Sunday, April 15, 2012

15/4 - Cavaliers at Wizards

Both teams were seriously undermanned, due to either rest or injury and it led to some strange player sightings; I had to do a bit of a double take the first time I saw Luke Walton with the ball in his hands. However, the sheer number of D-League call-ups meant the game was played hard as guys tried to show enough to earn a more permanent spot in the NBA.

The Cavaliers didn't win this game as much as the Wizards lost it, because if you ignored the scoreboard it seemed like the Wizards were getting easier buckets, getting out on the break and getting blocks. However, lost it the Wizards did, and it was due to a number of factors. First of all, they have no outside shooting in their starting lineup (or their entire roster, really), they were putting the Cavs on the line a whole lot, and John Wall picked tonight to be aggressive with his jumper.

Despite Wall's poor jumper, he showed confidence taking it, and while he's similar to Tyreke in his tendency to constantly fade away, his form isn't quite as bad. In a game like this where the result isn't particularly important, I didn't mind him taking those shots, and for the most part they weren't forced and he had good instincts of when to take the jumper. His playmaking was on show again, he had a number of great passes, and more importantly, some fundamentally sound ones too. John's warp speed was on display again tonight, but he's gotten better at picking his spots to go full throttle and showed a nice capacity to change speed too. One thing that stood out was how much bigger he seemed out there, he looks to be at least 6'5 and probably closer to 6'6 these days, which was something of a hindrance whilst he was chasing around shorter PGs. Wall looked a good two inches taller than his backcourt partner Jordan Crawford, and it begs the question why he hasn't been asked to guard the 2 more often and allowed Crawford to attack the PG. It would really work out better for both of them, as Crawford doesn't have the length to challenge shooters without biting on fakes, which makes him somewhat foul prone. People have been sleeping on Wall a bit, but he's a jumper away from really elevating his game.

I flip-flopped on how I felt about Crawford as the game went on, at first I thought he did a good job sharing the ball-handling responsibilities and providing scoring in isolation situations, but he's quite slight in his build which hindered his ability to defend the 2, his outside shooting was nonexistent and his body language was awful. Literally every time he was called for a foul, didn't get a foul call, or wasn't given FTs on a foul call he slumped his shoulders and started quite obviously pouting. I think the Wizards would be better served moving him to the bench as a 6th man except that I don't think his ego would allow him to embrace it. For the time being they are going to have to hope he improves his demeanour and outside shooting, because they have a more pressing need at SF.

Vesely was drafted as a SF/PF, but after watching this game it's safe to say he's strictly a 4. He had a couple of nice hook shots around the basket, a great putback dunk, and he contested shots inside without fouling for the most part. I never saw him take more than two dribbles in the open court, as he was quick to feed his guards, but I don't see him having the lateral speed to play the 3. While he hasn't had an immediate impact in the win column, the Wizards have to be happy with Jan's energy and potential at the PF position. It will be interesting to see how he comes back after a full training camp with the coaching staff.

I'd heard Seraphin talked up as having great touch recently, and I wholeheartedly agree, if he's in the paint he simply doesn't miss, whether it's a short turnaround jumper or a hook shot with either hand. That said, he's not a very vertical player, which limits his impact defensively, but like Zach Randolph he has no problems getting his shot off without being blocked, despite never leaving the ground. One problem he did have was being pushed out of the post too easily, he was fed the ball in the post a couple of times but was too far out for his hook shot to drop. Seraphin did a good job passing out of the double team down the stretch, but he'd be much more effective if he had a reliable outside shooter to pass to. Hopefully the Wizards can fill that need in the draft.

Singleton came into the league with a reputation as a sterling all around defender, but he really struggled to stop his man, and gave away a number of silly fouls.

Overall, the Wizards look a lot better under their new head coach, offensively their starters were playing well and working as a team, but as the game wore on their bench players undid their good work. If the Wizards can add more outside shooting, learn to defend without fouling and John Wall adds a jumper, they can be competitive a lot sooner than people give them credit for.

Not much to say about the Cavs, they played hard, took the right shots and were consistent in their effort throughout the game. Thompson had a couple of plays which wowed me, including a nice drive to the basket, but still struck me as a reach at 4th overall. Alonzo Gee has developed nicely, he remains highly athletic, defends relatively well and can hit the spot up 3 on occasion. At only 24 years of age (25 in May) he still has plenty of room to grow, and Cavaliers can afford to look at their SG spot as a priority in the draft, and give Gee another season to prove himself at the SF.

Have to cut this one a bit short, but we have houseguests and I need to go do some hosting. If anyone wants to know about a specific player in the game I haven't mentioned in the writeup just let me know and I'll tell you what I thought.

Tomorrow we have the Raptors and Hawks, should be interesting with Toronto coming off that win against the Celtics.

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