Bullets Fever

A blog and community website for the Washington Wizards and their fans.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Second Guessing the Crunch Time Lineup

Yesterday, the Wizards, who struggled last year with finishing and winning the close games, whipped out a crunch-time lineup of Arenas, Daniels, Hayes, Butler, and Jamison.

Yeah, that's right. A lineup featuring four guards and a forward who plays like one. The lineup is interesting, to say the least. Wierder was that Hayes was the one that drew the LeBron assignment for much of the fourth quarter until they switched Butler back on him in the last two minutes. Not only that, but the ball was not in Arenas' or Butler's hands with the game on the line. Hayes had an open shot, but why was he even coming off that screen in the first place?

Even the Phoenix Suns would have said the Wizards went small last night. It's no wonder that Varejao was ever to get those two big rebounds and loose balls at the end of the game.

Reader Brett had this to say about the lineup.
I was disappointed to see newly minted starting C Thomas and newly acquired defensive stopper Stevenson on the pine down the stretch. After the 2 minute mark, there were 2 field goals made, both by Cleveland. One an uncontested dunk by Hughes and the other an uncontested lay-up by James. With the game on the line, our role players are forced to put up jumpers (Jarvis) while their stars are waltzing down the lane.
I agree with him to a point. I wouldn't have put Stevenson in there last night. The Wizards were down and it was only because of Antonio Daniels' aggressivness that they even got back in the game. I don't know what would have happened if Stevenson was in there instead of him. But I completely agree about Thomas. Why was Hayes in there instead of him? Thomas was tearing it up when he was in there, so why take him out for the trigger-happy Hayes? With Arenas, Jamison, and Butler, along with Daniels, you have plenty of scoring already. I realize Thomas is undersized, but he's going to get those loose balls that Varejao got yesterday. He'll also make it a little more difficult for Cleveland to get to the rim. I just never really understood what Hayes added to the attack by being out there.

I've scanned the Post for answers to this question and Ivan Carter never pulled the trigger, or at least never mentioned it in the beat article. I'd like to know whether he brought the crunch-time lineup with Jordan and what Jordan's response was. Why was Hayes in there when Thomas was playing so well? It's true that Washington was causing matchup problems with 5 perimeter players, but they are still causing matchup problem with Arenas, Butler, Daniels, and Jamison in there. I'd like to know where Jordan was coming from with that decision.

The Wizards struggled at the end of games last year, turning what should have been a 46 win season into a 42 win one. They lost to the Cavaliers in the playoffs last year mostly because they couldn't execute down the stretch. I realize most teams don't have a guy like LeBron who can completely break down a defense at the end of games, but the Wizards made it easier for him and Hughes by leaving Thomas out of the game.

Agree? Disagree? What should be the crunch-time lineup if last night's one isn't?

[update]: Carter disagrees with me. Here's what he said in his blog entry.
I did like the smaller lineup that consisted of Arenas, Butler, Hayes, Jamison and Daniels however. They were getting drive and kicks and creating good shots. The fellas just missed too many open looks. Jarvis had those two baseline J's and the three that would have given the Wiz a lead, and Jamison missed that open three at the buzzer.


[update 2]: Apparently, Eddie Jordan does too.
"Frankly, I thought the small lineup helped us," Jordan said. "I thought we defended [LeBron] James well enough. I thought we did some good things defensively. We got some steals. I think we were down 11 and we went to the small lineup and went up by two. When we had the big guys in there, they would run pick-and-rolls and our big guys were on the perimeter anyway. All the time, you said our small and midsize guys have to rebound the ball better and we didn't do it."

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Blogger Brett said...

Granted the small lineup got the Wiz back in the game by playing very well, but a tight game changes under two minutes. Ideally, the outcome will favor the team that can convert difficult field goal attempts and sink their free throws. Cleveland however drove to the rim twice for easy baskets. Stevenson would hardly have been a lock to deny either Lebron or Hughes his opportunity, but it seemed like that was the situation for which they acquired him. Performance during these isolated defensive scenarios are what I think will allow or prohibit the Wizards from taking the next step.

9:36 AM

Blogger Pradamaster said...

The division of crunch time minutes is something I wondered aloud about recently, especially considering Stevenson. Last year, Daniels was arguably the team's best 4th quarter player in the second half of the year, and his aggressive slashing style is perfect in the fourth quarter, when players tire the most. However, I agree that it does seem a little odd to get Stevenson's defense with the intention of storing it on the bench when it's needed most. This will definetly be an interesting situation and I'm curious to see how it plays out.

That doesn't excuse Hayes for being on the floor. You need to rebound in order to even play your style, so Thomas should have been in there. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

The Daniels-Stevenson issue, however, is much more complex. Ideally, you'd play both, but then one of the Big 3 has to sit. This is going to be really interesting to watch all year.

12:15 PM


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