Opening Statements: Wizards at Pelicans, Game 34 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Pelicans, Game 34

Updated: January 5, 2015



Washington will conclude its five-game road trip tonight in New Orleans, also wrapping up the season series against the Pelicans. The Wizards escaped Anthony Davis’ team with a three-point win, 83-80, in the District on November 29. Davis dazzled with 30 points as Washington’s offense struggled to score points—83 is still the Wizards’ lowest output of the season.

The Wizards average 93.6 possessions per 48 minutes on the season, per Basketball Reference, which ranks 15th in the NBA and just below league average. But on that night, they logged just 84 possessions, suggesting that the Pelicans were successful in slowing John Wall’s team down that night, or that the Wizards simply bogged themselves down in quicksand. Only the San Antonio Spurs have held the Wizards to fewer possessions (an estimated 83 on Saturday night).

Also, Washington’s Offensive Rating (98.7 points per 100 possessions average) was their eighth-lowest output of the season.

Marcin Gortat has been in a rut lately, and if you are accusing Washington’s big men of settling for jump shots, as team owner Ted Leonsis has on his blog, then the Polish big man probably leads the way. Actually, let’s not forget Nene.

Chart, please:

Player % of FGAs
(10-16 ft)
(10-16 ft)
% of FGAs
(16 < 3pt)
(16 < 3pt)
Nene 22.8% 40.4% 24.1% 43.6%
Gortat 21.2% 42.9% 6.4% 33.3%
Humphries 19.1% 48.9% 37.3% 46.6%


While Nene and Gortat ‘can’ shoot, they settle for jump shots away from the basket way too often. I suspect Nene does so in a vain attempt to save his body from the pounding that takes place near the basket, and that Gortat does so because he doesn’t get the ball enough on the move and feels that he needs to ‘get his’ when he can on offense. This is not a scathing indictment of either player, as they make an impact near the basket in other ways, but rather an overall indictment of Washington’s offense and how players are being used. Humphries is probably the only big man who should be in the business of taking so many jump shots as a portion of his overall field goal attempts—he’s supposed to be a stretch 4 and does not have much of a back-to-the-basket game.

That last time versus New Orleans, Gortat led the way for Washington with 24 points, 10 of those coming in the first quarter and 10 in the third quarter—such was the focus of that game’s Key Legislature. Sixteen (16) of Gortat’s 20 field goal attempts came in the paint (9 FGMs) and seven came in the restricted area (4 FGMs). Only four attempts came beyond the paint and in the midrange, where Gortat shot 3-for-4. Nene did not play that evening due to plantar fasciitis.

Gortat went at the rim with intent that evening, as if he cared not for white walls, or embarrassment. His play as of late has been on the contrary, but an effort tonight where he puts Anthony Davis on his heels would go a long way for both him and his team. It remains to see if Gortat can operate in such a manner while on the court with Nene, when the court tends to be more clogged, and, perhaps ironically, both players eschew the paint and settle for long distance relationships with the rim.

Back to this road trip…

It’s been often said that the last game of a long road trip before coming home is a trap game, regardless of the caliber of opponent. At least I think such is often said. Maybe it’s just something you assume coaches lay at feet of media by default. It’s all a Wizards haze.

I looked at all the stretches over the previous 10 seasons (2004-05 thru 2013-14) when the Wizards played four or more consecutive games on the road. There have been 23 such instances—13 of the four-game variety, eight of the five-game variety, and two of the six-game variety.

Not surprisingly, Washington has a cumulative 36-68 record (.346) on these stretches. They have “won” a stretch three times, finished .500 three times, and have been swept three times (losing on their road trips 17 total times). The Wizards are 7-16 (.304) on the very last game of each of these trips.

Washington will be an overall loser once again due to tough, and telling, losses versus Dallas, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio. But a win could give them a boost before returning home to play the Knicks, as well as facing off against the Bulls (twice), Hawks, and Spurs within the next eight days (one Chicago game and the Atlanta game on the road). The Wizards will face two more four-game road trips this season.

Stopping by TAI today is an old friend of the site, Dr. Jason Calmes, from the Pelicans blog Bourbon Street Shots (@BourbonStShots). Jason gives a quick glimpse of how the birds have recently flown.

Teams: Wizards at Pelicans
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
Television: CSN/NBATV
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WTEM-FM 99.1
Spread: Pelicans favored by 2.5 points.

Q #1: Since mid-December New Orleans has beaten Houston twice, and once each San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Phoenix.

Losses have also come to the Trail Blazers (by 26), Pacers (12), Bulls (7), and Spurs (2 points in OT). What’s been most promising and most disappointing about this run?

Calmes: The most promising part of the run: the games you did not mention. The Pelicans are doing well overall against bad teams. This is a clear sign of improvement from last season, even with some injury issues.

The most disappointing part, aside from the freak loss in San Antonio, is the seeming lack of elevation of play. While the team is doing what they do well enough, they are not adding much to their arsenal. Specifically, the ball movement just is not where it needs to be. Neither is the perimeter defense, but that may be a roster issue.

Q #2: The Pelicans are hovering over .500 (.515, exactly, one game back of 8th), but according to Basketball Reference, have played the second-toughest scheduled to date.

Through the end of January, New Orleans will get some quality time with the East and other sub-par NBA teams, including Charlotte, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia (twice), New York, Los Angeles (Lakers), and Minnesota.

What most needs to happen for the Pels to have success during this stretch and how much is making the playoffs a reality?

Calmes: You are exactly right. They have played relatively few Eastern Conference games compared to the teams they are competing with in the West. Also, many of those losses were against the tougher Eastern teams. As the schedule normalizes, the Pelicans have got to take advantage, losing no more than one game against the weaker teams that they will be facing. They will also need to pick up a game or two against a tough team for a few reasons, including helping their record and helping their confidence.

They can make the playoffs, but it is under a 1/3 shot right now. If they play well, they may be able to take advantage if a team ahead of them finds itself in distress.

Previously, Gortat.


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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 currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.