The Atlanta Hawks opened their season with a road win Tuesday in a blowout victory over the New Jersey Nets, the same team that upset the Washington Wizards Monday despite a similar first half lead. Now the Wizards will take to the road for two games, starting with the Hawks. Can Andray Blatche and the Wizards keep a lead in Atlanta, or will the Hawks extend their win streak at home?
After Monday’s home opener loss, Wizards Head Coach Flip Saunders called Washington’s second half play “selfish,” as individual players–like John Wall–tried too hard to do their own thing. Conversely, the tandem of Deron Williams and Kris Humphries woke up in the third quarter to give New Jersey their best teamwork of the night. The momentum carried the Nets through the fourth as they stole one on the road.
Wall’s four turnovers on the night were one of the main issues as the Wizards fell at home, and while he stayed aggressive and earned 13 looks from behind the free throw line he made only 7 of them. Blatche earned only two looks, and they came late in the fourth quarter as ‘Dray split a pair with 1:09 left to play. If your big can’t get to the line until the final few minutes of the fourth then you need to work on looks.
Over the preseason Blatche exhibited a much more aggressive, and efficient, style, which he needs if Washington hopes to defeat Atlanta tonight. He did have one highlight dunk against the Nets in which Ronny Turiaf stuck a screen, received the pass on the roll, drew a crowd, then found ‘Dray for the easy jam–but that’s Turiaf doing work. Wall and Blatche need to figure it out while Turiaf is on the bench, else Blatche is an interchangeable part.
“He probably was talking about me,” Blatche said after Monday’s game, in response to Coach Saunders. “Because I said I need the ball in the paint to be effective. You know, you can’t keep having me pick n’ pop, and shooting jump shots. Give me the ball in the paint, that’s where I’m most effective.” According to 82games, 64% of the shots ‘Dray took in 2010-11 were jump shots, and he didn’t knock down a majority of them. Compare that to a finesse player like Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who put up jump shots only 55% of the time, and with a much higher success rate. However, while ‘Dray has been known as a pick n’ pop guy, he wants to change that. “I don’t want to be the pick n’ pop guy I used to be. It’s not working for me,” he told the media. “I’m not saying the offense has to run through me, but I prefer to be in the paint.” It’s difficult to imagine Blatche changing his game now in his seventh season, but the Wizards do need someone–anyone–to step up in the low post. However, when asked about ‘Dray’s position on the matter, Wall raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“I don’t know–in practice he gets the ball on pick n’ pops, and in practice he gets the ball on the block. Wherever the play is called that’s where the ball has to go. That’s my job is to get everybody in their position and get the ball where it’s supposed to be.”
None of Wall’s five assists went directly to Blatche on Monday, which means there were no easy, clean looks created by Washington’s offense which gave Wall the opportunity to find a rolling or cutting ‘Dray. Washington hasn’t executed pick n’ roll offense exceptionally well during the Saunders era and before that the Wizards relied more on Princeton Offense to get the ball moving, through backdoor cuts and constant shifting. If the Wall-led Wizards aren’t playing defense to get fastbreak opportunities, the ball tends to stick. However, Washington found no trouble getting to the free throw line against New Jersey, they just didn’t knock down their free throws. The Wizards finished plus-14 in attempts but only plus-5 in makes, something they’ll have to correct tonight to defeat the Hawks on the road.
Swaggy P versus Radman
The 0-2 Nets gave up 16 points to Nick Young Monday and 17 points to Hawks forward-guard Vladimir Radmanovic on Tuesday. In both situations a reserve ended up with the team high, and tonight the two shooters will have a chance to go against one another. It’s unlikely Radman will have another 4-steal night, but the Hawks did force Nets guard Deron Williams into committing 6 turnovers Tuesday.
Time: 7:30 p.m ET
TV: Comcast SportsNet/NBALP
Radio: 106.7 FM The Fan
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Wizards: Jan Vesely, Hip (Day-to-Day)
Hawks: Kirk Hinrich, Shoulder (Out)
Former Wizard Hinrich missed Tuesday’s game against the Nets and may be out until early-mid January. When he returns he’ll likely play behind Joe Johnson and Jeff Teague off the bench.