[D.C. Council: setting the scene, rating the starters, assessing the subs, providing the analysis, and catching anything that you may have missed. Unlike the real DC Council, everything here is on the table. Game No. 8, Washington Wizards vs. Utah Jazz; contributors: Sean Fagan and Kyle Weidie from the Verizon Center with John Converse Townsendfrom behind the T.V.]
No Wall, No Nene… Not an excuse.
Things are starting to feel familiar for the rookie Bradley Beal.
Beal finished with 6 points on 3-6 FGs
with 1 rebound and 2 turnovers in 13 minutes.
Stat of the Game: 26 offensive rebounds for Utah, 16 for the Wizards; 22 second-chance points for Utah, 12 for the Wizards.
Player of the Game: Jordan Crawford finished with 20 points, 8 assists and 2 turnovers, but Utah’s Al Jefferson finished with 21 points (17 in the 3rd quarter on 8-for-12 shooting) and 13 rebounds (4 offensive).
Saturday night’s showdown between the Utah Jazz and the Washington Wizards wasn’t pretty. It’d be fair to call it ugly—neither team shot better than 38 percent from the field—but it was close enough to be interesting. The Wizards were actually ahead by two at halftime, but by the fourth quarter, they had fallen behind their Western Conference foes, 67-69. A few minutes of unconvincing basketball and a TV timeout later, Randy Wittman threw A.J Price into the game for Shaun Livingston—and then it all fell apart.
The five-man unit of Price, Jordan Crawford, Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton, and Kevin Seraphin went scoreless for nearly four minutes; the Jazz scored six and increased their lead to 11. Wittman was forced to call a 20-second timeout. Same squad after the break; similar results. Cartier Martin would check into the game inside the last minute and hit a desperation 3-pointer, but that was too little too late. The Wizards dropped their eighth straight, 76-83.
After a promising first half, the Wizards were outscored in the paint 16-22 over the final 24 minutes. In the final six minutes of the game, the Wizards were outscored from all areas, 7-to-11. And with all the talk of free throws, the Wizards attempted just two in the final six minutes; the Jazz attempted 10. But it was Washington’s inability to rebound that cost them the victory. The five-man unit that finished the game was outrebounded, 3-16. All those second-chance opportunities helped the Utah Jazz finish with a bang.
No sign of Okafor (14 boards). No sign of Vesely (9). No sign of Booker (7). What does it all mean? It means that the Wizards are off to a franchise-worst 0-8 start for the second consecutive season. Only one other team in NBA history can say that. Memphis, 2001-2003.
Rating five Wizards starters & two key subs on a three-star scale.
Price had a nice little 8-2 run by himself in the third quarter when the Jazz guards decided to inexplicably stop squeezing him and let him take rhythm shots from behind the arc, or from 15-to-20 feet. The question is how long Price will be able to hold onto his job. Used sparingly, Shaun Livingston looked much more effective than Price, without knowing any of the sets. Livingston also creates matchup issues that allow the Wizards to post him up from time to time. It’s a moot point when John Wall comes back, but Price would be better served actively trying to facilitate the offense rather than getting his. In 31 minutes, Price tallied six points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals, and zero turnovers.
Jordan’s steez was rather understated on Saturday night, as was his play on the basketball court. Crawford continues to do what one basically expects out of him this season, which is play more within control while at the same time being allowed enough improv to launch the awkward fading 30-footer that magically goes in. On this night I saw less jazz improv and more math rock in Crawford’s game, which is a concern. Playing within the system is all well and good, but it hardly seems fair to give free reign to the Trevor Ariza Experience while muzzling the arguably most dynamic player you have on the team. Crawford finished with 20 points on 7-for-18 shooting (1-for-3 from deep, 5-for-5 from the FT line) with eight assists and just two turnovers.
Trevor Ariza knew exactly what to do against Utah’s big starting lineup, one that matched him up against Paul Millsap at the 3 spot. Two minutes in, Ariza opened the scoring with an easy drive to the left past Millsap; a minute later he drew a foul on Millsap with another drive. Before the Jazz knew it, they were down 11-0. But Utah fought back and finished the first quarter down just 17-15. Ariza finished the quarter with seven points, but on seven shots. Eventually Utah caught, changed their lineup (inserting Gordon Hayward at the 3 to start the second half), and Ariza’s 16 points on 14 shots in 16 first-half minutes turned into zero points and one missed shot in 18 second-half minutes. He did finish the game with nine rebounds and three assists. Ariza is trying, we think, so it’s hard to blame him for being the second-best scorer on an 0-8 team when he really should be the fourth or fifth banana on a decent team.
Jan Vesely starting for Trevor Booker was the surprise no one saw coming. And somehow, it worked. Vesely, along with Trevor Ariza, used his length and quick defensive activity to disrupt Utah’s starting frontcourt lineup of Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors (Vesely guarded favors). In 7.5 first-quarter minutes Vesely had three points, two rebounds, two blocks, and even a dump-down assist to Emeka Okafor as the Jazz thought he was going to pull the trigger on a free throw line jumper. Vesely missed the requisite free throw (1-for-2 on the night), and late in the first, he found himself on the bench after getting called for an illegal screen and then trying to take a charge from Hayward. Vesely set a legal screen but, being the bigger man, knocked Hayward to the floor and was called for a block.Vesely provided a spark, that’s for sure. But his ineptitude on offense epitomizes these Wizards. Early in the third, Vesely couldn’t take advantage of Randy Foye defending him in the post and passed the ball back out to the perimeter. Wittman curiously didn’t play Vesely in the fourth quarter when the Jazz pulled down nine of their 26 offensive rebounds. He finished with five points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks, two turnovers, and two fouls in 22 minutes.
We’re still waiting for Emeka Okafor’s first double-double, but he had another good night on the low block: eight points (0-for-4 on jumpers, though), three blocks, two assists, one steal, and a game-high 14 rebounds. Okafor established his presence early, holding the high-powered Al Jefferson scoreless while also grabbing five rebounds in the first quarter. Jefferson would finish the game with 21 points, but just 13 of those would come against Okafor, who challenged the Utah center at every opportunity—even blocking him twice.
Cartier Martin exploded for 14 points on six shots in Wednesday’s duel with the Mavericks, but the gunpowder must have gotten wet on the Wizards’ trip back east. Martin was 1-for-8 from the field, his lone make coming from 3-point land, in 15 minutes off the bench. He did bring the hustle, and picked up two steals and two rebounds to show for it, but nights like this won’t help his case for more playing time. “We don’t have any balance right now,” Wittman said after the game. “In a perfect world, I’d like eight or nine guys and play them every night—know when they’re coming in, who’s starting, who’s coming off the bench. I’m sometimes, right now, not knowing who’s going to play tonight, who’s up, who’s down.” Maybe those shots will fall next time.
In his Wizards homecoming, Livingston ran the offense the right way, without hurry, and looked comfortable using his 6-foot-7 frame in the post. His stat line doesn’t pop—four points, one rebound, one assist, and one steal in 17 minutes—but there are two reasons to like Livingston. On offense, he’s quick to initiate the transition game with well-placed outlet passes; the Wizards looked better on the run. On defense, his length lets him sag off perimeter players to protect the paint, but still recover to effectively contest jump shots. And as an on-ball defender, he makes sure his hands are always in a passing lane. Livingston is a work in progress, but if he can keep up, he has the potential to be disruptive.
Randy wittman went all mad scientist against the Jazz with a new starting lineup, and despite positive early returns, discarded it for something more conventional in the waning moments. Jan Vesely, who had been giving the Jazz fits all night with his spacing, remain stapled to the bench in the fourth. Bradley Beal was also exiled to the bench after getting stuffed by Derrick Favors. Wittman insists that he is going to keep trying new combinations until he finds something that works, but he is quickly running out of options. It’s too early in the year to turn to the Cartier Martins and Earl Barrons of the world, but too late to discipline underperforming vets. We are at the point where we might be seeing a revolving door at the 3 and 4, which does little for players’ understanding of their roles and further heightens the sense of uncertainty with a team that carries about with them the stench of failure.
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