Key Legislature: Wizards 104 vs Mavericks 116 — Small Ball Wiz Can’t Stand Tall | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 104 vs Mavericks 116 — Small Ball Wiz Can’t Stand Tall

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Updated: December 7, 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 Mavericks, Regular Season Game 18, Dec. 6, 2015, by Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).

 

The small ball, big-deficient Washington Wizards went down against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday evening, 104-116. They tried their best, for a half … until Dallas figured out how to counter swarms of smaller players guarding their bigs—mainly Dirk Nowitzki, who could hardly be classified as a big if he weren’t seven feet tall.

Randy Wittman trotted out 16 different five-man units with Nene, Kris Humphries, and Drew Gooden once again out due to injury and Marcin Gortat unavailable due to a personal family matter. Five of those lineups played five or more minutes and finished a collective minus-9. Newcomer, and current starting center, Ryan Hollins saw just 4:34 of action, and DeJuan Blair saw about 12 minutes at the 5 spot off the bench. Jared Dudley played center exclusively for about 20 minutes, in which the Wizards were plus-8 better than the Mavs. Otto Porter was asked to do the same for just over 11 minutes, but the Wizards were a total minus-11 during his time.

Washington was able to hold command, up 58-49 with about two minutes remaining the first half, for a variety of reasons. Bradley Beal was ultra-aggressive early—he scored seven points in the first quarter, but then he started to cool off. John Wall picked up his teammate’s slack, however, scoring 12 first-half points to go with 7 assists, 4 steals, and 0 turnovers. As a team, the Wizards excelled in two key areas that allowed them to keep pace with the Mavs: rebounding out of the backcourt (Wall 2 boards, Beal 5, and Porter with 6 in the first half), and limiting turnovers (only 2 turnovers leading to 2 Dallas points over the first 24 minutes). Dirk Nowitzki scored 12 first half points of this own, but Rick Carlisle’s offense was contained to 43.6 percent shooting overall. The Wizards would at times run hard-to-read double-team schemes at Dirk before he caught the ball in his comfort zone on the deep left wing, forcing Dallas to settle for other options, but then Washington would leave a player like Dudley to guard Dirk one-on-one as soon as he got the ball. It worked to a degree.

But late in the second quarter, the Mavs used a series of open misses by the Wizards to start catching up on the scoreboard. Nowitzki earned two free throws on a questionable call, then Beal immediately turned the ball over, then John Jenkins made a long 2 to pull the Mavs within three points, 55-58. Ramon Sessions concluded the first half with two misses at the free throw line and entered the locker room flexing his right hand.

Washington started the third quarter by returning to sloppy play and missed open shots. They went 2-for-9 in the first five-plus minutes; Beal missed three shots, Dudley missed two, and Wall committed two turnovers. During that same span, Dallas found Wesley Matthews over and over from beyond the arc (3-4 on 3s early in the third). Matthews had been struggling all season going into the night—and even recently called himself out. Carlisle and his players patiently and purposefully swung the ball and made Washington pay, awakening their high-priced free agent acquisition in the process: Matthews was 2-for-6 on 3s after the first half and 6-for-11 from deep by the end of the third quarter. He ended the game 10-for-17 from beyond the arc. Per the database Basketball-Reference.com, it was the second time someone has hit 10 or more 3s against the Wizards since 1985-86 (Deron Williams went 11-16 in Brooklyn in March 2013). After the game, Beal questioned his team’s execution, even if it still fails to excuse how Matthews continued to get free to make four more 3-pointers after making six through three quarters. “Wes got hot because we were doubling, our rotations we were kind of over-helping when we weren’t supposed to, leaving Wes open and Wes is going to shoot the ball every time it touches his hands,” Beal said.

Still, the Wizards were fully in the game thanks to John Wall’s brilliance. Over the last 6:40 of the third he scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting. If he wasn’t initiating nice offense when posting up versus Deron Williams, he was jetting past Raymond Felton or John Jenkins to the basket. Washington’s defense continued with mixed results. On one late-third quarter possession Ramon Sessions and Dudley played great pick-and-roll defense to neutralize the efforts of Williams and Nowitzki. But on a subsequent play, Dudley allowed too much space for him to recover and Dirk hit his first 3-pointer of the game. Dallas took an 87-84 lead heading into the fourth period.

Wes Matthews hit three 3-pointers within the first three minutes or so of the fourth quarter. At that point, Otto Porter was guarding Nowitzki, and although he tried his hardest, the combination of his lightweight status, bad Wizards rotations, and great Dallas ball movement led to an open Matthews. Beal was far away—too far away, over eight feet—from Matthews on that first fourth-period 3. Gary Neal was closer (within five feet) on the next two but to no avail. Dudley eventually reentered the game to guard Nowitzki.

Beal woke up midway through the fourth after mostly sleep-walking since the first quarter. His right corner 3-pointer which brought Washington within six points, 96-102, with five minutes left was the closest the Wizards would get, however. The reason: The Wizards’ defense continued to break down and Felton took advantage, scoring six fourth-quarter points by minding the gaps. Second half rebounds also escaped the Wizards’ backcourt—Beal had zero in the second half, Wall grabbed 2, and Porter, really the only effective Wizard on the glass, added 5 to bring his game-high total to 11. Overall, the Wizards were outrebounded by the Mavs, 31-50; each team secured six offensive rebounds.

The nail in the coffin was a late Jeremy Evans offensive rebound as the Wizards desperately jacked up shots in a vain comeback attempt. Dallas took a timeout after that rebound with a 110-100 lead and 1:51 left. After the timeout, Dallas ran a play during which Evans appeared to set an illegal moving screen on John Wall, bumping knees with Wall in the process. Wall was sent reeling and Evans found himself open at the 3-point line: count it. It was the dagger, if you will, as the Wizards were officially down and Wall was out. Because of that knee bump, two teammates had to carry Wall off the court and into the locker room. Such moments are always scary for anyone involved with the Wizards. Early reports per The Washington Post, indicate that there is no structural damage to Wall’s right knee and that his status against the Heat in Miami tonight is questionable.

The 8-10 Wizards were once again sent into the evening licking their wounds, literally and figuratively. They have lost six of their last eight games and play five of the next six on the road (Houston visits Washington on Wednesday). The Catch-22 positive is that Wall, after going through a rut from the fifth game of the season thru the 14th (in which the Wizards went 3-7), continues to display a return to an All-Star level. Unfortunately, a brilliant effort on Sunday evening was wasted. Wall totaled 28 points, 10 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds, and just 2 turnovers. It was only the sixth time that an NBA player achieved at least 25 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals with 2 turnovers or less since Wall entered the league in 2010-11. The other five times were brought to you by Chris Paul, who went 3-2 in those games.

Wall’s best, even historic, efforts are still not enough for the Wizards. Having a full contingent of big men hasn’t proved to be enough for Washington, either. Beal continues to be inconsistent, even if he’s pacing himself with a career high .516 eFG%, and Dudley and Porter—in particular Porter—continue to miss open shots far too often. Porter is currently shooting 25 percent on 3-pointers and 23.1 percent on wide-open 3s.

Plenty of season left, but you wonder when the Wizards are going to start theirs. They are one of four Eastern Conference teams yet to achieve double-digit spreads in victories—and two of those teams, Philadelphia (1 win) and Brooklyn (5 wins), aren’t even trying to win. It’s not the coaching, the new scheme, unreliable big men, or the purported best backcourt in the East that can be singled out as the major problem. They are all part of the problem. Not too many problems to solve with 78 percent of the season left, but the clock is ticking, and it will tock too many times before you know it.


 

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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.