Gilbert's Arena



Friday, April 21, 2006

Wizards-Cavs Preview

In preparation for recording The Basketball Jones Podcast I jotted down some answers to several warm-up questions that J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas sent me. I typed up my thoughts and fleshed them out a bit, and now they serve as the perfect preview for the upcoming Zards-Cavs series (starting Saturday at 3:30 on ABC).

> How do you think your team will play and how have they been playing?

As far as I’m concerned, the Zards played as well as they can to close out the season. You have to ignore the 5 games (all losses) without Caron. We can't win without our entire Big 3 in the line-up, because the rest of the team is just too deficient on the offensive end to make up for it. In our last 10 games with Butler healthy, we were 7-3. When we’re firing on all cylinders, we push the pace, attack the passing lanes on defense, and force an up-tempo game.

> Major issues plaguing/helping your team?

2 major things will motivate us against the Cavs:

1) King James and his hype machine. Gilbert loves to be the underdog, he wants respect, and the whole team will be playing with a chip on their shoulder as the media fawns over Lebron.

2) Larry Hughes. The common wisdom said that losing Larry Hughes would set this team back, but we're right back in the 5th spot. Hyper-competitive Arenas will want to show his buddy Hughes that he shouldn't have left, and Butler and Daniels will want to make a statement that they're more than just adequate replacements.

> Keys to the team's success?

Key #1: Keep Lebron on the perimeter. In our 3 victories over the Cavs, the biggest key has been that Lebron has stayed on the perimeter and shot jumpers. Whether it's playing off him and forcing him to hit from outside, or Haywood stepping up and forcibly protecting the rim, we need to prevent Lebron from getting easy buckets in the paint, and make the Cavs live and die by his often streaky jumpshot.

Key #2: Go small, play a transition game, and make it about guard play. The Cavs weakness all-season has been the play of guards like Eric Snow, Damon Jones, Sasha Pavlovic, and Flip Murray. Arenas, Daniels, and Butler have had their way with those guys. If we go small by sliding Jeffries to Center, like we did in our big win over Milwaukee this week, we can take Zydrunas Ilgauskas out of the game and put pressure on the Cavs guards to take care of the basketball. Even with Hughes healthy, that would be an advantage for the Wizards, as Hughes has always had a high turnover rate.

> Past playoff performance?

For the first time as a Bullards fan, I can actually say that playoff experience is on our side. We won a tough series as the 5 seed last year against Chicago, before taking our beatings (and hopefully learning some lessons) in the 2nd round against Miami.

2005 was the first playoff exposure for Gilbert, and he showed his mettle by burying the series winner in Chicago. Now it’s Gil’s 2nd time around, and he knows he can win a game at the buzzer in the playoffs. Can Lebron? While Gilbert goes into Eastern Conference Assassin mode during crunch time, will the 21-year-old be biting his finger nails?

The rest of our Big 3 should be ready for the playoff pressure as well. Caron has playoff experience from his days with the Wade/Odom/Butler Heat team, and Jamison's a grizzled playoff vet now thanks to his Dallas days.

In addition to the experience edge, the Zards should also have an edge in confidence. We’re a combined 6-1 against Cleveland and Detroit this season, so fear and intimidation will not be a factor.

> Your prediction?

Wizards in 6. We’ll go 3-0 at home, and 1-2 on the road. We’ll win the series in front of the home crowd on May 5th at Verizon Center.

And just for fun, here's the whole enchilada...

Round One:

Pistons over Bucks in 4
Heat over Bulls in 5
Nets over Pacers in 6
Wizards over Cavaliers in 6

Spurs over Kings in 7
Suns over Lakers in 5
Clippers over Nuggets in 6
Mavericks over Grizzlies in 4

Round Two:

Pistons over Wizards in 6
Heat over Nets in 6

Mavericks over Spurs in 7
Suns over Clippers in 6

Conference Finals:

Pistons over Heat in 6

Mavericks over Suns in 7

NBA Finals:

Pistons over Mavericks in 6

3 Comments:

  • I'll bite.

    Love the matchups for the Wizards.

    Z has been frustrated by Heywood in the past, including a pouty ejection in the first Washington game.

    But the key is Jeffries-LeBron match up. Jeffries' size frustrates Lebron -- in the second game in Cleveland, Lebron lit up the Wizards and Caron. They move Jeffries on him and he had a cold third and fourth quarter.

    On the other side, Cleveland's guards-- including Murray -- were awful all year on defense. So whether Hughes is in the flow for a playoff is a very big question. Is Hughes a good enough on the ball defender right now to play Caron or even Arenas? I don't think so, imho.

    Beyond that: well, you got Jamison getting his 20/10 and Arenas going crazy nuts twice.

    Oh, and Eddie Jordan wins one game with x's and o's over a rookie coach.

    Wizards in 6.

    By Anonymous Chris R, at 6:08 PM  

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