Nets 105, Wizards 93: Ideal Wizards Hit Miracle Three, Survive Real Wizards in OT
My opinion of Bill Simmons has wavered, and readers of my old blog probably remember my classic takedown of this column he wrote after being knocked out of the 2006 World Series of Poker. However, after watching Vince Carter's game tying three hit the back of the rim and somehow drop in, I'm thinking he may be on to something about this new ball.
Take it from somebody who's been watching NBA games since he was still peeing on himself and calling P-B-and-J's the ideal meal: Something's up with the new ball. During Friday's Detroit-Boston game, Rip Hamilton dribbled full-speed toward the basket at the end of the first half, planted his feet at the top of the 3-point line with his momentum still going forward, then launched a 28-foot line drive that rammed off the back of the rim ... only that it stopped like it had been gunned down by a sniper and dropped through the basket.I didn't see that shot, so I shook it off as classic Bill Simmons column filler. I felt like he was making a big deal out of nothing. But after watching that shot go in, I'm inclined to believe his claim that there's something up with the ball. I've honestly never seen a shot go in like that Carter shot did, and while my friends claimed that a ball shot with backspin can do that, I still was confused as to why we never saw that with the old ball.
Watching the game while running on the treadmill, I almost thought I'd blacked out for a second. How the hell did that brick go in? It seemed like an optical illusion, as if Fox Sports Net had CGI'd the shot (like MJ missing against the Cavs in the Gatorade commercial). Intrigued, I replayed the shot on TiVo ... and sure enough, the ball seemingly hit a dead spot on the rim and fell through like a bean bag.
One problem: There are no dead spots on metal rims. Wanna know why? THEY'RE MADE OF METAL!!!
But this loss was not about the ball, and I don't want to make it seem that way. Both teams played with it, meaning that both teams should have benefited from it equally. The Wizards had one great stretch in the third and fourth quarters, but were held in check in the first half and in overtime. Their inability to play a consistent game doomed them in the loss.
If the Wizards are ever going to take the next step as a defensive unit, the one team they should try to emulate is New Jersey. When you think of the Nets, defense doesn't usually come to mind right away. With Kidd, Carter, injured Richard Jefferson, and Nenad Kristic, this seems like the type of team with tons of offensive firepower, but the reality is that the New Jersey Nets win tons of games with their defense. Last year, they were third in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing only 102 points per 100 possessions, or about 1.02 points per possession. The Nets didn't have anyone ranked in the top 40 in blocked shots last year, and were only in the middle of the pack (16) when it came to forced turnovers.
What gives? The Nets simply defend the perimeter extremely well, as evidenced by the Wizards' 35 percent shooting tonight. What makes this even more shocking is that nobody on the team is known as a defensive stopper. Kidd was a few years ago, but he's too old to be that guy now. Jefferson probably comes closest, but he didn't even play today.
Basically, the Nets are a team that outworks their opponents defensively. By focusing on limiting open looks, the Nets are a remarkably better defensive unit. This proves for the millionth time that defense is not about your personnel, but about your approach and your effort. Nothing about the Nets team on paper screams defensive proficiency, but through hard work and an emphasis on the simple task of giving up fewer open shots, the Nets have become a strong defensive team.
Now you know why I titled this post the way I did. Isn't this exactly what the Wizards are trying to do? More accurately, isn't this exactly what the Wizards should be trying to do? They correctly didn't spend the house on an overrated "defensive presence" that wouldn't have actually done much, but they also still haven't totally figured out how to prevent open looks. The Wizards had their moments today, but Carter was way too open on that last three and Bostjan Nachbar had way too many open three point looks. When it mattered, the inability to defend the perimeter let the Wizards down again.
However, if anything, the message the Wizards should take from this game is a positive one. They played a team that is full of offensive-minded players, but still manages to finish in the top 10 of defensive efficiency year after year. Becoming a strong defensive team is not a futile goal, and with the right coaching, even offensive-minded guys that gamble in passing lanes can come together to be a solid defensive unit.
Postgame thoughts? What did you take away from the loss?
As a final message, I usually run a blogosphere links of the weekend thing on Sunday, but thanks to the 37th edition of the Carnival of the NBA at Phoenix Suns Rising, there's no need to do that. Be sure to check out Brian's Carl-Evil, as it is full of Awe-Some links from the NBA blogosphere.