DC Council 74: Wizards vs Rockets — An Undelightful Afternoon | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

DC Council 74: Wizards vs Rockets — An Undelightful Afternoon

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Updated: March 30, 2015

Truth About It.net’s D.C. Council:
Grading Wizards players from Game No. 74:
Washington Wizards versus the Houston Rockets in the Verizon Center.
Contributor: Rashad Mobley from that very same basketball arena.

DC-Council-Logo-2

Before we hand out grades with accompanying narrative about the lackluster performance that the Wizards gave during a nationally televised game, let us first read some pointed criticism from Coach Randy Wittman.

“We just couldn’t get into any rhythm offensively, and focus offensively. We were running things I had never seen before, and we just weren’t focused on what we needed to do from an offensive standpoint. I mean, coming out of timeouts, the guy doesn’t even know he’s supposed to catch the ball…

“I made the statement to them that there’s a term called ‘dummy offense,’ where you’re in practice nobody’s guarding you and you’re just going through the plays. That’s what we did for the most part, we just kind of ran through our plays.”

Wittman deserves his share of criticism for the plays he calls, the substitutions he makes, and the overall malaise his team seems to be mired in of late. But his assessment of his team’s lack of offensive execution is accurate. John Wall was in a rhythm offensively and Otto Porter rose from the dead like an extra from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video to score 13 of his 15 points in the last quarter. Aside from those two, no other Wizards player demonstrated any semblance of an offensive attack. Bradley Beal would hit a shot here and there—as would Marcin Gortat, Nene, Rasual Butler, and Ramon Sessions—but it wasn’t enough to worry the Rockets, or force a switch in their defensive philosophy.

The sad part about the Wizards’ toothless display is that the Rockets were ripe for the taking. They struggled with turnovers (eight in the first quarter); James Harden scored 24 points, but took 20 shots to reach that total (1); and the Rockets only shot 31 percent (9-for-29) from the 3-point line. But instead of harvesting their nuts and accumulating a bit of a lead while the Houston sorted out their offense (and the 12:30 p.m. start), the Wizards shot 38 percent from the field, 26 percent from 3, and were out-rebounded 53-43.

As Coach Kevin McHale said afterward, “it wasn’t the prettiest of games,” but the Rockets figured out a way to win, and the Wizards figured out yet another way to lose. The good news is that the Wizards are securely nestled into that 4/5 playoff matchup with either Toronto (who is struggling mightily as well) or Chicago (who the Wizards seem to match up well against). The bad news is the Wizards have the ninth-worst win/loss record in the NBA since the start of 2015, and there is no reason to believe the playoffs will give them a boost.

And with that depressing lead-in, let’s get into a bit of detail with the grades and the narrative.


 

Houston Rockets

99

Final

Box Score

Washington Wizards

91

Nene Hilario, PF

34 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-5 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | -10 +/-

After one quarter it looked as if Nene was going to be active and engaged on both ends of the floor. He had five points, three steals, two rebounds, and just one personal foul. But despite playing against a less-than-full strength Dwight Howard, an undersized Josh Smith, and an inexperienced Joey Dorsey, Nene never truly set up shop and went to work in the post. He seemed content with playing a passive brand of basketball.


Paul Pierce, SF

22 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -10 +/-

Pierce does not own a scintilla of confidence right now, and it is sad to see The Truth in that state. After missing two or three wide-open shots, Pierce began turning down good looks, opting instead to make an extra pass. He got a few hockey assists, but to loosely quote Pierce in last year’s playoffs with Brooklyn, that’s not why they brought him here.

Pierce declared early in the season that he wanted to teach the Wizards the importance of protecting home court, which was a perfect complement to his reputation as a clutch shooter. Pierce wasn’t clutch against the Rockets, and rode the bench for most of the second half due to the offensive explosion of Otto Porter—and his own offensive implosion. To make matters worse, when John Wall was basically asked why Pierce wasn’t closing quarters and games like he is supposed to, he said, “You gotta ask the head coach that one.” Wall went on to say that maybe Pierce didn’t have his legs and has been frustrated at his lack of shot-making.

Wall’s willingness to speak up for Pierce is admirable and shows leadership. Pierce’s inability to let his play speak for him during a home game against one of the league’s best teams is disappointing and unfortunate.


Marcin Gortat, C

29 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -4 +/-

Two times during his postgame presser, Marcin was asked point-blank about why the Wizards are struggling offensively, and both times he was vague and elusive with his response. He looked frustrated with the team’s play and even more frustrated that he couldn’t level with the media and say exactly what was on his mind.

On the court, Gortat continued to grab rebounds at an impressive clip with 10 in just 29 minutes of play, but he missed four shots inside of 10 feet and did not make a single trip to the foul line. Gortat has every right to be irritated with Wittman for omitting him from many a fourth quarter this season, but against the Rockets, Gortat was his own worst enemy.


John Wall, PG

43 MIN | 7-17 FG | 11-12 FT | 8 REB | 12 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 7 TO | 25 PTS | -3 +/-

Wall spent the first half getting his teammates involved (eight assists), while working into a scoring rhythm (9 points on 9 shots). Once the Wizards were down 13 points in the third quarter, and once he recognized that none of his teammates had a hot hand to spare, Wall decided to take over the game. He played every minute of the second half, making midrange jumpers, long 2s, and free throws. He scored 14 of his 25 points in the third quarter, and in the fourth, his steal and assist to Ramon Sessions cut the Rockets’ lead to four points with 10:09 left.

Wall did everything he could to get the Wizards back in the game, but after the first two minutes of the fourth, he had nothing left to give—but, quite frankly, he had given more than he should have. He accounted for 49 of the Wizards’ 91 points and, had Gortat not missed so many bunnies, that number could have easily been higher.

He was gracious, humble and deferential in the post-game presser, but he had to be wondering what the hell else he could do.


Bradley Beal, SG

38 MIN | 4-11 FG | 6-7 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | -3 +/-

“If you’re a shooting guard in this league, why are you taking just five shots in the second half?” an esteemed member of the media asked Beal after the game.

In the first half of Sunday’s game, Beal was aggressive (5-for-5 from the free throw line), and he guarded Harden and went at him with a vengeance on offense. Even when Coach Wittman had Beal (and not the perfectly capable Ramon Sessions) playing point guard with the second unit, he still found a way to work himself into a groove offensively, scoring 12 first-half points.

In the second half, Beal—like every other member of the Wizards not named Wall or Otto Porter—was passive, ineffective, and a borderline liability. He deserves credit for helping to relatively neutralize the great James Harden, but he did not do nearly enough to help his own star player.


Drew Gooden, PF

18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -6 +/-

No stretch 4 magic from Gooden on this day. The shot wasn’t falling from midrange or 3-point land, and the rebounds weren’t as accessible as they had been against Charlotte.


Otto Porter Jr., SF

18 MIN | 4-7 FG | 5-7 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +6 +/-

TAI’s Kyle Weidie argues that Otto Porter has had (and blown) many opportunities to succeed in his two-year tenure with the Wizards. TAI’s Chris Thompson argues that Coach Wittman’s flawed system is hardly a fair litmus test by which to gauge the talent (or lack thereof) of young Porter. Both arguments are fair and legitimate, but neither mattered on Sunday.

As Coach Wittman alluded to in his postgme presser, Otto hustled on defense, hit big shots on offense, and earned Wall’s trust on a night when no other starter or bench player could. Porter hustled on both ends, and when Gortat had little or nothing to say, he shunned his curmudgeon ways to sing Otto’s praises:

“I am just happy for him. I’m really happy for him… He is here every day working out hard, and waiting for his opportunity and that is what he did today. It is great. I am glad he did that on national television.”


Martell Webster, SF

8 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -6 +/-

Webster finally hit an open 3-pointer in the first quarter, but he soon reverted to the lost player he’s been this season.


Rasual Butler, SF

14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -3 +/-

Veterans Paul Pierce, Marcin Gortat, and Nene came up empty against the Rockets, and Butler continued that trend by scoring two points in 14 minutes of play.


Kevin Seraphin, C

8 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +2 +/-

He was yelled at by Coach Wittman, abused in the paint by Dwight Howard, and was non-existent to his teammates in eight minutes of play. Just another day in the #KSlife.


Ramon Sessions, PG

9 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -3 +/-

It is never a good sign when the coach loses confidence in your abilities as a point guard, moves you off the ball as a shooting guard, and you still can’t produce any scoring of note. Sessions replaced Andre Miller as the backup point guard, but when possession after possession resulted in nothing worth writing home (or blogging) about, Coach Wittman inserted Beal in the game to run the point.

Sessions did draw a foul (one of Washington’s weaknesses), and also finished a nice fast break layup, which is more of a rarity than it should be.


Randy Wittman

As John Wall alluded to after the game, it isn’t the coach’s fault that the team doesn’t know how to run called plays—and fails to ask the coach for clarification. However, when more than 70 games have been played and players are still confused about what to do, that’s a coaching issue that must be addressed.

Coach Wittman admitted that his players weren’t following the plays called out of the huddle, and ran plays he had never seen before. But he failed to inspire or ignite any of the veterans on his roster, and in his post-game presser he once again was too comfortable with blaming the players’ execution or lack thereof, instead of owning the fact that this Wizards team is deeply flawed at present time.


 

  1. On the season, Harden is scoring 1.49 points per field goal attempt.
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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.