Antawn Jamison had every reason to be giddy, but he wasn’t.
His Washington Wizards (1-1) had just opened their home season with a 124-117 win over the Boston Celtics. Jamison, who scored 29 points, combined with Gilbert Arenas (44) and Caron Butler (20) to score 93 points, more points than eight other teams who played Saturday.
But despite the win, Jamison couldn’t forget the glaring weaknesses that have popped up for the Wizards, who play at Orlando tonight.
For the second straight game, they were mauled on the glass — outrebounded 43-28 by the Celtics, just two days after the Cavaliers held a 50-33 advantage. Jamison knows that offense — like the 40 points the Wizards scored in the third quarter Saturday on 16-for-25 shooting — won’t be a problem for them on most nights.
But the area of concern was that the Celtics often had inexcusably easy, undefended shots that enabled them to stay within striking distance until late in the game.
“Offensively, we can have a bad night and still score 100,” Jamison said. “But what is going to happen on those nights when we’re not even close to that? There are going to be those nights when the ball is just not going, and we’ve got to show a sense of urgency to get rebounds and to defend. We haven’t done that yet.”
One thing that has contributed to the Wizards’ poor rebounding — though it is not entirely responsible — has been coach Eddie Jordan’s decision to go with a small lineup.
But going small often causes some mismatches. For instance, in Cleveland 6-foot-7 Jarvis Hayes sometimes matched up with 6-10 Drew Gooden. On Saturday, 6-4 reserve guard Antonio Daniels had to attempt to box out Boston’s 6-8 Ryan Gomes.
So what the Wizards are doing, at least strategically, is committing to an up-tempo game above all else, which to some degree accounts for the rebounding deficiencies and higher shooting percentages for their opponents.
“When you play small ball, sometimes you have to give some things up,” said Daniels, who added 15 points and four assists in the Wizards’ win. “So you have to work harder at helping each other out. It’s going to have to be a conscious effort for everybody.”
The Wizards have compensated by continuing to do some of the things that have become trademarks under Jordan.
For instance, while Boston dominated on the glass, the Wizards used their speed and quickness to make 11 steals compared to the Celtics’ one. The Wizards converted 20 turnovers into 29 points, while committing just 10 turnovers.
“I think if you look at what has been the winning formula for us even when we have been beaten on the boards is that we force a lot of turnovers and we get steals,” Jordan said. “A turnover is crucial because you get possession and you take away a shot attempt.
“But what I don’t like are the easy layups we’re giving up. I don’t like for people to outwork us on the boards. I love scoring and offense, but I just don’t like that so far we have been outworked and scored on easily.”
Jamison and his teammates want to resolve those problems sooner rather than later. He admitted even he has not rebounded with the same intensity that he demonstrated in the past.