-I had a chance to speak with Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Redd briefly before the game about his time on the Redeem Team in the Beijing Olympics and what he took from that experience basketball-wise. I’ll be writing about that later on this week, so please stay tuned to Hoops Addict for that.
-Antawn Jamison has a strained patella tendon coming into this game that caused him to sit out Sunday’s practice, but Coach Tapscott said that Jamison would start and try to give it a go. Tapscott remarked that a game without Jamison is “Like a game without sunshine.” Despite wincing visibly early in the game, Jamison played through the pain and scored 25 points. However, Jamison was clearly hampered on the defensive end and on the boards, as he tied his season low with only three rebounds. He also laid the ball up when he was alone on a fastbreak, rather than slamming it home with authority.
-Nick Young hit his second career high in three games, by scoring 30 points on 12-for-19 shooting, including 3-of-6 from the three-point line. And for the second consecutive game, Coach Tapscott ran isolation plays for Young down the stretch, instead of running them for Caron Butler or even Antawn Jamison. It was particularly entertaining to watch Young and Redd guard each other down the stretch, since neither of them seemed to miss. When asked why he was playing so well recently, Young credited the tapes of him playing at USC and some “Wizards game tapes as well. I watched couple games tapes, and just tried to get the feel back, and once shots started going, I got my confidence up.” Young also added this his older brother told him to, “Get his game back.”
-At the beginning of the season, Wizards center Andray Blatche was extremely reluctant to play the center position because he said his skills were maximized at the forward position. Coach Tapscott said he and the coaches explained that there is a logjam at the forward spot with All-Stars Caron Butler and Jamison on the roster. But given Brendan Haywood’s absence due to injury, and JaVale McGee’s inexperience, there were minutes at the center position to be had, and eventually Blatche settled in as the starting center. Tapscott said he is happy with Blatche’s play on the offensive end of the floor, but he wants Blatche to do a better job at protecting the rim. Tapscott said, “When you drive down the middle on us, I want you to know someone is there.”
-Tonight Blatche was quiet on both ends of the floor, but one particular play of his influenced the whole landscape of the game. With 8:19 left in the third quarter, Blatche picked up an offensive foul and a defensive foul in a seven second span. After the picked up the second foul, Blatche ”big timed” the referee, and he was hit with technical foul. At that point, the Wizards were leading 61-49. From that point on, the Wizards lost momentum and were outscored 48-30. Blatche played 12 more minutes after that but did not score a single point.
-Tapscott said he went a little deeper into his rotation during the Bobcats game because the Wizards have played every other day since the first week of December, with the exception of the New Year’s day weekend, and even then they practiced. He’s especially worried about the minutes of Butler and Jamison. Tonight, that rotation was a bit smaller because Etan Thomas went to the locker room after the 1st quarter with a left knee strain.
-When I talked to Frank Madden of BrewHoop.com, he mentioned that Andrew Bogut was the Bucks’ most indispensable player because of what he does on both ends of the floor. I watched Bogut very carefully during this game, and the thing that struck me the most was his physicality. Whether it was on the offensive or defensive end of the floor, Bogut made sure his presence was felt. As Wizards’ centers Blatche and Songalia would run down the floor, Bogut would meet them above the foul line and put his body into them before they could even get into the paint. Once they were in the paint, he would do his best to disrupt their rhythm and knock them out of their comfort zone. On the offense end, Bogut would overpower Blatche and Songalia and set up deep in the paint. He did not always received the ball, but he was always in position. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The only disappointing part about his game is that he did not get to the foul line one time.
-Before the game, when he was asked to pinpoint what goes wrong in the Wizards’ losses, Coach Tapscott said if the Wizards are shooting too many jumpers, because that’s a sign they aren’t running their offensive sets and the wheels are all set to come off. During one particular stretch in the fourth quarter when the Bucks were making a run, the Wizards went from being up three to down three, and they missed three consecutive jumpers. The ball barely got below the foul line, before the Wizards jacked up shots, and this is directly related to the lack of post play. Blatche was not playing well, Thomas was on the bench, Haywood is injured, and Songalia prefers to play in the post. That, combined with the lack of a penetrating point guard, leads to a team that relies on jumpers.
-Although Caron Butler had a season high seven assists, he struggled mightily from the field (2-for-13) and he only scored six points. After the game, a frustrated Butler said, “I missed a lot of bunnies, layups, tipped dunks and a lot of shots I usually make that establish my rhythm that set the tone. I really never got into rhythm tonight.” Butler also mentioned that when someone has the hot hand the way Nick Young did, it’s more important that he “fit into the game” rather than try to get his scoring touch. “It’s tough. It’s different personnel now, ” Butler said. “Nick is coming into his own, and I may have it going one night, you have to incorporate Antawn.. but we gotta get on the same page.” The revealing part about this quote is that when Gilbert Arenas is on the court, it is known that every night he is the man, and rest of the players have to find shots where they can. With this possible new three-headed monster of Butler, Jamison and Young, the approach is much different.
-The majority of the last two minutes of the game, both Wizards point guards (Mike James and Javaris Crittenton) were on the bench, and Butler and Young were responsible for bringing up the ball. On the Bucks’ side, either Luke Ridnour or Ramon Sessions were in the game running the offense, and the difference was huge. Milwaukee seemed to get any shot they wanted down the stretch, and the Wizards only got a good shot if Young could shake free of Michael Redd or Luc Mbah a Moute. I know I write about this every time I do game notes, but it is a fact that cannot be ignored. The lack of stellar point guard play on the Wizards is holding this team back. James and Crittenton finished with 10 points and 8 assists while Sesssions and Ridnour had 18 points 14 assists.
-With the win tonight, Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles, who played for the Washington Bullets from 1994-1995, coached his 300th victory. Skiles started his coaching career in Phoenix from 1999-2002, then he was with the Chicago Bulls from 2003-2007, and now he’s in Milwaukee.
Final score: Milwaukee 97, Washington 91
Photo Credit: ICON Sports Media