The big game aside for Kris Humphries last week, when he made a career-high five three-point shots, it could be time for Jared Dudley to make his way into the starting lineup as the "stretch" power forward. Or at the very least, play more minutes off the bench.
Humphries didn't score in 17 minutes Saturday (only four in the second half), missing all seven shots. When the Wizards (6-4) erased an 11-point deficit in the third quarter, they did it with Dudley on the floor (16 minutes in second half).
Good things tend to happen when he's out there -- much like fellow reserves Nene and Garrett Temple -- despite a modest stat line of nine points on 3 of 4 shooting, one rebound and one steal in 27 minutes. He makes the right rotations on defense, the right reads on where to go with the ball and the proper box-outs to clear the path of a teammate to get the ball.
After a bad pass from Dudley to Marcin Gortat led to a three-pointer for Ersan Ilyasova for a 13-0 run and a 69-58 lead for Detroit, everything changed.
Alongside Nene, Ramon Sessions, Temple and Otto Porter, Dudley has returned from lower back surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back in July. He's averaging 21.7 minutes, but given how effective he continues to be late in games he may be a reserve in name only:
- Dudley sets a screen on Reggie Jackson, pops outside the arc and buried a three over Ilyasova.
- On the next possession, switches off Ilyasova, who set a back screen on Porter, and set up in front of the rim to stop Andre Drummond's roll to the basket after he'd set a screen on Sessions. It prevented a clean catch and finish by the Pistons' center who was held six rebounds under his season average. Ilyasova instead turned over the ball.
- Down 73-66, Porter missed on a drive to the basket. Drummond grabbed the rebound and tried to make a long outlet to Jackson. Dudley, with his back to Drummond and running back on defense, looked up at the last second and deflected it. Before the ball bounced out, Dudley dove into the scorer's table to tap it back to Sessions who stepped into an open three-point shot. The deficit was down to 73-69.
- Stanley Johnson's three rimmed out, and Dudley was right there to box out Anthony Tolliver and keep him off the glass. Dudley didn't get the ball, but it allowed Nene to get the rebound.
- Anticipating that Johnson was going to attack Sessions off the dribble as Tolliver tried to set a high screen, Dudley didn't hesitate to show over the top. He immediately jumped out to force Johnson to retreat on two occasions to take away Detroit's advantage to advance the ball. The edge Johnson had on Sessions is negated.
- Sessions passes it across the floor as he brings the ball up the floor to Dudley, who blows by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for the layup and just as important, draw Drummond's fourth foul. He hit the foul shot to complete the three-point play for a 74-73 lead for Washington.
- Spencer Dinwiddie brings the ball up and Tolliver tries to set a screen on Porter. Dudley, again, comes up quickly before any pick can be set to step the progress of the ball as he uses the sideline as an extra defender. When Dinwiddie backs out the ball -- and Dudley runs over to relocate Tolliver at the top of the key -- he tries to go forward down the sideline again. This time, Nene's man Aron Baynes tries to set the screen. Nene traps the ball on the sideline with Porter. It forces a skip pass to the weakside and a turnover by Detroit. Dudley won't get credit in a boxscore for this either, but his energy put this sequence in motion.
The Wizards entered the fourth quarter ahead 75-73 and would win their third game in a row. Dudley seems more comfortable than Humphries especially on the defensive end, but based on coach Randy Wittman's history it's unlikely he'd make a change anytime soon with the results being favorable.
The chemistry of the second unit is there and moving Humphries to it probably wouldn't work as well with Nene. What could be more likely is if Humphries doesn't have it going like when he scored a season-high 23 points Nov. 14, Dudley will earn a greater share of the minutes.
Drew Gooden is out of the rotation as a result of Dudley just as Temple's play has chewed into time originally slated for Gary Neal. The Wizards have options and a degree of unpredictability that will increase with Alan Anderson's eventual return. If a particular lineup or matchup isn't working, the ability to change and get results is the key to winning over 82 games.
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