Augustin alters Wizards plan - for the better

Augustin alters Wizards plan - for the better
April 23, 2014, 1:15 am

D.J. Augustin is not a game plan player. Though solid enough for most of his six seasons, opposing teams didn't enter the arena thinking the key to victory involved clamping down on the modest performing point guard. Suspect with the Indiana Pacers last season, Augustin received his walking players from the Toronto Raptors in December.

Yet he was the one that forced Wizards coach Randy Wittman into altering his defensive plan late in Game 2. Sinking jumper after jumper, penetrating for production as needed, Augustin had a personal playoff-high 25 points and the Bulls up 87-80 with 5:39 remaining. John Wall couldn't stop him. Bradley Beal didn't have the solution. Professor Andre Miller certainly did not.

Turns out Wittman did: Put 6-foot-8 small forward Trevor Ariza on the 6-foot Augustin.

From there on, problem solved. With their one offensive threat silenced, the Bulls watched the Wizards run past them and then hang on for the 101-99 victory.

Augustin didn't score for the final 13:07 of regulation and overtime. From the point Wittman made the defensive switch with the agile Ariza re-entering the game, Augustin went 0 for 3 from the field. Before that, he shot 10 of 19 overall and 4 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Chicago made only one basket over the final 7:16 of regulation. After Ariza and Augustin matched up, the Bulls went 7:38 without a point until Kirk Hinrich's free throws with 1:15 left in the extra period. Washington led 101-95 with 42.6 seconds left and held on as Chicago nearly forced another overtime. The Bulls finished 2 of 9 in overtime.Augustin never attempted a shot.

Wittman might not have been able to make such a bold move against other teams, leaving Wall or Beal to defend a true 3-man. However Chicago deploys Jimmy Butler at small forward, a dynamic player, but one shoots less than 30 percent on 3's.

With his length and smarts, Ariza shut down Carmelo Anthony this season, stymied LeBron James at times and guarded wings efficiently all season. The upcoming free agent should certainly be an All-Defensive Team candidate.

The oddity is this didn't seem like a series for him to shine as a one-on-one defender. Chicago doesn't have a go-to scorer, certainly not at small forward.

Then Augustin started playing like a lottery pick, which he is, of course, having been selected ninth overall in 2008 by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Signed by the Bulls a few days after his release from Toronto, Augustin has become a Windy City savior, providing offense to the NBA's lowest scoring team. He's averaged 14.9 points in 61 games with Chicago, which would be his career-high for a season, while making 41 percent of his 3's. Augustin had 25 points in the Bulls' 96-78 win on April 5 in Washington.

Still, we're talking D.J. Augustin, a player seemingly everyone suggested Indiana must replace as its backup point guard. Once Toronto shook up its roster with the Rudy Gay trade, Greivis Vasquez supplanted Augustin in the Raptors' rotation, leading to the release.

Sometime a change of scenery - or system - will do a player good. With the Pacers, Augustin's role was that of distributor. With the Bulls, it's that off scorer.

Clearly, the latter agrees with him. However, defended by Trevor Ariza, who had eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 42 minutes, not so much.

Seriously, it's stunning that Augustin has become Chicago's main scorer and a player the Wizards must truly focus on.

More stunning then the Wizards heading back to Washington with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series? Nah, nothing right now is that shocking.