D.C. Council Game 49: Wizards 113 vs Cavaliers 115: Defensively Cavalier Toward .500 Basketball Nothingness
Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council: setting the scene, recapping key points, providing the analysis, evaluating players, and catching anything that you may have missed from the Washington Wizards. Game No. 49: Wizards vs Cavaliers; contributors: Sean Fagan and Kyle Weidie from the Verizon Center, and Adam McGinnis from D.C.’s Mt. Pleasant.
Washington Wizards 113 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 115
“We are not a good basketball team.” —Randy Wittman
“I don’t agree with that.” —Trevor Ariza
“I agree with Coach. It’s on us to execute the scheme.” —John Wall
“I can only speak for myself. But I come to play every night.” —Marcin Gortat
With those words, the heady days of .521 are put squarely in the rear view mirror and one is left with a Washington Wizards team that, if not in crisis, at least has to seriously be questioning what changes need to be made for the team to perform up to expectations and play with a level of consistency that does not leave fans shaking their heads in sheer exasperation. What is especially concerning for the Wizards and the coaching staff is that the past two days have been spent exhorting the team to not take the Cleveland Cavaliers lightly, that it was going to be a team playing with desperation due to an embarrassing loss to a four-man Lakers team and the subsequent firing of its GM. Instead, the Wizards proceeded to waltz onto the court, play completely without a “commitment to f*cking defense” and found themselves, in the words of Randy Wittman, “in a dogfight.”
“Dogfight” is too exciting a descriptor for what took place at the Verizon Center on Friday night—a majority of the Wizards morphed into the very worst visions of themselves. John Wall played well, but was prone to bouts of “hero ball” in the waning moments with the Wizards desperately attempting to claw their way back into the game. Nene and Gortat evidently applied Vaseline to their hands prior to the game, as rebounds squirted out of their mitts and bounced into the waiting arms of Alonzo Gee. Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin were at their preseason best. One could keep naming mistakes and mental errors but to focus on the game actually obscures the larger issue at hand. As Randy Wittman stated in his postgame soliloquy, this is not the first or second time that this has happened, but “the eighth or ninth.” Showing up not ready to play once or twice a season is just NBA basketball, but eight or nine times reveals something unsavory about the character of your team and perhaps the ability of the men in charge to lead it to the next level of play.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
Sublime John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving Under Muted Tones of Defense.
John Wall makes his team go. For a No. 1 overall pick to arrive is closer to the norm, but can you finally believe he’s done it? Wall put up 32 points, aided by 12 free throw attempts (two misses, which he was down on himself about in the locker room after the game, especially in comparison to Kyrie Irving’s 13-for-13 effort from the line). Wall also dropped 10 dimes to three turnovers; Irving had 12 dimes to four turnovers.
While Irving is the true
wizard with the basketball—his handles are careless but can delicately tight-rope a simple ply of hardwood, rocking a gold watch like a hypnotist—Wall’s handle is more about power and change of direction. Although, in recent months, Wall has fancied himself a side-to-side crossover dribbler, achieving no direction until a sudden dart to orange metal.
John Wall has earned the right to… What? (Kyrie Irving, we’re not concerned with his right to do whatever in Cleveland.)
Wall has found himself with the right to make possessions his own. Maybe it’s in his contract that toward the end of quarters, he can just do what he wants instead of run the offense. For instance, at the end of the first quarter, he used most of the shot clock—didn’t pass, only dribbled—before firing a step-back, 22-foot jumper against Matthew Dellavedova with five seconds on the shot clock and 14 seconds left on the game clock. It was a poor attempt.
But Wall has earned the right to have possessions all of his own, especially since he is so great at sharing with teammates and creating extra possession. You just wish that Wall would develop the discipline to get that same one-on-one shot off a screen, where he has more options depending on the defense, and you wish that he would work hard to make that 22-footer a 17-footer—if he’s going to shoot, that is.
Wall has done a better job over the course of this season in knowing when to attack the basket (he settled for more jumpers earlier in the schedule), you just hope he starts to see more of “his” possessions as potential difference-makers so that he sets up himself, and his team, with something better.
—Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
The shame booth has been enlarged this year to include the entire bench, but after Friday night it only needs enough room for the dynamic duo of Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza. Beal earns his shame spot due to reverting once again to settling for long 2s and dogging it on the defensive end. While it was the not Beal’s worst performance of the season, it was certainly the most depressing, as his recent play against the Western Conference’s best teams had given many hope that Beal had forsworn his aversion to contact and had become a truly deadly offensive weapon. Instead, there was a succession of lazy shots that disrupted the Wizards momentum and a consistent refusal to wait for a better look. It’s a strange regressive trend that continues with Beal as his shift in “play style” seems to wildly shift from a purely personal level and is not due to the defensive sets of the opposition.
Ariza earns his ignominy for allowing Dion Waiters, the shot-jacking-est of the shot jacky Cavaliers, to start the night the night 10-for-11 from the the field and for being used as a shooting dummy for the man who had the temerity to call out the untouchable Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. On a night full of baffling decisions by many Wizards, Ariza’s porous defense, refusal to swing the ball quickly, and general passivity put the Wizards in desperate straits.
—Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)
Martell Webster. Cleveland shot at a 60 percent clip for most of the game and only Webster’s hot shooting kept the Wizards in it. Martell knocked down four 3-pointers in the first half and finished the game with six makes from downtown. He was the lone Wiz bench player that actually did positive stuff for Washington. This is the type of sharp-shooting marksmanship that Washington had in mind when they extended the Seattle-native last summer.
—Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)
That session was … extremely disappointing.
The Cavaliers, whose season has ben a complete mess, were coming off one of their most embarrassing losses in decades, getting beat by a team that ran out of players. Cleveland responded to the national mockery by firing their general manager on Thursday. Washington followed up a decent road trip by throttling the Thunder, handling the Blazers, and taking the Spurs to two overtimes on this current four-game home stand. Much of the goodwill that the Wizards had built
by racking up wins over the Western Conference’s elite was spoiled by a poor home outing versus the lowly Cavs.
Washington’s defense wasn’t too bad in the first half and the Cavs were just making ridiculous shots. But the Wizards never imposed their will and were unable to come up with key stops as the Cavs controlled most of the game, building a double-digit lead throughout most of the second half. The Wizards made a futile late rally, but they never deserved to win this game.
This loss especially stings because John Wall should be starting over Kyrie Irving in the All-Star game, and Irving was selected over Wall for the USA Men’s Olympics team. Irving has now toppled Wall twice in Washington, D.C., this season. While that might make David Falk happy, it unfortunately reinforces the idea that Kyrie is clearly better than the Wizards point guard, which hasn’t been the case this season. The biggest reality-check takeaway: the Wizards are just an average NBA team, as good teams don’t play down to the competition.
—Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)
Full Randy, in the raw, is raw…
It’s all about John Wall, anyway.
4 out of 5 stars
39 mins | plus-10 | 32 pts | 10-19 FGs | 2-4 3Ps | 10-12 FTs | 5 rebs | 10 asts | 2 stls | 3 TOs
We critique Wall more because he is by far Washington’s best player at this point, and when someone operates at Wall’s usage levels (team-high 27.7%), possessions in his control that don’t turn out as ideal stand out. Wall’s shot chart is posted above, and prior in the Council we discussed his ability to hijack possessions, which is OK sometimes. But out of his 19 attempts against Cleveland, two were missed layups and four jump shots were settled-for attempts that did little to keep the defense honest. If Wall just sinks half of these six shots, he goes 13-for-19 and the Wizards probably win the game. —K. Weidie
0.5 out of 5 stars
34 mins | minus-9 | 9 pts | 4-15 FGs | 1-1 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 1 reb | 5 asts | 1 stl | 2 TOs
Not all Bradley Beal long 2-pointers are bad shots. He’s certainly capable of hitting them with balance and space, and some of his closer midrange shots can be money makes. Unfortunately, Beal settles for what he sees much too often. Re-watching his 15 shots on Saturday, I counted seven times where Beal just accepted his fate of an inefficient shot under a false sense of confidence. Making matters worse: when Beal does miss some of his poor shots, he tends to not follow his miss, hang his head, and
jog back on defense. And thus these are the hard-to-watch parts of watching talented kids try to grow up. Beal’s last miss of the night was a relatively wide-open layup that would’ve brought the Wizards within five points with 3:17 left. —K. Weidie
3.5 out of 5 stars
38 mins | plus-14 | 14 pts | 5-9 FGs | 2-5 3Ps | 2-2 FTs | 6 rebs | 3 asts | 3 stls | 2 TOs
Ariza finished with a team-high plus/minus rating and did a serviceable job on offense. His commendable defense could not slow down Cleveland’s perimeter players, however. Ariza alluded to Washington’s issues in his post game comments:
“Tonight, personally, I just don’t feel like we gave 100 percent. We were lackadaisical out there and that’s why we lost. I feel like it was one of those nights where I think it just wasn’t a good night for us defensively. We shot the ball pretty well, but on the other end we slacked off and we can’t do that. We’re not a team that can do that.”
3 out of 5 stars
34 mins | plus-9 | 13 pts | 6-1o FGs | 1-4 FTs | 8 rebs | 5 asts | 4 stls | 2 TOs
Normally, Nene’s pouty faces and constant carping at the officials earn an eye roll from those who pay good money to see a full Il Divo performance that includes a complimentary ice bucket at the end of the game. Nene’s exasperation on Friday night could be somewhat defended, as the referees made a series of questionable calls against the Wizards that took the fans in attendance completely out of the game. However, what can not be defended are Nene’s continued travails from the free throw, as his misses mark the difference between a win and a loss. —S. Fagan
3 out of 5 stars
34 mins | plus-9 | 19 pts | 9-12 FGs | 1-2FTs | 8 rebs | 1 ast | 2 bks | 3 TOs
The Polish Machine started game with a slam and was active early. His rolls after setting screens got him many shots at the rim. He was also able to knock down a few open jumpers. His stat line looks great, but his soft defense at the rim cost the Wizards. —A. McGinnis
3.5 out of 5 stars
24 mins | minus-9 | 18 pts | 6-10 FGs | 6-10 3Ps | 2 rebs | 3 PFs
It was nice to see Martell Webster back on track from beyond the arc, going 6-for-10 on the evening. In 27 games in 2013, Webster was shooting 41.3 percent from beyond the arc, averaging 3.5 made 3s per 48 minutes. In 2014 games prior to the Cavs game, his production had dipped slightly—38.2 percent and 3.1 makes per 48 minutes. And in particular, in the previous eight games before Cleveland, Webster was shooting just 30.2 percent from deep at 2.7 makes per 48 minutes. Now if his defense could only improve. An average defender last season, Webster’s defense has taken a step back this season, and on some nights, that might keep him off the court more than on. After he took all his shots from deep on Saturday, he didn’t do much else in the stat book. —K. Weidie
1 out of 5 stars
9 mins | minus-13 | 0 pts | 0-2 FGs | 0-0 3Ps | 0-0 FTs | 0 rebs | 2 asts | 1 bks | 0 TOs
Temple has been playing much better lately and as a result, the Wizards second unit had shown some extra grit over the past few weeks. Temple’s hot play did not continue on Friday night and the Wizards reserves struggled. —A. McGinnis
0 out of 5 stars
14 mins | minus-10 | 7 pts | 3-5 FGs | 1-1 FTs | 4 rebs | 2 asts | 1 TO
Welcome back to the doghouse, #KSLife. Your decision to go “full JaVale” and try a hook shot over Tyler Zeller from 17 feet got you not only the quick hook from Randy Wittman but a demonstrative chewing out as well. —S. Fagan
N/A out of 5 stars
8 mins | minus-4 | 0 pts | 0-1 FGs | 1 ast | 1 PF
Eight minutes of unremarkable time, no rebounds and one missed shot. Trevor Booker either spat in someone’s coffee or simply was not ready for this game. As such, a player who has been averaging over 20 minutes was inexplicably stapled to the bench for the majority of the game. —S. Fagan
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