards’ film session, Brendan Haywood and Gilbert Arenas are extremely helpful to both Coach Tapscott and the team in general. Coach Tapscott said that they bring the unique perspective of being players but also being keen observers because they are injured, so their input is extremely useful. Coach added that Haywood and Arenas aloso play close attention to the college game, and they can easily break down the top prospects in the college game right now.
-Coach Tapscott mentioned that he had two choices of how to approach tonight. Chase the matchup or force them to adjust. If he chose to “Chase the Matchup” that would mean that he’d sit back and see what kind of matchups the Pistons came out with, and then insert the proper personnel. On the flipside, Tapscott said me might put out a bigger lineup, not worrying about what Detroit was or was not doing, but it all depended on who was playing well early. At the start of the second half, Tapscott decided to start Antonio Daniels and Darius Songalia in place of Dee Brown and JaVale McGee. Brown struggled to guard Iverson in the first half, and McGee only played 4 minutes in the first quarter, but Rasheed Wallace scored nine quick points on him, and he didn’t play the remainder of the game. Down the stretch, Tapscott forced the Pistons to adjust to his lineup by playing Dixon at the point, and playing Dominic McGuire and Songalia for long stretches. Dixon repeatedly beat Rodney Stuckey off the dribble and Songalia’s play in the post caused the Pistons to take out Rasheed Wallace, and play a rusty Antonio McDyess. I’d say he forced the Pistons to chase his lineup.
-One of Coach Tapscott’s biggest concerns going into tonight’s game was rebounding. The last time the Pistons and the Wizards played, the Pistons outrebounded the Wizards, 49-24. Coach Tapscott wanted his players to do a much better job this time around, especially with the return of Antonio McDyess. Tonight, the Wizards grabbed 39 rebounds to the Pistons’ 34, and Antawn Jamison led the way with 11 rebounds.
-Coach Mike Curry said that despite the fact that Antonio McDyess just officially re-signed with the team today, he will play significant minutes. Curry feels like his team’s recent struggles have less to do with the Iverson/Billups transition, and much more to do with McDyess absence. Curry said not only is McDyess the best post player and defender, but it allows him to rest Rasheed Wallace from time to time, which is important during the long season. Tonight, McDyess played 25 minutes, scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds. More importantly, the last eight minutes of the game when Wallace was on the bench, McDyess played solid defense when the game was in the balance. He struggled at times against Songalia, and he missed a couple of shots at close range, but overall, it was a good performance considering he’d been away for a few weeks.
-Curry said that Stuckey being inserted into the lineup was partly due to the team’s struggles and partly because it was just time. The Pistons consider Stuckey to be their point guard of the future, and since the team already knew what Stuckey could do off the bench, it was time to see how he plays when he’s in the starting line-up on a consistent basis. This moves Iverson to the shooting guard, Hamilton to the small forward position, Tayshaun to the power forward, Wallace to center, and Kwame to the bench. Curry realizes his team is now smaller, but he thinks its more important to put his best “5” on the floor. Although Stuckey dished 11 assists, the Pistons’ offense never looked fluid, and when the Pistons needed a big shot in the last three or four minutes of the game, Stuckey wasn’t even looking to shoot. At one point in the fourth quarter, the score was 96-90, with a little over one minute left, the Pistons needed a basket to make it a one possession game. Everyone touched the ball on the Pistons including Stuckey who passed up a shot, and McDyess ended up trying to take a shot directly under the basket. In year’s past, Chauncey Billups would be the one taking the big shot at the end of the game. Neither Stuckey nor newly acquired Allen Iverson is comfortable in that role just yet.
-The entire second team of the Pistons warms up on the court well before the rest of the team, but it’s far more organized than the workouts I see with other team. Assistant Coaches Harold Ellis and Darrell Walker lead very organized shooting and cutting drills. Curry said the reason for this is twofold. One, it provides the players who don’t play too much, an opportunity to get a sustained warmup, as opposed to just coming into the game cold. This allows Curry and his assistant coaches to go over some teaching drills before the game, too.
-Allen Iverson does not look comfortable in this PIstons’ offense at all. There were times when he’d put his head down and go to the basket, completely ignoring Richard Hamilton in the corner, who had worked hard to get open. There were other times when Iverson clearly had an open lane or an open shot, and he refused to take it, and he forced a passed to a teammate who wasn’t really open. When Iverson ran the point, he did a good job of mixing his shots with setting up his teammates. Tonight, even though he played shooting guard, he and Hamilton frequently ran off the same type of screens, yet the Pistons looked for Hamilton more often and he scored 29. Iverson only scored 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting. This Billups/Iverson trade does not seem to be working right now, but there is a long season ahead.
-Pistons forward/center Jason Maxiell did not play a minute in tonight’s game, and I was really baffled Coach Curry did not play him. During the first Wizards/Pistons meeting, Maxiell scored 11 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in just 16 minutes of play, and he provided a high level of energy. Given that McDyess was just coming off a long layoff, and Wallace had been logging long minutes in McDyess’ absence, tonight would have been perfect for Maxiell, yet he did not play. Former Wizards Kwame Brown, who had been in the starting lineup before Stuckey was inserted, also did not play.
-So much has been made over the years about the seemingly quick technical fouls that Rasheed Wallace has gotten over the years, and sometimes it is justified. Tonight however, I could definitely see how he gets so emotional. At one point Wallace got the ball in the post, took three dribbles towards the basket, and was fouled at least twice by the Wizards’ Songalia. When Wallace pivoted to shoot, he was fouled again, and nothing was called, and he turned to the ref, said the magic words, and was given a technical foul. Late in the game he played that exact same defense on Songalia, and Wallace was quickly called for a foul.
-On a lighter note, after getting dunked on by Blatche in the third quarter, Wallace immediately hit a three-pointer, then ran down the court with his finger over his lips trying to quiet the crowd. It was hilarious.
-I know I’ve typed this a lot, but Caron Butler is having an All-Star caliber season, despite his team’s mediocre record. Butler started slowly by scoring only five points in the first quarter, but he eventually heated up and scored 34 points with six assists and five rebounds. Every time his team needed a big shot or a big play, he was right there, and he set the stage for the Wizards second half comeback with a coast to coast layup to end the first half. Butler also went 14 -of-14 from the free throw line.
-The Wizards were down 17 points halfway through the second quarter, yet they were still able to pull out the victory. In game’s past, they would dig themselves a tremendous hole in the first half, then spend the entire second half trying to win. Tonight, they focused on that comeback in the second quarter, pulled away in the third, then padded their lead in the fourth quarter. As Butler said after the game, “We’ve been so close in so many games this year, it was nice to finally pull one out.”
-After playing only 10 minutes on Saturday, JaVale McGee only played the first four minutes of tonight’s game, and he was not at all in foul trouble. Coach Tapscott will need to do a good job of keeping McGee’s confidence high, especially considering the Boston Celtics are coming to town with Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Leon Powe.
– I got some good post game quotes from Allen Iverson, Richard Hamilton and Antonio McDyess that I will be using in an article very soon.
Final score: Wizards 107 – Pistons 94
Photo Credit: ICON Sports Media