Opening Statements 13: Wizards vs Suns — 99 Problems and Bench is Just One | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements 13: Wizards vs Suns — 99 Problems and Bench is Just One

Updated: November 21, 2016

Wizards at Suns - March 20, 2013

Washington’s retooled bench has been a resounding failure so far this season (still the worse in the league according to But as more games pass, it becomes clear that incapability from the supporting cast is just the tip of the Wizards Problem iceberg.

Team brass was hoping to build upon last season’s starting core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. They were plus-7.4 points per 100 possessions better than counterparts over 197 minutes (18 games) in a decent but lackluster closing stretch.

Wall and Beal have been in and out of the lineup so far this season, so that five-man crew has played 150 minutes (just 8 games) on a 12-game (3-9) campaign. They are plus-4.5 per 100 possessions—down from last season’s glimpse but still positive. The concerning part is how the starting unit has fared by quarter this season:

  • Q1: +32 (50 minutes)
  • Q2: -5 (23 minutes)
  • Q3: +19 (46 minutes)
  • Q4: -22 (27 minutes)

They’re not only struggling to close out halves, but they are getting punished in the fourth quarter, where every play means that much more. The Wizards on the season have attempted 71 shots during fourth quarter action when the margin has been five points or less, and they have made 23 (32.4%); 18 attempts were 3-pointers, only two makes (both by Beal, 2-8 from 3 overall).

The fourth quarter / close game field goal breakdown per Wizard:

  • Wall: 6-15
  • Beal: 4-16
  • Morris: 1-9
  • Porter: 3-9
  • Gortat: 2-7
  • Nicholson: 1-2
  • Smith: 2-3
  • Oubre: 2-3
  • Thornton: 1-6
  • Satoransky: 1-1

Eight of the 23 makes were assisted—Wall 4, Burke 2, Beal 1, and Morris 1. And the Wizards turned the ball over 15 times during these crucial moments—Wall 4, Smith 4, Thornton 2, and 1 each from Nicholson, Oubre, Gortat, Morris, and Satoransky.

Wall and Beal going a combined 10-for-31 (32.3%) during the fourth quarter of close games looks bad. All starters combining for 16-for-56 (28.6%) is worse. The Wizards, led by their two stars, are collectively shrinking in the moment, which points to deeper issues.

The aspirational dynamic duo of Wall and Beal may not necessarily “dislike” each other on the court anymore (like Wall claimed in the summer), but they sure aren’t playing like they know how to like each other, especially when it comes to winning games.

When on the court together, the pair is minus-32 over 43 fourth quarter minutes. Over all other quarters they are plus-45 over 171 minutes (1st +28, 60; 2nd: +7, 49; 3rd: +10, 62).

It could be that as games come down to the wire, it’s really easy to just run some iso ball and hope for the best. Thing is, this works when you have Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant or James Harden, but the Wizards have none of the above—Wall is not a dynamic enough scorer and Beal is not good at creating opportunities for teammates with the threat of his own offense.

The 4-8 Phoenix Suns visit Washington on Monday. It will be the second-to-last game on a six-game road trip in a season where the Suns will have started 11 of their first 16 games away from home.

Phoenix, struggling, has lost four of five, most recently by 15 points to the Sixers in Philly on Saturday night, after beating a struggling Pacers team by 20 in Indiana on Friday. The four losses have been by a combined 62 points—to the Nets (by 18), Warriors (13), Nuggets (16), and the aforementioned 76ers.

Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker will still pack a punch that Wall and Beal will need to counter. Bledsoe only played 31 games last season before tearing the meniscus in his left knee in December. His individual numbers are generally on par with pre-injury rates aside from his 3-point shot. Serving as backup to Wall at Kentucky, you know Bledose will be hyped for the matchup (per usual). Booker scored 38 and 39 points in back-to-back games in early-November and is generally off to a strong start in his sophomore season. Brandon Knight, who took over as Kentucky point in his single season after Wall and Bledsoe left, is still adjusting in his backup point role for Phoenix and has been subject to trade rumors.

The Suns began 2016-17 with a starting lineup of Bledsoe, Booker, TJ Warren, Jared Dudley, and Tyson Chandler—they are plus-6 over 114 minutes on the season. Chandler has missed the past few games due to personal reasons and is doubtful for tonight; Warren missed the last game with the flu and is questionable versus the Wizards. For the past couple of weeks, Phoenix head coach Earl Watson has turned to a starting crew of Bledsoe, Booker, Warren, Maryland’s Alex Len, and rookie eighth overall pick Marquese Chriss—that unit is minus-14 over 61 minutes. Olde tymers P.J. Tucker and Leandro Barbosa also see time off the bench for the Suns, as well as rookies fourth overall pick Dragan Bender and 34th overall pick Tyler Ulis, yet another Kentucky Wildcat on their roster.

Last season the Wizards took both meetings against the Suns. The first was a 109-106 win in Washington. The Wizards were without Gortat, Nene, and Drew Gooden, providing a reason for Randy Wild Thang Wittman to go extra small at one point with a lineup of Sessions, Wall, Beal, Temple, and Porter. Beal led the charge with 34 points and Wall added 17, but it was a sloppy affair all around. The teams combined for 45 turnovers, Wall committing seven himself to nine assists. The night was capped when Markieff Morris, then with Phoenix, earned himself a technical foul because he insisted on changing positions, over and over again, when lined up for a free throw with the game still at hand.

The second win came in Phoenix on April 1, a sorely needed victory to make Washington 37-39 in a futile playoff chase. The 106-99 Wizards win was also sandwiched by bad losses in Sacramento and Los Angeles (to the Clippers). So this is what I had to say about that Suns game:

The Wizards looked terrible for about 40 minutes. They really did. Or was it that possessions in the doldrums, which can be randomly common during an 82-game stretch, were magnified by this glass-almost empty disappointing season? Or was it that the Suns are really inexperienced and the Wizards were going to manage to hang around no matter what? Washington went on a 17-7 run midway through the third quarter and it merely gave them a two-point lead, 75-73. And before the Wizards woke up during the game’s last eight minutes, seizing the lead for good with a 8-1 run, they led in score for a grand total of 128 seconds.

To date, things haven’t changed much. We still feel you, Marcin.

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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.