Key Legislature: Wizards 92 at Grizzlies 83 — Just Enough 3s to Make Good Defense Worth It | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 92 at Grizzlies 83 — Just Enough 3s to Make Good Defense Worth It

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Updated: April 7, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards contest No. 77 versus the Grizzlies in Memphis 
via Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It), from the District of Columbia.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Kyle Weidie.

It was a defensive battle between two of the league’s top defenses who also happen to be in the bottom of the NBA in 3-point attempts (ranked 27 and 29). Washington versus Memphis featured just enough offense not to grind like the sounds coming from screening Metro escalator metal, but there were also enough spells, for each team, featuring batches of turnovers and missed shots to make the game aesthetically uninspiring. Or maybe that was because the Wizards practically led wire to wire—Memphis only led once, 2-0, and Washington held an average lead of 7.9 points throughout.

A severe dunk by Jeff Green on Kevin Seraphin early in the second quarter awoke the Grizzly crowd like a shot of tangy BBQ sauce—Green later departed for the night with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter due to back spasms. So Bradley Beal answered with determined drives and semi-contested dunks. If he’s had two driving dunks where he appears to part the defense like the Red Sea before chipping rim in a single game before, I can’t remember. Beal otherwise didn’t play particularly great in the fourth quarter (3-7 FGs, 0-3 on 3s, 2 rebs, 0 asts, 1 TO; he scored 20 points on 21 shots for the game), but those two dunks that put Washington up 12 with seven minutes left and up 11 with one minute left were the type of hammer hits that would make Mr. Miyagi proud.

Irony can surely be found in Beal, the Wizards’ best long distance threat, going 0-for-6 while his team essentially won the game from the 3-point line. Washington shot 8-for-22 from deep while Memphis shot 1-for-15—like 3-point peasants picking on 3-point lepers. Drew Gooden made three of the Wizards’ eight makes on five attempts (16 total points on 10 shots), and Rasual Butler, a continual threat to be revitalized, went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers (10 total points on nine shots). Gooden gave Memphis fits with his ability to stretch the floor while throwing his body in whatever direction needed. Over the last five games (four Wizards wins), Gooden is 10-for-16 on 3-pointers and has had Washington’s best on-court DefRtg (88.5) of those who have played significant minutes. A stretch 4 who can hit shots worth 50 percent more than attempts inside a mere arc while being able to neutralize Zach Randolph, a bull to Gooden’s boar, certainly seems like an unintended but completely pleasant consequence, while it lasts. Gooden will only be playoff lightning in a bottle if he continues his defensive ways and avoids forcing shots.

John Wall only assisted on three of Washington’s eight 3-point makes (Wall scored 18 points on 15 shots). His first of 14 total assists came on a Gooden 3 less than three minutes into the first quarter (after Wall had made a 3 of his own); his last assist of the evening came on a Gooden 3 that sealed a comfortable cushion of 13 points with just under three minutes left in the game. Wall set up Rasual Butler for 3 somewhere in between.

Marcin Gortat only got five shots and made two of them in his 31 minutes, but much of that was by design of Memphis’ defense. The Grizzlies were fully aware that the Wall to Gortat pick-and-roll game had been on, well, a roll lately, and so they packed the paint, went under a lot of screens, and were extra, sometimes overly, attentive with help-side defense. One of Gortat’s buckets came on a Wall dime late in the first quarter and the other off the roll late in the third quarter. He got in some foul trouble, snagged eight rebounds, and had his hands full with Marc Gasol, who did score 18 points on 13 shots (6-10 when Gortat was guarding him), but did not seem comfortable all night.

Beal went 2-for-5 from long 2 #PandaRange but a sharpened bamboo stick 6-for-6 on field goals at the basket. Fifteen of Beal’s 21 shots were uncontested, he made five of them. Wall went 2-for-6 on long 2s, 3-for-5 at the rim, and 1-for-3 from beyond the arc. Seven of Wall’s 15 shots were uncontested, he made three.

The Wizards didn’t win the game by going 6-for-20 from the long 2 empty calories diet, they did so with defense and the kind of passing and court spacing that allowed for 70 percent shooting near the basket (19-27) and a 21-point advantage from the 3-point line.

The key to the game was, perhaps, also the key to the Wizards’ immediate future. No, not John Wall, he’s the doorway. Beal continues to struggle with creating for teammates, which doesn’t make it any less noble that the Wizards are trying to get him reps in this important area of need. Teammates shot 3-for-8 off Beal’s passes in Memphis, and only two of those qualified as assists. Wizards shot 17-for-29 after receiving passes from Wall, and as mentioned, 14 of those qualified as an assist in the statbook. Beal had trouble handling the ball a couple times, threw some bad passes, and in particular struggled with recognizing converging defense intending to trap and dissuade him from shooting, and then finding a quickly and effective plan B.

With four minutes left in the third quarter and to answer an 8-2 run by Memphis to get within serve points, Beal nicely took the second option that the defense gave him, which ended up being an Otto Porter 3-pointer, of course. Porter quietly added to the stat sheet, but his young limbs were integral in helping contain Jeff Green and hitting open shots is what will keep him on the court. Having received a pass on the move at the top of the key, Beal kicked the ball to Gortat on the left wing and proceeded to do the hand-off dance with the Polish big man. After receiving the ball back, moving from the corner to higher on the wing, Beal quickly changed directions, Gortat turned to set a screen, and Beal used it, going back toward the corner. As Gortat rolled, Jeff Green sank deep in the paint to help, leaving Porter open, who’d come off a double screen but moved toward the top of the key to create a passing lane for Beal. Spacing, plus cutting, plus encroaching defense, plus Beal’s quick pass, equals Otto’s catch and shoot (young Porter makes 33% of his catch-and-shoot 3s, 41% of his ‘very wide open’ 3s according to NBA.com player-tracking stats).

You can otherwise watch this one play on this one night that somehow encapsulates hopes and dreams (and the win) on video here, but I prefer the raw player movement moving chart. Wall continues to prove what he can do (even though he must further prove himself in the playoffs; his poor overall performance last post-season has been generally swept under the rug), and on Monday at practice Wall said he’s “definitely” not 100 percent and that he feels more rundown than at this time last season. Wall needs his rest, and even if he might not sit out a game (he should) deferring to Beal in game while planting himself in the corner sometimes is the right development move, even if single-serving possessions might appear sacrificed without exhausting every ounce of John Wall. Bradley Beal’s reps matter, now more than ever, even if later is when it really counts.

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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.