Key Legislature: Wizards 102 vs Mavericks 105: Information Overload Bluescreens Washington Defense | Wizards Blog Truth About

Key Legislature: Wizards 102 vs Mavericks 105: Information Overload Bluescreens Washington Defense

Updated: November 20, 2014

Truth About’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment for Washington Wizards contest No. 10 versus the Dallas Mavericks in the District, via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

Randy Wittman was mostly unhappy with the start of the third quarter in Washington’s close 105-102 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night, ever-so-slightly spoiling Bradley Beal’s season debut (he looked great nonetheless).

“We got to grow up from an emotional standpoint. We’re sometimes our worst enemy,” he led the first question of his post-game conference, providing his own answer. The coach went on to explain that individual players and his team together need to play through mistakes—turnovers, missed shots, and botched defensive assignments.

“We quit playing, we feel sorry for ourselves, we put our heads down—we did that a couple times tonight. It was evident the first 40 seconds of the third quarter.”

The coach seemed to be aiming some of his comments at John Wall in talking about two early-period turnovers. Wall owned up to the turnovers after the game, but that doesn’t make them any less of a brain fart. The first came on a move with four Mavericks back on defense and only Nene and Gortat amidst the fray. Wall tried to throw a chest pass to an awkwardly turned Nene on the move, but Monta Ellis was watching Wall’s eyes, deflected the attempt, got the steal, and Dallas went the other way, where Ellis hit a 3 thanks to Garrett Temple going under the screen for some wild reason. On the second turnover, Wall’s entry pass to Gortat was telegraphed, tipped by the 5-foot-something Jameer Nelson, and Dallas again got out in transition, where there was no communication on defense, especially between the big men. Tyson Chandler was allowed (mostly by Gortat) to roam the middle of the floor and Ellis found him for the easy dunk. That’s when the coach called timeout 59 seconds into the second half to “wake up” his team, according to him.

Nene had a slightly different view of the game, not focusing on the third quarter.

“They took advantage of our mistakes, they made the first six points. It’s what gave them confidence,” he said when specifically what happened to start the second half. “But at the end of the game, both teams had good momentum. The difference was the jumpshots of Dirk (Nowitzki) and (Jose) Barea. It was a tough, good defense, but they made the shots.”

Nowitzki had a quiet night and slow start—0-for-3 on field goals in the first quarter, 2-for-7 at halftime, 13 points on the night on 4-for-12 shooting. He almost made more noise by hobbling to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury with eight minutes left in the game. But he was back on the court by the 3:27 mark, setting screens to free Jose Barea for jumpers and hitting his own back-breaking 3-pointer to put Dallas up five points with 1:20 left. Ballgame.

Barea scored eight of his 14 points off the bench over a 76-second stretch after Nowitzki checked back in late in the game. The first came on a pull-up jumper amidst scrambling by both teams and defensive pressure by Washington. Tyson Chandler appeared to commit a backcourt violation by stepping on the halfcourt line under that pressure, but it wasn’t called by the referees.

Barea next hit a wide-open jumper from the right corner, a long 2, after Otto Porter and Kris Humphries botched a defensive assignment, which can be seen below. The referees will rarely call this action a moving screen on Nowitzki, so Porter must understand that he can’t get caught behind Dirk; it puts teammates in uncomfortable positions. So Humphries got caught in no-man’s land, perhaps hesitant to switch on Barea, and both players ended up on Nowitzki, leaving Barea open to give Dallas back the lead, 96-95, with 2:37 left.

Barea’s last field goal attempt came with two minutes left.
Nowitzki essentially set four screens for him with Bradley Beal and Nene guarding—the first led to the guard and the big name switching assignments, the second left to them switching back. Beal went under the third screen while Barea reversed the screen, with Dirk somewhere in between moving, never actually getting set, and resetting the screen. Beal tried his best to keep up, but ultimately this made shot was on him. The Mavericks went up four, 99-95 off that Barea 3.

Wittman was asked about the defensive switching after the game—too much for his taste or all part of the plan?

“At times we did. Again, we got away from what we wanted to do too many times. Sometimes you’re forced to switch, but then I think in the second quarter in particular we opted for the easy way out rather than staying with it. Then we got back to it. But again, we’ve got to learn to trust.”

John Wall provided more detail on Washington’s defensive intent against the league’s best offense.

“When you have Dirk Nowitzki in certain situation and they’re setting two or three screens in a row, it’s very tough to just keep trying to black it and black it*, so you have to switch, and that was part of our game plan. I think at times we just doubled when we were not supposed to, at the wrong time, and not keeping up with our game plan, and that gave J.J. Barea two wide-open shots.”

*attempting to direct the ball handler toward the sideline or away from a screen, sometimes known as “ICE”

Washington started the evening with good defensive intent. They forced Dallas into four turnovers, scored six points off those turnovers, and found themselves up 14-6 midway through the first quarter. The Wizards also limited the Mavericks to one-and-done offense; Dallas did not pick up its first offensive rebound until 2:15 was left in the period. However, Ellis, with 34 points on the night, scorched from the start. Temple had trouble guarding him early as did Beal when he checked in, bringing some attention to Washington’s continued lack of a quality perimeter defender who can make it hard on players like Ellis.

“Monta came out really hot the first quarter, but nobody else on their team touched the ball. I was fine with that, and we were controlling tempo, we were controlling the game,” said Wittman afterward. “We panicked a little bit because this guy’s scoring a lot, but I kept trying to tell them, ‘Stay with this.’ You look down, and you’re up five, Monta’s got 18 in the first quarter. I’ll take that.”

But as the case with very good teams, or even OK teams, and even just NBA teams, that didn’t last long. Lost in the loss, at least from the perspective of the Wizards, is that it was a damn good and entertaining game that included physical battles (Nene once threw a chicken wing at Dirk), thunderous dunks (Brandan Wright birthed and re-birthed Kevin Seraphin), athletically baffling blocks (Wall vs. Chandler Parsons), and nine players scoring in double-figures (five for Dallas, four for Washington, who also had two players score nine points each). This game is what a matchup between two top NBA teams looks like—new territory for Washington.

But since the Wizards lost and this blog covers them, we concentrate on what defined the loss. The final piece of the puzzle described above: Nowitzki’s 3-pointer that put Dallas decidedly up 102-97 with 80 seconds remaining. A spent Beal tried to keep up with Barea. Nene, perhaps because of that, perhaps because of game slippage, over-helped off of Nowitzki on a screen that Dirk set. And then Nene took a bad angle toward recovering to a fading Dirk beyond the wing 3-point line. Dirk played the future Hall of Fame hero, bad ankle and all.

Nene was asked about the team’s defensive game play, in particular the switching part:

“It was a lot of information to us, things we didn’t…. We’ve been doing different things all the games (so far). Because they have Dirk, to me he’s a different player in comparison to other players in this league. We tried to do a couple things unusual, but we will figure it out and we’ll be back for the next game.”

Just as Nene finished speaking in a relatively empty locker room, Assistant Coach Don Zierden walked by. Nene put his hand on his shoulder for some parting words, “Coach, too much information…” Their strategic and philosophical conversation trailed off into the night, part of figuring it out. Did Nene want the defensive assignments to be simplified? And is that even possible against a team like Dallas? To be hashed out via film session behind closed doors, likely.

Washington has a day off to do so before Cleveland, featuring the NBA’s fourth-best offense, comes to town on Friday in what will certainly be a very charged Verizon Center atmosphere. Another chance for the Wizards to emotionally grow up.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.