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Defense Is The Key To The Wizards Wins and Losses

Matthew Brown@mlb923Correspondent INovember 29, 2009

DALLAS - OCTOBER 27:  Gilbert Arenas #0 of the Washington Wizards on October 27, 2009 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards were poised to mount their first three-game win streak since April of 2008. Instead, they were treated to a 12-point loss at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats, where they scored more than 20 points in only one quarter of play.

The 92-78 loss doesn't just drop the Wizards to 5-10 on the season, but highlights the broad scope of problems facing the team.

On a team that has always had defensive deficiencies, the offense isn't good enough to consistently keep the Wizards in games.

Through 15 games, the Wizards have given up 100 points or more in nine different games. They only won two of those games. The Wizards have been held under 100 points in nine different games, winning just one of those games.

To make matters worse, the Wizards have been held to 90 points or less in eight different games, all losses.

The Wizards were supposed to be the surprise team in the Eastern Conference this season, but have shown little in terms of living up to that billing.

The statistics jump out as being surprisingly bad by Wizards standards. Washington's defense in the bottom eight in the league in total rebounds (612), defensive rebounds (433), and steals (87).

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On offense, they are also in the bottom eight for field goals made (503) and attempted (1147), as well as field goal percentage (43.9) and free throws made (271).

It is interesting that the Wizards rank in the top 10 in rebounds per game, due to their above average offensive rebounding numbers. But if they're getting decent production on the offensive glass, why can't they score?

The Wizards are among the worst in the league in assists and assists per game totals. The highest assist to turnover ration in the NBA is 1.7 by the Boston Celtics. The Wizards stand at 1.4 assists per turnover, which plants them in the bottom half of the league.

So how can the Wizards fix their statistical shortcomings? The answer is not so easy.

With nearly every key player active, the Wizards have few excuses as to why they aren't winning with regularity. It is easy to point to Gilbert Arenas' poor shooting, the drop-off in bench play or the inconsistency shown by Caron Butler, the disappearance of Andray Blatche, or the worthlessness of DeShawn Stevenson.

But there is more to the problem than individual inefficiency. The Wizards simply aren't playing like a team.

It is the first season under coach Flip Saunders, and his style of play is a big change from former head coach Eddie Jordan's approach to the game. Saunders' game plan depends on some level of defensive efficiency and a facilitator at point guard, among other things.

The Wizards do not have much on the defensive end. Arenas has been playing out of position since Eddie Jordan decided to move him from shooting guard to the point.

The logical solution is to adjust the line-ups a bit to allow players to get the most out of their time. However, egos and entitlement look to get in the way of that. Arenas expects big minutes every night because he feels he can win games night in and night out.

His sub-40 percent shooting percentage begs to differ.

It isn't a stretch to think that a roster shuffle could be in order for the Wizards. Randy Foye is capable of running the offense, and Arenas has said himself that he had to adjust his game upon his return. So why force him to pass when he is not a passer?

That raises the question of where Arenas actually fits in.

Arenas is a natural shooting guard, but doesn't have a shooter's eye. He has played at point guard for the better part of his career, but he is not a traditional passing point guard along the lines of Steve Nash or Rajon Rondo.

There are a few players that have managed to blend both scoring and passing, but they were natural point guards from the start. It is impossible to teach someone to shoot, and it is just as hard to tell a shooter to pass.

The Wizards are at the beginning of a long road to next season. It is hardly a foregone conclusion that they are not playoff contenders, but it has looked that way at times so far this season.

After the words from Arenas aimed at various teammates, and the passing of owner Abe Pollin, emotions and tensions are high.

The key for the Wizards will be using the emotions to come together as a team to right the ship that seems destined for a big wreck if things don't improve.

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