Key Legislature: Wizards 104 vs Knicks 115 — Offensive Defense | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 104 vs Knicks 115 — Offensive Defense

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Updated: October 10, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… the game’s defining moment, it’s critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Knicks, Preseason Game 1, Oct. 9, 2015, by Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).

If the first preseason game was proof that Wizards small ball held the key to success for the 2015-16 season, the second game was stronger proof that defense is just as important. In Star Wars terms, the first game was a “New Hope,” and game two was “The Empire Strikes Back.”

The 3-point attempts were still taken in abundance (23 last night, compared to 26 against the Sixers on Tuesday), but that is where the comparisons to the game one romp ended. The Wizards shot 17 percent from the 3-point line, and instead of shooting 50 percent from the field they were only able to muster 43 percent.

The most glaring statistics:

  • The paltry 17 assists (36 on Tuesday).
  • The 115 points allowed (including two 30-point quarters) compared to the 95 points the Wizards surrendered to Sixers.

Yes, the Knicks have Carmelo, the unstoppable scoring machine who does not compare to the Sixers’ most reliable scorers in Nerlens Noel, who has yet to adopt a scoring machine-type moniker, and Jahlil Okafor, who is as wet behind the ears as Michael Phelps. But the Knicks do not possess another potent scoring weapon, which means that on paper the Wizards should have won rather handily, even in preseason. Instead, the Wizards abandoned ball movement, consistent penetration, and defensive communication, which allowed the lowly Knicks—including the resurrected Derrick Williams (23 points in 21 minutes)—to score at will.

It would be unfair to say that Coach Randy Wittman was gleeful that defense, not small ball, was the topic of discussion after the game. However, he did not shy away from pointing to teachable moments, and he even lightly threatened to go back to the “old” way the Wizards used to play:

“If we have to go back to playing slower to play slower, that’s what we are going to have to do. [Defense] has been a big part of why we have had success, our ability to defend not only through the course of the year, but when the playoffs come—that’s what it boils down to.”

The second quarter seemed to be the main source of Wittman’s frustration, as the Wizards started with six-point lead, and 38 points by the Knicks later, they trailed by five at the half. In the first part of the quarter, the Wizards’ bench, led by Gary Neal and Josh Harellson, played the Knicks’ bench to a standstill. The play was ragged, in typical preseason fashion, but there was effort on defense—even from Kelly Oubre who went scoreless on the night. When the starters from both teams re-entered the game, the hard-nosed play seemed to give way to quick shots and a lack of communication on defense.

The Wizards led 48-41 after consecutive jumpers by John Wall and Bradley Beal, and then were outscored 19-7 over the remaining 3:49. At one point Carmelo Anthony, Sasha Vujacic, and José Calderón each hit wide-open jumpers sans a run-out or a contest from a Wizards player. Washington sported the very same starting lineup that looked and played like Loyola Marymount on Tuesday night, but they were stagnant during that final three-plus-minute stretch. Wall tried to take on all five Knicks at once, Beal took shots early in the shot clock, and Kris Humphries tried (and failed) to shoot 3s like Drew Gooden.

The first half of the third quarter was more of the same. Porter missed layups, Beal did not know where to throw the ball to Porter in the post, tossing it out of bounds in on one occasion, and ‘Zards ball movement created little besides too-quick jump shots. The Knicks went up 15 points, and then this happened:

That dunk, combined with Coach Wittman’s lineup tweaks (at one point, the lineup consisted of Gortat, Porter, Beal, Sessions and Neal), slightly energized the Wizards and they were able to tie the game toward the end of the third quarter. Slightly encouraging, but not nearly enough to offset the overall sloppy play

After the game, John Wall did not seem too concerned with his team’s lapses on both ends of the floor, or the relative ease with which the Knicks—specifically Carmelo Anthony—were able to score:

“We still had some good shots. Guys are just missing easy shots. Every night is not going to be a great night offensively for us, but that is when you let your defense do it, and we did not do that. I just think we have to communicate. That is the most important thing is getting back in transition and communicating. […] It’s preseason, so the way we played defense tonight—we still got compete no matter what, but we didn’t play him [Carmelo] the same way we’d play him in the regular season.”

It was just one game, a preseason game, but these were the New York Knicks, which meant the shorthanded Wizards (Gooden, Martell Webster, Alan Anderson, and Nenê in the second half, were nursing injuries) should have won just as easily as they did against Philadelphia. But perhaps this type of complacency is just what Wittman needed to pry everyone’s attention away from small ball scoring and back to the defense.

Bullets.

  • Kelly Oubre played his first game with “an official jersey on his back,” and it was pretty uneventful. The first time he made an offensive move, he broke away the offense, failed to swing the ball the way Coach Wittman wanted him to, and was called for a traveling violation. Wittman immediately jumped off the bench and started yelling. Oubre played within the offense the remainder of the game, but was clearly gun-shy. He was beat backdoor by Derrick Williams but, overall, showed a willingness to play up on his man. Oubre swore after the game that his conditioning was fine, but on at least four occasions he was the last man up the court on both offense and defense.
  • Kris Humphries was brought to the Wizards because of his rebounding ability, as a big body who could possibly spell Nene and Gortat. Last night, Humphries had more 3-point attempts (6) than he did rebounds (5), and each of his attempts (even the one that he made) look disjointed and hesistant. He is trying to be stretchy, but right now he looks a bit lost and it would not be at all surprising to see Coach Wittman try a different combination tomorrow against the Milwaukee Bucks.
  • Gary Neal is no Paul Pierce, but even in preseason it is readily apparent that he is the Julian Edelman of this Wizards team. He can find or create a bit of open space, sit down in that space, and hit the midrange J. That ability allows Otto Porter and Ramon Sessions to operate with more options, too. He definitely upgrades the second unit.
  • Despite the extended stretches offensive ineptitude, there were flashes of the Gortat/Wall two man game that is the bread and butter of the Wizards offense. TAI’s Kyle Weidie asked Wall how the new offense affected that combo and the All-Star’s face lit up. “Shit, it’s easier for him,” Wall said. “You gotta think last year when he was rolling, he got another big help-side because he and Nene were two bigs in the post. Now you got guys spacing the floor, so if you do a great job of setting screens and rolling, you’re going to get your opportunity.”
  • Drew Gooden was a pain in the ass. Literally.
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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.