Opening Statements: Wizards vs Knicks, Game 76 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Knicks, Game 76

Updated: April 3, 2015

Washington Wizards vs New York Knicks - Nov. 30, 2012


The roller coaster nature of the Wizards’ 2014-15 season has been in full swing over the last 12 games. Five straight victories had fans cautiously optimistic, but they were let down by four straight losses, followed by a win, a loss, then another win. The up-and-down nature of the last dozen games is just a microcosm of the peaks and valleys that the Wiz have experienced; this piece will be used as a disclaimer for anyone in fear of motion sickness to buckle up for the rocky ride. With only seven regular season games left, and at least four more post-season tilts, the eulogy is far from being read at the Wizards funeral, a case TAI’s Adam Rubin made earlier this week. With the NBA’s worst team coming to town, the Wizards can spend Good Friday preparing for a post-season resurrection.

The New York Knicks are currently just a grade above an NBA D-League team, so the matchup presents an opportunity for the Wizards to go through some development of their own. They have thoroughly dominated the Knickerbockers three times already this season and haven’t trailed at any point in their last two meetings. The only difference, lineup-wise, is that the Knicks have exchanged All-Star Carmelo Anthony for former No. 1 overall bust Andrea Bargnani, who missed the first three matchups due to injury. Bargnani has averaged 20.3 points in his last three games and should provide a quality test to the Wizards’ pick-and-pop defense that is sometimes lacking due to proper attentiveness (some call it “focus” or “effort”).

These next seven games are a perfect time to rest a veteran player like Paul Pierce, who had gone 6-for-27 from the field over his last five games before resting Wednesday night against the Sixers. Meanwhile, the rest of the team can fine-tune offensive sets that will be needed in about two weeks. The two things that I would like to see the Wizards work on to close the regular season are pick-and-roll action with Beal and figuring out a way to work more catch-and-shoot opportunities for Otto Porter.

Evidently at least one of these things will happen:

Bradley Beal Pick-and-Roll

Beal teased the NBA world with what he can do against elite competition in last year’s playoff series against Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls. Before Butler’s fine-tuned his offensive game into All-Star material this season, he was widely known around the NBA as a defensive stopper, making the All-NBA defensive second team in 2013-14. You wouldn’t have been able to tell that while watching a 20-year-old Beal break down Butler defensively, ultimately shouldering much of the offensive load for the Wizards in the playoffs by upping his 17 point per game average in the regular season to 20 points per game in the postseason. Beal flashes ability both as a scorer coming off pick-and-roll action and as a creator. Of the more than 200 possessions in which Beal has been the primary ball handler in the pick-and-roll, he has only yielded 0.65 points per possession (PPP), which can largely be attributed to his poor shot selection. Beal isn’t the best midrange shooter at only 33.1 percent on the season, yet he continues to ‘take what the defense gives him,’ instead of seeking out better opportunities for himself or teammates. All part of growing up, we suppose.

Where Beal can improve on his pick-and-roll action is by attacking the basket more and attempting to get to the free throw line. Only 3.9 percent of Beal’s plays as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll result in free throw attempts. Because Washington has one of the best roll men in the game in Marcin Gortat, Beal needs to take advantage of the attention the Polish Machine commands from back line defenders who don’t want to give up easy passing lanes and use use his athletic ability to beat his man off the dribble. Being more decisive with the ball and attacking the rim will almost certainly cut down on Beal’s 17 percent turnover rate in pick-and-roll situations.

There is no better opportunity to work on these sets than against the Knicks’ second-worst defense.

Teams: Wizards vs. Knicks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN+
Radio: WNEW 99.1 FM / WFED 1500 AM
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 14.5

 Otto Porter Catch-and-Shoot

Not to be hyperbolic about Porter, but these last seven games may go a long way in determining the trajectory of Porter’s tenure as a Wizard. If Otto can prove that the mental lapses on defense are behind him, then he may have a real shot of earning valuable playoff minutes—which will likely do wonders for his confidence. After basically not playing for a five-game stretch, Wittman threw Porter back into the mix in last Sunday’s game against the Rockets. Porter answered with a 15-point performance in just 18 minutes of game action and, just to prove that it wasn’t a fluke, Porter followed that up with another 15 points against the Sixers.

The Wizards will really need Porter to contribute as a spot-up shooter in the postseason. Floor spacing has been a problem for this team, and a part of that has to do with a lack of respect the Wizards’ perimeter players get in catch-and-shoot situations. More than 46 percent of Porter’s field goal attempts are catch-and-shoot opportunities but only around 22 percent of those are 3-pointers. Porter’s overall field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot attempts is a disappointing 35.6 percent, while his 3-point percentage on those play types is 32.5 percent—barely better than his overall 3-point field goal percentage of 32.2.

What these numbers tell us is that Randy Wittman can help the Wizards offense by encouraging Porter to fire 3s in of a catch-and-shoot situations—it is his most effective shot. The Knicks allow opponents to shoot an NBA-high 38 percent on 3-point attempts, so there will be plenty of opportunities for the Wizards (PA) announcer to yell the patented “DC3” chant.

If this team wants to consider themselves legitimate playoff contenders, or at least second-round hopefuls, then losing to the worst team in the NBA (in the midst of an eight-game losing streak) is not an option. The Knicks players are probably much more in tune with their travel agents, planning getaways for the end of April, than they are with first-year head coach Derek Fisher. The Wizards need not show any mercy. Washington needs to find a balance tonight of working the aforementioned play types that will increase offensive efficiency heading into the postseason, while allowing for key players to rest. There is no reason why John Wall should have to play meaningful minutes in the fourth quarter, especially with Quincy Acy lurking around.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.