Key Legislature: Wizards 110 vs Knicks 117 — Washington’s Defense Could Use an Assist | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 110 vs Knicks 117 — Washington’s Defense Could Use an Assist

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Updated: November 1, 2015

TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Knicks, Regular Season, Game 2, Oct. 31, 2015, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

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Defense was predominantly the scary issue for Washington in their Halloween home opener versus the Knicks on Saturday night. Coach Randy Wittman won’t concede otherwise.

“The commitment to defend is just not there and that’s the bottom line,” he said afterward. “We can talk about a lot of different other things and make excuses, but to score 110 points at home and lose by seven, that’s what it boils down to.”

“I can’t come in at halftime and have to listen … we were talking more about what we’re doing offensively, but you know, we gave up 59 points.”

Wittman reiterated his bottom line: Defense.

But to focus only on that and deny his players’ allowance for a halftime conversation about offense doesn’t do justice to both sides of the ball, changes in possession occurring in rapid, knee-jerk manners are so unique to the game of basketball. Wittman is also right. For aforementioned reasons, defense is the tires the car rides on. Defense can become offense, in one sense.

Blame Carmelo. His 37 points on 18 shots—11 came in the fourth quarter but his night was evenly dispersed. The Wizards, in reality, made it tough on a superstar, a top 5 scorer in the game today (and at one point the very best—still could be).

A Wizard was within four feet on 14 of Anthony’s 18 shot attempts. He went 3-for-4 when ‘wide open’ (1), and Anthony went 5-for-10 (fiddy) when a Wizard was within three feet. He went 7-for-11 versus Otto Porter and abused Jared Dudley even more (2-2, fouls, etc.) when the latter mostly guarded Anthony later in each half. Melo moved the ball (4 assists), showed progress in trusting his teammates, and added seven rebounds to his night. But no paragraph about Anthony’s night could go without mentioning the amount of whistles which coddled him—he’s good enough to earn legitimate fouls and make it hard on the referees otherwise. We’d also be remiss without turning back to Dudley.

New paragraph:

On May 27, 2015, Jared Dudley appeared on Colin Cowherd’s radio show—of all people, of all shows—and said that Carmelo Anthony was the most overrated player in the NBA. Later that same day he appeared on the radio with ESPN New York and apologized. Oof. You know that the Big Apple wouldn’t quickly forget. It was mentioned on Twitter during the game and Anthony had a chance to respond.

“I mean, it got back to me. It definitely got back to me. I may not look at and read all that stuff, but it’s get back to me,” drawing gazing smiles from the peanut gallery.

“It becomes competitive at that point,” Anthony said when talking about the double-techs that he and Dudley received midway through the second quarter. “You just want to go out there and show what you’re made of. Tonight was one of those nights. It had nothing really to do with him, but this was a game that I circled on my calendar. I’ll see him three more times.”

The Anthony-Dudley tiff and Melo’s barrage of points still cannot definitively be pointed to as the catalyst for a Wizards loss. As the cliché sometimes goes, let Melo eat his cake while his teammates starve. But now he has some teammates capable of making their own cakes. Lance Thomas (12 points) and Langston Galloway (14 points) fueled the New York bench and were awarded crunch-time minutes by Derek Fisher. In all, nine Knicks scored seven or more points (five scored in double-figures).

“They’re not running the same offense as last year,” Wall diagnosed, just after leaning on the fact that the Knicks ‘just hit some tough shots.’ “They added some more pace to their game, they run a lot more pick-and-rolls. They put us in tough situations where we had to rotate and they were getting rebounds and putbacks.

Cut back to the fourth quarter, around four minutes left in the game. Thomas took advantage of a mismatch inside versus Wall to put New York up 103-101. Wall answered with a top-of-key 3 as Galloway could not get around Mountain Nene, 104-103 Wizards. But Galloway answered with a tough, hotly contested 3—Wall left him alone to provide help defense, which he was great at doing all night, and his insane athletic ability came up just short in trying to recover, 106-104 Knicks.

Back and forth the ending went—two missed Wall runners, two lost Dudley 3-point opportunities, and clutch shots from Anthony and Bradley Beal. With a minute left, Galloway hit a Steve Buckhantz “back-breaker” 3-pointer to put New York up 111-106. Wall went under a Carmelo ball screen, got caught up, and Anthony’s supporting cast came up big.

Offense can also become defense, as discussed earlier, and as was argued last season when Washington’s offense often sputtered and backfired over the course of 82 games. If New York scores 117 then the Wizards could have, should have scored 127. But Washington shot 42 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3 (6-22). There were swaths of the third quarter where the action seemed to revert to last year’s system, combined with or spawned from indecisive actions in the new system. Sure, 9-for-18 on long 2s versus the Knicks wasn’t bad—actually good—but Washington also ignored the corners (or maybe New York denied them). The Wizards only attempted two corner 3s, missing both from the right side.

They each bring talent in their own way, but none of Washington’s bigs pack a devastating athletic punch, which could have contributed to New York’s success in second-chance points (14). Marcin Gortat (9 points) was put out like a cigarette by Robin Lopez; Kris Humphries was barely visible in his 14-plus minutes; Drew Gooden was sporadically effective but picked up the garbage; and Nene was just OK.

Beal almost took over the show again—but missed a layup with 14 seconds left that would’ve kept the Wizards within one point (he said he got hit)—and Wall supplied numerous chest-thumping moments. They combined for 51 points but just four assists (all Wall’s); Washington only tallied 17 assists on 38 made field goals on the night.

Last season the Wizards averaged 18.3 assists per 100 possessions, ranked fifth in the NBA behind the Warriors, Hawks, Clippers, and Spurs. In the small sample size of three games this season, that has dipped to 14.6, ranked in the bottom third of the league. The offense on Saturday was too often run further away from the basket; and with wider, more time-wasting loops on and off the ball before action was initiated.

To wit: How Washington’s defense stays afloat is the scary thought. Charting new offensive waters is the also-scary unknown. Both areas should be keeping Randy Wittman up at night, as the new pace-and-space style, perhaps forced upon the coach (from the top or environmentally), has yet to facilitate moving the ball or stopping the ball. Aiming to run more and take more 3-pointers is dandy, but that doesn’t make a coach’s burden any ligher.

“We have San Antonio, OKC, Atlanta, we have top tier teams and we have to be ready to go and if we’re not, we are going to get blasted,” Beal prognosticated afterward (forgetting a game in Boston after hosting the Spurs). The league has been put on alert with the play of Wall and Beal to start the season, and the Wizards seem self-aware of historically subpar showings against top teams. But to bemoan a commitment to defend belittles what it takes to run a well-oiled offensive machine.

Bullets.

  • Washington’s starters finished minus-3 over 13 minutes. The next two most-used lineups finished with an even-zero in plus/minus: Wall, Beal, Porter, Gooden, and Gortat for nine minutes and Wall, Beal, Porter, Dudley, Nene for seven minutes.
  • Carmelo Anthony spoiled the chance for free Chick-fil-A and a frenzied Verizon Center. After missing the first free throw with 7:06 left in the fourth, he made the second. The Knicks made all three pairs of free throws they took with under 20 seconds left to ice the game.
  • A passed basketball found a streaking Otto Porter for a jack-knife jam to somehow keep the Wizards within a point, 110-111, with 23 seconds left. NBA.com play-by-play data described it as a “cutting dunk shot.” Afterward, the Wizards pressured the ball and controversy ensued. Galloway received in inbounds pass, lost his balance near the baseline under the pressure, and the ball caroomed off the floor and limbs. Through it all, with nary the possession of the ball and others on both sides touching out of bounds at various points, Galloway was somehow awarded a timeout. John Wall, who was there forcing the potential turnover, threw a temper-tantrum and was somehow not given a tech. The Knicks still got their debatable timeout and then commenced the free throw contest to win the game.
  • What Wall said about it: “It was terrible. I smacked it off his leg and then his hand was out of bounds and he was trying to grab the ball. Then the ball was on his back, he didn’t have it on his arm, and he just went on ahead and called timeout.”
  • Randy Wittman essentially just missed the first quarter after spending much of the day in Minnesota for Flip Saunders’ memorial service. Afterward, he was asked about the process of the day and the game. He had to pause for about 20 seconds to gather himself emotionally before he could get into talking about the game, and his team’s poor defense.

  1. legitimacy of public player tracking stats doesn’t necessarily factor shot contest quality and defensive scheming like doubling-teaming
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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 lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.