Size Matters But Washington Shrinks Again — Wizards vs Mavericks, DC Council 18 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Size Matters But Washington Shrinks Again — Wizards vs Mavericks, DC Council 18

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Updated: December 7, 2015

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Mavericks, Game 18, Dec. 6, 2015, via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur).

M.V.P.

Even with John Wall putting up a historic, M.V.P.-worthy stat line, as noted by TAI’s Kyle Weidie, it has to be Wesley Matthews, who was on the winning side.

Shocking, in a way, as Matthews came into Sunday’s night game mired in the biggest slump of his career, shooting 34 percent from the field and coming off one of his worst games ever as a professional. In the Mavericks’ Friday night loss to the Houston Rockets, Matthews shot 1-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-8 from 3-point range. But on Sunday evening, Matthews certainly earned his near-max contract when he absolutely took over the game in the second half with a barrage of 3-pointers. Some were contested but many were wide-open looks. The defensive breakdowns all boil down to one thing: overcompensating for a severe height disadvantage.

The Wizards appeared to have control of the game in the second quarter, having built a 58-49 lead, but a few costly mistakes (including another inexplicably bad turnover on an in-bounds play) allowed Dallas to trim the deficit to three points by halftime. In the second half, Matthews was a man possessed, scoring 14 in the third and hitting eight of 10 total 3-pointers, tying a Mavs record.

After the game, Matthews credited Dallas starting center Zaza Pachulia for getting him going in the second half:

“You know, Zaza [Pachulia] actually sparked it and told me that next time the ball comes in he’s gonna fake going to the rim and he’s gonna hit me in the corner for 3. I was geared up and ready for that. It happened, and the 3 dropped. It kinda opened the gates.”

That simple drive-and-kick action proved to be a winning formula for the Mavericks in the second half. They would spend the majority of the second 24 minutes using quality ball movement to make Washington’s defenders pay for overcompensating for their lack of size and double-teaming Dirk Nowitzki in the post whenever Otto Porter was guarding him.

Even the future Hall of Famer was taken aback by how small the Wizards were playing.

“I think it was a tough game from that standpoint. They have a lot of bigs out. There was a lineup out there where there was no power forward. It was four guards and Otto Porter, but you can count him as a small forward in this league. They were extremely small and we were struggling in the first half, even after makes, they were running us. We weren’t quite ready for it, we weren’t quite getting back. In the second half, I think we adjusted better and tried to force them into a half-court game.”

Dirk is exactly right. Small ball is one thing, but the Wizards were playing “micro ball,” fielding lineups that included a slight-of-frame small forward and four guards. Once the Mavs were able to settle down and create open shots, all they needed was their $70 million man to deliver, and that’s exactly what Matthews did.

L.V.P.

The Least Valuable Player on Sunday night has to be Wizards forward Otto Porter. Even though Porter put forth a valiant effort on the defensive end—asked to guard a player both taller and longer in the tooth—he was ultimately unsuccessful. That lead to a lot of the open looks that the Mavs were able to knock down. Porter also left a lot to be desired in his offensive play, especially in the second half, shooting 4-for-11 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3.

The stat line may not seem egregious from afar, but it is mostly the timing of those misses that hurt. The Wizards were never able to recover. John Wall was slicing into the heart of the Mavericks defense at will, as they offered little rim protection all night, and he was also making the correct basketball plays by dishing the rock and finding the open man. It’s a miss-or-make league, and Otto came up short on too many opportunities that could have staved off the Mavs onslaught. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, there were just collective sighs coming from Wizards fans in the arena, as if to say something that Randy Wittman might say: ‘It just wasn’t our night.’

X-Factor.

The X-factor in this game has to be the fact that, in 2015, Raymond Felton somehow managed to grab 10 rebounds in an NBA basketball game. When the Mavericks’ Devin Harris left the game midway through the second quarter with bruised ribs after colliding with teammate Justin Anderson, the door was opened for Felton. He closed out the game next to Deron Williams in the backcourt, responding with his first double-double of the season: 11 points and 10 rebounds (plus 6 assists).

That Game Was…

A great (and terrible) case study as to why the “Golden State formula” is a pipe dream for any team other than the Golden State Warriors. Now, I know that the Wizards are only playing tiny ball out of necessity, because of a rash of injuries. But the reality is that—given the way this team is currently constructed—there needs to be at least one rim-running, quality big man on the court to take pressure off Washington’s up-and-down outside shooting. Golden State has the luxury of having an undersized 3/4/5 in Draymond Green who can legitimately guard five positions, a swiss-army knife style player in Andre Iguodala, and, oh, the best shooter of all-time.

The Wizards were able to pull out a victory playing position-less basketball against a Phoenix Suns team that seems to be almost as dysfunctional. They did not have nearly as much luck taking on a much better-coached organization in the Dallas Mavericks.

To literally add injury to insult, the Wizards fanbase was put on extreme notice when star John Wall bumped knees with Mavericks forward Jeremy Evans late in the fourth quarter. But it appears for now that Wizards may have dodged a cannonball.

Three Things We Saw.

#1) Ryan Hollins may not be on this team for long. After being signed last Monday to replace the injured Martell Webster, Hollins has started in consecutive games with a variety of Wizards big men out. However, it does not appear that Hollins has the full trust of head coach Wittman—he did not play a single minute after his first substitution, even with the Wizards being at a serious disadvantage on the size front. Hollins’ contract is non-guaranteed if he is released by the Wizards before January 10, 2016, and if the last two games are any indication, Hollins will most definitely be expendable by the time the Wizards’ regular bigs return. His roster space could be used to shore up other areas, or to simply find a better rim-protecting big off the bench (if such even exists).

#2) There was a two-minute stretch in the first quarter where it appeared that DeJuan Blair would get some revenge against one of his former teams when he went off for seven quick points on 3-for-3 shooting. But DeJuan Blair giveth, and DeJuan Blair taketh away. Blair committed four personal fouls that all resulted in free throw attempts for Mavericks players. That’s eight points given away for nothing, all because Blair is a natural-born hack due to his lack of foot speed.

#3) Speaking of free throws… The Wizards finished the game 12-for-21 from the charity stripe, while the Mavericks capitalized on 24 of their 27 attempts. In a game where playing small was the only option, the Wizards stayed aggressive attacking the rim and actually dominated the points in the paint category, 42-28. If Washington could have hit a few more of their free throws (they’re shooting 75.3% on the season, ranked 16th), it would have made it much easier to survive the constant barrage of 3s being shot and made by the Mavericks. Maybe they even could have stayed close enough to make a legit push at the end of the game.

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.