For much of the game the Wizards had outplayed the third best team in the East – after getting its tail kicked twice in a row by the 5th best team (Milwaukee). Most surprising was how well the Wizards front line of Blatche (23 pts & 9 rebs), Thornton (24 pts & 11 rebs) and McGee (13 pts & 5 blks) played in this game compared with their older, more accomplished counterparts – Garnett (8 pts & 10 rebs), Perkins (12 pts & 7 rebs) and Pierce (17 pts & 2 rebs).
However as Flip pointed out, the Wizards became “discombobulated” during the final 6 minutes of the game. The Celtics, who are a former champion and veteran squad, were able to turn up their defensive effort down the stretch and also had Ray Allen come to life. This combined with the Wizards inability to go through the two players that lead them through much of the game – Blatche and Thornton – lead to a heartbreaking loss. It was critical at that point in the game for the Wizards to initiate their offense through Blatche and Thornton, but then it is critical for open teammates to knock down open shots. It is also important to not dribble away much of the clock and then hoist off balance or rushed shots, as the Wizards did on too many possessions at the end of the game.
While I agree with the ideas that Saunders was communicating, such as it is often a better idea to not get into a “wolfing” match with another player because there is no need to give them or there team any more incentive. The fact remains that Garnett was largely invisible during this game. His only points came from the foul line as he went 0 for 7 from the field. He was embarrassed on his own floor by a bunch of young pups. Players such as Garnett use “wolfing” both to provide themselves with additional motivation, but also to get into “lesser” players heads. One could argue that he was successful in getting into Blatche’s head as he felt compelled to stand up for himself as a man, rather than increasing his focus and letting his continued play do all of his talking.
During the final stretch of the game, Garnett’s actions were embarrassing. Given the amount and volume of his trash talking, you would have expected that he actually did something on the court. The reality is he was 0 for 7 from the field, all 8 of his points came from the foul line and he had about 4 of his shots blocked – not the line that you would expect from a guy talking trash. And while he did hit some important free throws down the stretch, if it wasn’t for Ray Allen’s clutch shooting his team would have lost the game. I wonder if this point is lost on him. I imagine it is.
I also find it fascinating that Garnett tends to reserve these sorts of outbursts for who he perceives as the younger or lesser talented players. I do not recall this type of “wolfing” with Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Dwight Howard, etc. It seems like classic bully mentality – pick on the ones that you feel you can beat, not on those that might “spank that ass.”
I don’t mind the player that wants to talk trash. However, I have very little patience for those that don’t seem to know what the situation is. Garnett was matched against Blatche for long stretches of the game and at last check Blatche outscored him by 15 points. Blatche needs to take Flip Saunders advice and focus on the game and not Garnett’s words, ultimately by winning the game that would have been much more powerful than any words. However, what does that say about Garnett and the current status of his game? He could not physically outperform Blatche, so he had to resort to mental games. Some will argue that that is a tool in the bag of a wily vet. I would argue that it is like the glass encased extinguisher – break only in case of emergency. KG’s emergency was he was getting embarrassed on national television, so he went to his only trick he had left – trying to get into Blatche’s head. This time it worked, however, if Blatche accepts Saunder’s advice, that tactic should not be effective in the future.