The Wizards headed into the All-Star break with a close loss in Charlotte on Tuesday, ultimately thanks to a tough game-winning shot by Raymond Felton that put the Bobcats up 94-92 with 1.6 seconds left. Losing should come as no surprise. After all, the Wizards are 17-33. But hey, commend the team for appearing to try and for playing a decent Charlotte team down to the wire on their home court, where they are now 19-6.
The Wizards did some good things in the game. But since it was a loss, it’s probably more telling to concentrate on the bad things they did, which, when added up, contributed more to them losing than any of the good things contributed to them coming close to winning … if any of that makes sense. Hence, let’s take a look as some stories and screen shots highlighting instances where things went wrong.
A Butler That Is A Matador
Whether you play in the NBA or just at your local court, when you get the ball stolen from you, your pride is hurt. And you want to redeem yourself. Some don’t even try and simply commit a frustration foul. Some gamble like a hero for an almost unattainable steal. Some just bite the bullet and play good defense, knowing their time for redemption will come with hard work.
Caron Butler, against the Bobcats, chose another route. After casually dangling the ball in front of Gerald Wallace on offense, with something in his usual repertoire of unproductive hesitation and fake moves, Caron got the ball ripped from him (first frame below). He then backpedaled in the opposite direction, readying himself to defend Wallace.
As the pictures show, instead of moving his feet to cut off Wallace (Mike Miller’s help defense wasn’t much to speak of either), Butler opts for the prototypical matador-style defense. Not something the team he is ultimately traded too will want to see in the future.
Knowing Your Teammates
Here, Butler gets the ball in the corner, one of his “iso” spots, with 15 seconds on the shot clock. Three other Wizards are in the picture: Miller, Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison.
Caron plays with the ball, as he is apt to do, for around three seconds and then goes into his jump shooting motion. Miller and Jamison have already exited stage left.
As Butler’s shot gets closer to the rim, and as Haywood begins to backpedal on defense, it’s easy to conclude that when Caron first got the ball, the offensive play for his teammates was over.
Maybe the plan was to get Butler an isolation at the three-point line in the first place. The guy is a primary shot taker, so you gotta pacify him every once in a while … I suppose.
And maybe the plan was to be less aggressive on the offensive boards and get back on defense, limiting an athletic team like the Bobcats a chance to get out in transition, even though Charlotte is ranked 28th in the NBA in pace.
Still, it seems like a strange, wasted possession for the Wizards to just resign themselves to watching a guy, who makes just 0.5 threes per game at a clip of 26.3%, take a semi-contested isolation shot.
Point guard Earl Boykins is looking to the left. He has the ball ready to initiate the offense for Flip Saunders. On the left side, where Earl is looking, Antawn Jamison is setting an off-ball screen for Nick Young who is curling around toward the ball.
Point guard Earl Boykins is looking to the left. Young is breaking into his curl, but looks to be a decoy, or not an option on this play. Young doesn’t really have his hands up, ready to receive the ball.
Point guard Earl Boykins is still looking to the left. And as Jamison pops open after setting a screen, Boykins looks to pass the ball to him. Reading Boykins’ eyes and seeing the play develop, Flip Murray jumps into the passing lane and gets an easy steal. The Bobcats get an easy transition bucket. Maybe it’s better if Earl just dribbles frantically around the court, confusing all nine other players.
Is Mike Miller A Ghost?
At this point of his career, Nick Young’s decision making should be better. He has some natural scoring instinct that you just can’t teach. But when it comes to using his offensive skills to create for others, or simply just recognizing an open man, let’s say, the guy on the team shooting 53.8% from three-point land (White Mike Miller), Nick just doesn’t have what it takes.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Here, Young has just received a cross-court pass from Foye. Getting the ball popping and moving has been an issue all year with the Wizards and this instance is no exception. Nick seems to be staring right in the direction of the unseen Miller, who sits in the far right corner, spotting up with his hands ready to shoot.
Notice how all five Bobcats are in the picture. The guy who looks to be responsible for picking up Miller, Gerald Wallace, has barely taken a step into the lane toward Miller. He is far away from the Wizards’ best shooter. Charlotte coach Larry Brown can’t be happy. Time for Nick to immediately get that ball out of his hands and into the ready hands of Miller, right?
Even young JaVale McGee, in the above picture, is trying to help Nick by pointing to Miller in the corner. But White Mike is a ghost to Nick.
Young doesn’t see him, he hesitates. Who knows what the thought process is in his California state of mind, but by the time we get to the screen-shot below a second later, Young is looking in the other direction, and the window of Miller’s openness has quickly closed.
The possession ends with Nick driving to the hoop and taking some wild, right-handed scoop shot, and missing.
Nick Young ghosting Mike Miller Example 2:
Boykins swings the ball to Young. Notice how 20 seconds has barely passed since the previously mentioned possession. Nick squares up to the basket. This is a good thing, until …
Young throws a pump-fake and Stephen Jackson comes charging at him, even committing himself to jumping in the air. The wide-openness of Miller in the corner, once again, becomes an obvious affair. Instead of making a more immediate decision and moving the ball quickly to Miller, Young puts the ball on the floor and makes a move to the left.
After dribbling into the other defender, Nick decides that he sees the open Miller … but he jumps to pass, an action which is nightmare fuel for Flip Saunders, and gets stripped of the ball by Flip Murray. Jackson would convert the fast-break points in the other direction.
Young checked out at the 6:05 mark of the second quarter and wouldn’t see the court again.
Anatomy of a Bad Defensive Possession
After a missed DeShawn Stevenson three-pointer (don’t ask), Caron Butler hangs back to go for a steal … because that’s what he does. Nothing wrong with the occasional gamble, but when it doesn’t work out …
Getting back on defense, because of his gamble, Caron finds himself switched onto the Bobcats’ point guard, D.J. Augustin. Brendan Haywood points to Randy Foye, communicating that he should pick up with Gerald Wallace. Mis-matches are usually where trouble begins.
Evidently, via a Tweet of the WaPost’s Michael Lee, this is where Flip Saunders yelled for a switch. Whether it was for a switch between Foye and Miller, who looks to want to help, or between Foye and DeShawn Stevenson, who looks to hesitate toward middle help, is something we may never know. It’s moot now anyway.
Surely the Bobcats want to take advantage of Foye on Wallace. Initially one pass away, Miller can’t leave Stephen Jackson alone in the left corner. And once the ball begins to be reversed, as it is here, Stevenson must go out to cover Flip Murray on the right wing.
When the ball is finally reversed to Murray, Miller and Foye have ineffectively communicated their intent to each other. They have both gone to guard Wallace, who has moved ball-side to the right block as a post threat. This leaves Jackson wide open in the far left corner.
The ball finds its way to Jackson, who ultimately nails the three as Miller fruitlessly heads over to cover. The entire team is to blame for this poor defensive possession, from a player forcing unnecessary defensive switches with an initial gamble to bad communication.
Fleeting Awareness in Olde Age
Gerald Wallace comes to set a ball screen on Randy Foye for Raymond Felton.
Wallace comes off the screen and dives toward the basket. Andray Blatche does the right thing and goes to pick him up. Foye gets through the screen to Felton. Now, it’s Jamison’s turn to rotate to Blatche’s man, Boris Diaw. And from the picture below, it looks like Antawn sees his defensive assignment target.
But then Jamison seems to freeze, erect with his hands at his side, as Diaw starts to cut to the open, vulnerable space in the defense.
Diaw receives the pass from Felton and takes the opportunity to score. Reports regarding the Wizards’ help defense weren’t exactly glowing in this instance, but c’mon Antwan, how about some awareness?