4 Themes from a Problematic Wizards Opening Night | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

4 Themes from a Problematic Wizards Opening Night

Updated: October 28, 2016


[New Wizards coach Scott Brooks stares into the abyss on opening
night in Atlanta after a baffling turnover by Marcus Thornton.]

Well that was not ideal.
In fact, it was a mess. Just like preparing a feast for the family reunion only to come bounding from the kitchen through the swinging door, knowing both hands and house are full, and ending up belly-to-floor, face covered with mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s OK: you still have 81 more plates to serve, and one day we just might laugh about this. But not this day, not this game, because it counts. And that means no one is sharing plates at this family dinner. Cousin Larry is going home on an empty stomach (1).

In any case, there are a few rotten themes from this one, single Wizards game, a 15-point loss to the Hawks in Atlanta on opening night, that could totally reverse themselves by Sunday evening in Memphis — sports! (2):

#1) The bench was pretty bad. Not counting the four rookies and Kelly Oubre crew that finished plus-4 after Scott Brooks waved the white flag with four-plus minutes left, lineups that didn’t feature at least three starters were minus-8 in about 15 minutes. Of course, Brooks’ starters were minus-4 in 15 minutes. (Also: #FreeSato.)

#2) The two stars and rotations were off. Bradley Beal got himself in foul trouble, did some OK things (13 points on, well, 12 shots, 1 FTA) with the herky-jerky moves but otherwise played 24 minutes and that led to Marcus Thornton playing 20 minutes (2-for-8 painful shots). John Wall slipped on the floor a couple times trying to catch up with his body; he misbalanced attacking and jacking for jumpers (3-15 FGs); and he did not often enough create and command passing lanes (10 assists, 5 turnovers).

I’m not in position to question Brooks’ rotations—especially after one game and given that all lineups used underwhelmed. Still I’ll note the Burke-Thornton-Oubre-Nicholson-Smith played eight minutes and only finished minus-2, but that’s quite a long time (nearly 17% of the game, analytics) to pedal down the street with no hands on the handlebars.

#3) Professionalism. No, the Wizards are not being called out for being unprofessional, but they did just sort of fall apart. Absolutely apart. It was such a close game—two-point Hawks first quarter win, one-point Wizards second quarter win, a tied third quarter. But then they fell apart. Wall’s body language was not optimal. Marcin Gortat threw up an airball jump hook quickly after snagging an offensive rebound in an apparent attempt to make up for limited opportunity earlier (he had six shots total). Beal hung his head after a turnover and then casually went over to contest a Tim Hardaway, Jr. 3-pointer that only put Atlanta up 13 with 7:47 left, but which was part of a 20-2 run to start the fourth quarter. It was over before it was over.

And I’m going to lump in rebounding under so-called “professionalism” because it is a basketball act, at its core, which is about being hungry enough to chase the ball and/or disciplined enough to box your specific man out by any means. Washington got man’d 52-40 on the glass, with Dwight Howard snatching 19 total, seven offensive.

#4) Defense. The Wizards held Atlanta to 38.8 percent shooting in the first half but gave up 20 second-chance points (12 offensive rebounds) and committed eight fouls, giving the Hawks 14 points from the free throw line. Washington was aggressive in spurts (bunch of steals) but the defense was still bad. The Hawks shot 62.5 percent in the second half (and just 0-3 on free throws) and 12-for-26 from deep on the night (46%). And how about this for your fancy, computin’ analytics: the NBA started tracking “hustle stats” this year and part of that is contested jump shots. Atlanta contested 72, Washington contested 53.

And now some poor efforts on defense in video (not Vine) form. A few of these instances came late in the game as things crept just beyond out of hand, which I’m not sure if it makes them more embarrassing or not (3).

  1. But not me because I gorged myself on a poboy from Tchoup’s Market on Georgia Ave. just before game time.
  2. Also: sporps.
  3. Not pictured from the first quarter: Otto Porter getting shoulder-to-chested by Paul Millsap and giving up a bucket, and-1; Kelly Oubre unnecessarily sinking too far from his man, being slow to recover, giving up a dribble drive, and that leading to a Hawks corner 3; a lazy non-call foul immediately followed by an actual lazy foul committed by Markieff Morris midway through the quarter, which was his second foul; and more.
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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 currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.