Key Legislature: Wizards 99 at Clippers 113 — About That Make/Miss League | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 99 at Clippers 113 — About That Make/Miss League

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Updated: March 21, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 69 versus the Clippers in Los Angeles.
via Chris ‘Thompson’ (@MadBastardsAll) from just south of D.C.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Chris ‘Thompson’.

The Wizards have dropped games this season due to all kinds of internal and external circumstances—a self-limiting offense, poor roster depth, turnovers, cold-shooting, injuries, Otto Porter turning into a statue at the worst possible moment (I kid, I kid)—but, despite all their frustrating ups and downs, it hasn’t often been the case that a relatively healthy Wizards starting lineup just gets thoroughly outclassed by the opposing group. Measured against some of the infuriating #SoWizards ways they’ve killed themselves over the previous 68 games, the experience of watching them just go out and lose a fair game because the other team is just, you know, better at basketball is almost refreshing.

See, hard as it may be for Wizards fans to believe, this is generally how other NBA teams lose games. They don’t devote whole possessions to satisfying some antiquated aesthetic preference for how the game ought to be played; they don’t leave bench units in for several minutes too long at a time; they don’t drop double-digit leads because the whole team, all at once, forgets to do or how to do the very things that got them into the lead just minutes earlier; they don’t refuse to use players in efficient ways and then chalk the whole thing up to nebulous, unverifiable concepts like focus. No, generally speaking, two NBA teams take the floor, both teams play a credible brand of basketball, and one team is just better than the other. If you’ve been aching for the Wizards to join the realm of NBA teams that can be taken seriously on a nightly basis, losing in a way that is not gruesomely self-inflicted can be seen as a positive step, in just the right light.

Washington briefly had the lead: 44 seconds into the first quarter and with the shot clock winding down on an opening Wizards possession in which the ball never crossed below the 3-point line, Bradley Beal swung a pass to Paul Pierce on the wing, and Pierce nailed a contested 3-pointer. Ninety seconds into the first quarter, with the game tied at three, Marcin Gortat received a John Wall pass at the free throw line and confidently knocked down a 16-foot jumper. Decent start! For the first few possessions, the Wizards were right there with the Clippers, on the Clippers’ home court.

Four-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter, the Clippers took a six-point lead, and that was as close as the game would ever get for the rest of the night.

The Clippers wound up winning the game by 14 points, but the final margin, and Washington’s inability to draw any closer than six points over more than 43 minutes of basketball, will obscure the fact that, for long stretches of the game, the Wizards were more or less trading shots with the Clippers. And, on paper, the numbers from that stretch aren’t particularly gruesome: the Wizards shot 33-of-78 from the floor, took 16 3-pointers to Los Angeles’ 17, attempted and made significantly more free-throws, turned the ball over just eight times to the Clippers’ 14, and even managed to outdo the Clippers on the offensive glass, eight to seven. The difference then, I suppose, is the distribution of shots, right? I mean, that’s generally what we’re talking about over here in the bad, mean world of mean mean Wizards bloggers, isn’t it?

Not so! Have a look at this Wizards shot chart from the shall-we-say noncompetitive final 43-plus minutes of action:

Wiz Shot Chart from WizClips

OK, so, it’s less than ideal: only two 3-point attempts from the corner, more midrange jumpers than shots at the rim, and accuracy from both those areas that may ruin your appetite. We’ve seen worse, more lopsided shot-charts than that, but if I showed you that shot-chart without telling you the outcome of the game, you’d guess the Wizards probably lost.

Now, have a look at this:

Clips shot chart from Wiz Clips

That’s the Clippers’ output over that same stretch. Look at how infrequently they got to the rim! Look at the midrange attempts! My God, look at the midrange attempts. Those are numbers that make even Randy Wittman do a spit-take. The Wizards even outscored the Clippers in the paint (40-34).

The major difference, here, is in the colors: where Washington’s chart is all red and yellow (and even brown) in the key areas of the floor, there’s a whole lot of green on L.A.’s. The long and short of it is this: the Clippers were just so much more successful from those areas than the Wizards, and that’s because the Clippers are just—that’s right—better from those areas.

This sort of leads us to why a team like the Wizards can’t afford to simply trade shots with a team like the Clippers: the shot types the two teams were taking (heavy on midrange jumpers and above-the-break 3-pointers) represent areas of strength for the Clippers. They’re in the NBA’s top six in field goal percentage from every midrange area, and they’re shooting three percentage points better than league average on above-the-break 3-pointers for the season. If the Clippers have incorporated those shots into their offense, it’s probably because they’re damn good at making them.

The Wizards gave a fairly game effort. Without regular stops they were unable to get their transition game into gear, finishing with just nine fast break points. They spent the second half clawing their way into little five- and six-point mini-runs that never seemed to bother the Clippers, and their persistent inability to string together stops or really disrupt Chris Paul’s rhythm kept the Wizards at arm’s length or beyond for much of the night. DeAndre Jordan put up some gaudy rebounding numbers—he out-rebounded Washington’s entire starting lineup, for example—but it’s worth noting that the teams tied in offensive boards, and the Wizards were out-rebounded by 10 defensive rebounds in a game in which they missed eight more field-goal attempts than the Clippers. The difference in this one really was that the Clippers are a better team at scoring from the areas in which both teams were doing most of their work.

It would be easy to chalk this up to a defensive breakdown—they did give up 113 points, after all—but it’s hard to fault them too much when they mostly kept the Clippers away from the rim (18 total attempts in the restricted area), out of the corners (six attempts), and off the line (just 17 free throw attempts). In a process coaching sort of way, they did what you’re supposed to do by keeping your opponent away from the highest efficiency areas. It just so happens that this Clippers team is the rare one that can flip even that kind of success on its head and make it a spectacular failure.

This would be a fine time for Coach Wittman to talk about a make/miss league. The Clippers made shots. That’s what they do. The Wizards did not. That’s … well, no comment.

Chris Thompson