I hate writing these ones.
There’s a lot to say, but not all that much bad. We played a good game, but we lost. We shot the ball well for the most part, but our offense went ice cold in the final five minutes. Our defense seemed to do just enough to win it, but in the end it came down to poor ball-handling and turnovers.
Let’s start at the top. I thought the starting five played well. It’s nice to be able to mix and match starting lineups to counter other teams (even if we didn’t force the other team to match up to us). Aziz N’Diaye played probably the best I’ve ever seen him play against a team from a power conference. 11 boards, 5 on the offensive glass to give us some second-chance points, and not a whole lot of mistakes when he had the ball in his hands. I literally couldn’t have asked for anything more out of him.
Our outside shooting was off-the-charts good for the whole game. 10 of 19 from three, with a good mix from all of our primary shooters. Ross had the biggest impact in the first half, ending the game 3 of 5 from outside; Wilcox took over for a stretch in the second half, also ending 3 of 5. Gant and Suggs also were effective with their wide open jumpers, ending a combined 4 of 7. That’s as balanced as anyone could’ve hoped for. In the end, I actually wish that we would’ve taken MORE threes, especially in the last five minutes.
Unfortunately, the lone black sheep of our main shooters was Isaiah Thomas. He couldn’t hit much of anything outside of the paint, ending his day only 5 of 15 (0 for 2 from behind the arc) for just 12 points. That’s not to say IT was totally ineffective, he did have 8 assists and once it was determined his shot was off, he didn’t try to force too many long range jumpers in the second half. And in spite of his woes, I wish he would’ve had a chance at the end to take the final shot.
Oh yeah, the end. What a clusterfuck! We get a huge 3 from Suggs to bring it to within 1 with under 20 seconds remaining, their foul shooter misses the front end of the 1-and-1, and all hell breaks loose. Overton got the ball and didn’t even THINK about giving it up for someone else’s open shot! He drove into the lane, where he was confronted with a double-team, and threw up a wild lay-up attempt that didn’t have a fucking prayer of going anywhere near the basket. Fortunately, he forced the ball out of bounds off the arm of a defender, giving us one final attempt with 7 seconds left.
After a timeout to draw up an inbounds play, we have the defining moment of our 2010-2011 season. Justin Holiday. I love the guy, but his game has been severely lacking the last month or so this season. Somewhere along the way, he lost all confidence in his jumpshot, so every time he’s had the ball in his hands he’s been tentative and looking to rid himself of the ball. Well, we put our season in his hands today, and that same tentativeness stuck with him. Just a sloppy, ugly example of inbounds passing. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to dump it into the post or launch it out near the arc, but he half-assed it, let it get tipped by the inbounds defender, and had it stolen for the clinching free throws. With under 6 seconds left, all we had was a wing and a prayer from Overton (again, without a whiff of a prayer of making it in).
After his 8th and final assist to Suggs to bring it to 1, IT never again touched the ball until a desperation foot-on-the-line heave with .5 to go. That can’t happen. IT needs to have the ball in his hands on the definitive plays. Overton never should’ve taken that outlet play to the rim. Holiday shouldn’t have been in charge of that inbounds pass. You HAVE to give your best ball-handler the ball in crunch time. Even if it’s to inbound it to someone who’s NOT him for the final shot. Inexcusable.
There was a lot to like about our effort and execution for most of this game today. There was a lot to like about our effort and execution all season long. But, in the end, it came down to effort and execution in the closing minutes of the ballgame. All season, this has been a problem for us. It’s fitting that’s the way it ends for us.