Opening Statements: Wizards at Hornets, Game 12 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Hornets, Game 12

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Updated: November 25, 2015

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Just when you thought it was safe to watch the Wizards … turnovers and anemic defense rear their ugly heads again. The most surprising thing about Tuesday night’s lackluster loss to the Indiana Pacers was coach Randy Wittman’s post-game response. Instead of ranting about the lack of defense or valuing possessions, Wittman chalked up the loss to shots not falling.

“We have to let this one go, I thought our guys played hard, I don’t have a problem with that. We just ran into a hot team shooting the ball,” Wittman said.

Wittman’s players followed his lead. “We missed a lot of shots, we had a lot of open ones and we just had to knock them down,” Beal said. “They made theirs and we missed ours.”

In one sense, Wittman and Beal are correct. It is virtually impossible to beat an opponent that shoots a historical 19-for-26 from 3-point range (73.1%). But that is not the only reason Washington lost. Paul George and C.J. Miles hit some ridiculously tough shots at a ridiculously high percentage, but there was also no double-teaming, no ball pressure on George Hill to disrupt Indiana’s offensive flow, no rim protection, and absolutely no sense of urgency in the fourth quarter when Washington’s deficit swelled to double-digits.

Washington may have missed a lot of open 3-pointers, but that does not explain the lack of effort or the multiple turnovers on contested bounce passes in the lane or errant passes out of bounds. The defense and turnovers were just as bad as they were in the beginning of the season when everyone was yelling “the sky is falling.” The lack of recognition from players and coaches is disconcerting.

The good news is Washington will not have to wait very long to get back on the court and erase the memories of giving up 123 points to Indiana. The Wizards travel to Charlotte where they will play their second game in a four-games-in-five-nights stretch.

The bad news is that Charlotte plays a similar style of small ball as Indiana, and the Hornets are on a six-game home winning streak. If Washington expects a different outcome versus the Hornets, they will have to expend a lot more energy and effort on defense.

Joining TAI to provide more insight into the new-look Charlotte Hornets is Doug Branson (@DougBransonSBN) of the Hornets SBNation blog atthehive.com and co-host of the entertaining podcast Hive Talk Live (@HiveTalkLive).


Teams: Wizards at Hornets
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
Television: CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Hornets fav’d by 4.5 points.


Q #1: Charlotte has won its last six home games while averaging 114.5 points per contest. Is this the beginning of a turnaround in Charlotte or a product of weaker competition (Sacramento, Philly, Brooklyn, Portland, NYK)?

@dougbransonSBN: It’s easy to look at the lineup of opponents and question the record, but the Hornets have also played well against very good competition. They took Atlanta (twice) and Miami down to the wire early in the season. They played three good quarters against the Spurs before getting suplexed by Manu Ginobili. Moreover, the team has revamped its shooting and changed its philosophy of play to include more 3-point attempts and more ball movement. Those two things will always keep you in a game.

Q #2: What head-to-head matchup will have the most impact on the Wizards vs. Hornets game?  Wall vs. Walker? Gortat vs. Jefferson? Anyone else?

@dougbransonSBN: Wall vs. Walker. Kemba Walker is on a tear and feeling comfortable at home and needs a tough defensive test. John Wall always seems to feel a little off in Charlotte. Hopefully, Wall has watched the tape on Kemba and doesn’t start going under screens because Walker has improved his outside shooting this season and isn’t afraid to pull-up and knock it down. On the other side of the coin, Kemba is a good pick-and-roll defender but he’ll still need everyone’s help to contain Wall.

Q #3: Charlotte, like Washington, made a concerted effort last offseason to acquire more outside shooting—specifically 3-point shooting. The Hornets are now seventh in the league in 3-point percentage and ninth in scoring. How has the offense changed with this new emphasis on long-range shooting? Is the team more fun to watch?

@dougbransonSBN: The Hornets are much more fun to watch, not just because of the 3-point scoring but because they have a variety of ways they can hurt you on offense. Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb can all drive the lane and finish spectacularly. When Al Jefferson is on his game and has a favorable matchup, his post game is still a joy to behold. Finally, newcomer Frank Kaminsky is playing more and more confidently than ever.

The offense has changed dramatically in two ways: more space in the middle and more off-ball player movement. The Hornets are playing 4-out most of the time. Leaving room in the middle for Al Jefferson to work in the starting rotation and Lin, Lamb and Batum to drive in the second unit. Yes, I said Batum—he’s getting the lions share of the offensive workload and has leaked over into the second unit often this season.

Q #4: Jeremy Lamb is getting significant minutes for the first time in his career and is producing on the offensive end. What does he bring to the team and does he fit as a long-term piece in Charlotte?

@dougbransonSBNHe brings confidence and the ability to get tough buckets in traffic to the second unit and crunch time offense. His speed around the corner off screens gets him into the lane and his long arms allow him to float the ball over the trees. His defense is a work in progress but getting better.

Long term I think he fits perfectly. Despite his stellar play, the Hornets can’t really play him in the starting lineup, because A) they need someone who can play defense on the wing other than Batum, and B) with Kemba, Batum and Al all needing the ball, that would be too many hens in the hen house.

Next season, Jefferson is likely to find a new home, you may not have Batum, and MKG’s stellar defense returns to the starting lineup. It’s easy to envision Lamb as a starter next season.

Q #5: Which player has been the most pleasant surprise so far this season?

@dougbransonSBN: I can’t pick one. I just can’t. This team went into the offseason and collected a group of guys that were in desperate need of either a second chance or a bigger role, and early on they have all risen to the challenge. Out of the shadows of Lillard and Aldridge in Portland, Batum has become an all around All-Star-type player. Jeremy Lin has proven he can be a vital crunch-time scoring option off the bench. Jeremy Lamb is having a coming out party. Even Spencer Hawes has proven to be a nice playmaker and rebounder off the bench. Hornets fans have a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about this team.


 

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Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.