From The Other Side: A Good Bench is a Terrible Thing to Waste | Wizards Blog Truth About

From The Other Side: A Good Bench is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Updated: November 27, 2016

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use our access to explore what is going on with the opposing team the Wizards are facing. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the role of the San Antonio Spurs bench in their 112-100 victory over the Wizards.

To criticize the paltry production of this year’s Washington Wizards bench is the lowest of low hanging fruit. It has been done ad nauseam by my colleagues, as well as national writers like ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Trey Burke has lost his confidence, Jason Smith and Andrew Nicholson cannot be counted on, Kelly Oubre has yet to find the confidence he had in summer league, and Tomas Satoransky has balanced positive flashes with expected rookie struggles.

The good news for the Wizards, at least in the long term, is that Ian Mahinmi (and his $64 million contract) finally made his season debut after missing the first 14 games recovering from knee surgery in mid-October. Mahinmi played just 14 minutes and scored a point with three fouls and two turnovers during that span, but the rustiness he showed was perfectly understandable. Once he gets into basketball shape and gets consistent minutes, he’ll be a physical presence inside, and he’ll be able to set good screens, as Scott Brooks mentioned in his pregame presser.

Conversely, San Antonio’s bench continues to be one of the many strengths of the team. Last year, the Spurs bench ranked third in the NBA in points scored with 38.5 per game, and through the first 16 games of this season, they are 12th in the league with an average of 34.1 points. The Wizards bench, meanwhile, is second to last in the NBA with 24.4 points per game.

Before the contest Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked about this year’s bench and if it’s the best he’s ever had. First, he said he hadn’t thought about it, then he said his best bench ever was the one he had when Manu Ginobili was young, spry, and not at all fazed by not starting. After the game, with his bench producing 38 points, Popovich was a little more forthcoming with the praise—he said he was impressed with their ability to come together so soon and play effectively.

Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge was more blunt and generous with shout-outs. The day before beating the Wizards, San Antonio defeated the Celtics, 109-103, in a hard-fought victory. Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points, but Tony Parker, Pau Gasol (scoreless), Danny Green, and Aldridge (4-for-12) combined to score just 28 points. The bench, however, led by Patty Mills (19 points), David Lee (15 points), and Davis Bertans (15 points), scored 56 points in total to carry the Spurs. When asked about the importance of his team’s bench after the Wizards game, Aldridge referred back to the Celtics game as a point of reference:

“Last game was priceless. I mean, we [the starters] basically shit the bed to be blunt about it to start the game, and they came in and they brought the energy. They made shots, they moved the ball, and they basically showed us how to play. So I think that’s a major luxury in this league, and I thought last game it was priceless for us.”

In Washington, the Spurs bench didn’t have the dramatic impact they had the previous night, but they were effective in quelling the Wizards at various points during the game.

David Lee.

In 20 minutes of play, David Lee had four points, seven rebounds, and three fouls, which is a far cry from his career averages of 14 points and 9.1 rebounds. But with eight minutes left in the game, Lee blocked not one but two shots by Wizards in a singular possession, which led to a Jonathon Simmons dunk that extended the Spurs lead from 14 to 16 points and energized the entire team.

Patty Mills.

Before the game, Popovich praised Mills for making the transition from being known solely as the energy guy to being a cerebral point guard who can put his teammates in productive spots on the floor. Mills used both his cerebral and physical gifts to score on John Wall at various points. In the first half, he hit scored five points on consecutive possessions, one when Wall went under the screen, leaving Mills wide open. In the second half, Mills just flat out used his quickness to get past Wall and get a desirable shot. He finished with 13 points and four assists in just 19 minutes of play.

Jonathon Simmons.

Simmons was the high scorer off the Spurs bench with 15 points to go with four assists, two steals, a blocked shot, and five fouls in 23 minutes of play. Yes, he spent a good deal of his time airborne as the clip above aptly demonstrates, but he also provided the energy and efficiency (he shot 5-for-6 from the field) that a bench player should provide—especially on the second night of back-to-back games. He hit pull-up shots; he drove the lane; he guarded Wall, Beal, Porter, Oubre, and Satoransky; he hit 3-pointers; he dunked on fast breaks; and he even had a LeBron-like block on Marcus Thornton.

Speaking of that blocked shot, here was Simmons on why it was so important to go after it:


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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop,, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.