Wizards 97, Hawks 96: Offensive aggression allows Wizards to win an ugly one
In their last two losses, the Wizards have suffered from a lack of aggressivness in taking the ball to the basket. The Wizards shot significantly more free throws than their opponents last season, but in losses to Memphis and Detroit, the Wizards did very little to debunk the popular idea that they are a soft jump-shooting team. As soon as shots stopped going in, the Wizards offense stopped working. Even the best teams can't win too many games scoring 80 points every game.
This backdrop is why Butler's performance tonight is particularly important to understand. He made more free throws tonight (15) than field goals (10). Instead of hoisting jumper after jumper in hopes of heating up, Butler made sure to attack the rim and get easy points at the free throw line. This in turn allowed the Wizards to win the game despite turning the ball over 21 times (this will be a subject of a future post) and getting outrebounded 44-38.
In terms of quantitative analysis, the Wizards +11 in points at the free throw line won them this game. The Hawks shot only 42 percent, but they still were +10 in points on field goals because they attempted 20 more shots. Combine that with a 15-6 advantage on the offensive glass, and it's safe to say that Atlanta's offense was working better than Washington's. Still, the Wizards were able to win this game because of their renewed offensive aggression. The Wizards' offense struggled with turnovers and a lack of flow, but because they attacked the basket with a renewed vigor, they were able to get enough to win.
Also, I can't recap this game without giving props to Jarvis Hayes. I've been hard on the guy, but he had a superb game tonight, pnroviding 9 points on 3-3 from three point range as well as superb defense on Joe Johnson when it mattered most. If Hayes could simply focus on playing his role and improving his shot selection, he could provide the type of bench spark this team desperately needs. When he's shooting 10 times in only 18-2o minutes, it's a problem. Tonight, he picked his spots well and made three huge treys.
Overall, there were lots of encouraging signs. The turnovers are a huge problem--one big enough to tackle in a future post--and the inability to score in the halfcourt at the end of the game is troubling, but the Hawks are a tricky team to play because they have a real star and a number of athletic surrounding pieces. The Wizards did not play their best game at all tonight, but because of a renewed focus on aggression (led by Butler), the Wizards found a way to win an ugly one.
Postgame thoughts? What do you guys think went well and what do you think still needs work?