Snapping Out of a Funk — Washington Rolls Boston | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Snapping Out of a Funk — Washington Rolls Boston

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Updated: November 11, 2016
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Picture Credit: Monumental Sports

 

Still, if you want to make the playoffs, you’ve got to win more than half—at least—and so there were significant reasons that Wednesday’s contest versus Boston had to be secured. After a dismal 1-5 start, Washington could not afford to dig themselves a deeper hole. Also: Washington Post beat writer Candace Buckner has already written that the team is in the “throes of an unbreakable funk.”

With the NBA champion Cavaliers visiting D.C. on Friday night before the Wizards travel to Chicago to play the Bulls on Saturday, coupled with John Wall resting in one of the back-to-back set, a 1-8 start appeared imminent. 

The common theme of Washington’s losses has been was them hanging for three quarters and then blowing it in the fourth. To the benefit of anxious fans, the Wizards took a new approach on Wednesday by jumping on the Celtics early, bursting out to leads of 12-2, then 25-4, and then 34-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Celtics, undermanned without Al Horford and Jae Crowder, never seriously threatened again. 

Here are the top storylines from the 118-93 drubbing.

3-Pointers.

Missing the 2016 NBA playoffs sealed Randy Wittman’s coaching fate and the main factor was disappointing defense. In three full seasons under Wittman, Washington never finished worse than six in defensive efficiency. In 2015-16, Washington fell to 13th. A large part of the problem was inability to defend the 3-point line. At one point in December, the Wizards were on pace to have the worst 3-point defense in NBA history. They eventually improved a tad but they still finished tied for second to last in NBA, allowing 39.1 percent from behind the arc.

New coach Scott Brooks spent the entire pre-season emphasizing defense. And yet, the issues still remain. Through the first six games, Washington ranked 24th in defensive efficiency and teams continued to scorch them with long-range bombs. On 3-pointers, opponents were connecting on 39.5 percent—the best mark in the NBA. Teams were making 11.3 3s per game, also the league best. Compounding the problem, Washington is only making 5.8 3s per game, ranked 29th in NBA, at a 29.4 percent clip, 28th in the league.

So, on average through the first two weeks of the season, the Wizards faced a pure point deficit of 16.5 points per game on 3-pointers alone. In today’s small-ball league, it is hard to compete with such a drastic difference.

Boston has been equally poor at stopping 3-pointers, ranked near the bottom in both percentage (37.3%) and made 3-pointers allowed (11.2). However, the Celtics were fifth in the league in 3-point shooting (38.3%) and fourth in makes (11.0).

It appeared Boston could exploit Washington. Instead, the Wizards came out on fire, knocking down 6-for-7 on 3-pointers in the first quarter while the Celtics misfired on all eight of their attempts. Washington ended up shooting 10-for-21 (47.6%) and Boston 10-for-31 (32.3%) but most of the Celtics makes were when the game was out of hand.

Otto Porter.

On the The Pixel-And-Roll Show podcast, I have harped that a consistent Otto Porter would be instrumental to a successful season. Young Simba has embraced that challenge and played arguably the best game as a professional. During the Wizards’ impressive first quarter, Otto outscored the entire Boston squad, 13-8. He connected on all his five shots, three of them 3-pointers. The former Georgetown star finished with a career-high 34 points. His arsenal included: spotting up for 3, finishing on the break, and busting step-back jumpers. The sparse crowd even beamed a few “OT-TO POR-TER” chants sporadically throughout the evening.

It just wasn’t his scoring. His tenacity on the boards was fantastic. His defense was stout with swats, deflections, and hustle on loose balls. Porter finished 14-for-19 on field goals (3-5 on 3-pointers) to go with 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, no turnovers, and a plus/minus of plus-18. He has never played basketball at a higher level.

Second Unit.

Another aspect to Washington’s early season woes has been their second unit. To the credit of Brooks, he keeps throwing out different lineups to see what will stick. This is a refreshing approach compared to the stubborn Wittman. Unfortunately, not much has worked leading up to the Boston game, and the reserves have either blown leads or dug deep holes for the starters. On Wednesday, it was different, as the bench outscored their counterparts 44-29. It only seem closer because Marcus Smart had 20 points for the Celtics. He didn’t start the game but did start the second half and played 36 minutes.

The Wizards reserves had their best showing of the young season. Trey Burke scored 18 points in 17 minutes, nailing three 3-pointers. He scored just 15 points, total, in his six previous games. Marcus “Hot Pocket” Thornton tallied 16 points. Jason Smith led a sweet fast break. Tomas Satoransky ran effective pick-and-rolls. It was a masterful overall team showing.

Rebounding.

In the post-game interviews, Boston point guard Isaiah Thomas attributed their defeat to the Wizards out-hustling his team, specifically on the glass.

“We’re in a bad funk right now, but we can’t hold our heads. I think one thing is we’re not the hardest playing team anymore. I think that’s what made us special, made us good, was us playing harder than the other team, being more scrappy, getting all the loose balls. The rebounds don’t come to us anymore because we’re not playing hard.”

Washington grabbed 54 rebounds while Boston only corralled 31. And the Wizards crushed them on second-chance points, 33-10. Porter had the same number of offensive rebounds (7) as the entire Boston team.

The Altercation.

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Ask your average Wizards fan about their team’s rival. The Cavaliers / Jay-Z / Soulja Boy beef is a distant memory. With Nene and Joakim Noah’s respective departures from Washington and Chicago, those playoff battles lack the current juice. Toronto doesn’t ignite legitimate animosity (especially with Paul Piece in L.A.). Sans Kent Bazmore’s flagrant on Wall in the season opener, there seems to be few personality disputes with Atlanta. Perhaps Boston could be the villain. Al Horford took his free agent talents to the Celtics instead of the Wizards. And last season, Boston swept Washington, 4-0. Three of the losses were blowouts, but in the close home defeat, things got chippy. Wall called the Celtics out for being dirty.

(The right answer is the Celtics, if you didn’t follow.)

Late in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, the Wizards were up 20 points and Wall pressured Smart in the backcourt. The duo got tangled up and Wall committed a hard foul by pulling Smart to the ground. Tempers flared and neither guard wanted to back down. They were quickly separated by the refs and teammates. Smart kept yelling at Wall, who screamed back, and it even appeared that Wall motioned for them to settle it outside later. Smart then jawed with other Wizards and seemed ready to throw down with anyone on the bench.

The refs went to the replay review and decided Wall’s aggression warranted a Flagrant 2, which resulted in an ejection. This was the second straight game that Washington’s franchise player was booted—and he was fined $25K for “inappropriate contact” with a referee on Monday.

I was in Boston’s locker room when Smart was asked what went down with Wall.

“He made a hard foul and [I wasn’t] too fond of it. I let him know what I had to say. I ain’t backing down from nobody, and that’s going to be understood from here on out. I don’t know what he thought, but I think he got the message. … He said I couldn’t post him up because I posted him up and I’ve been posting up little guards all year. It is what it is.”

Wall didn’t mince words but his angst seemed more against the refs not giving him calls.

“Nothing, it was just me getting frustrated. I had my fingers bleeding. They got stepped-on on purpose. I drove to the basket a couple times and didn’t get calls. The play before that, I was dribbling and got smacked right across the face to my ear. I just let my frustration get the best of me.

“No it’s just this team, they’ve always been the most physical team against us. I think for the first time, we were the more physical team. Nothing in the past led up to anything that happened, it was just me going through the game saying nothing to the refs. And then me trying to play through a couple calls and tried to play through it and just got frustrated at the end.”

The next Wizards versus Celtics game is on January 11, 2017 in Boston. Buckle up!

Pictures.

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Adam McGinnis
Reporter / Writer / Media at TAI
Adam is a bro from the Midwest who's been bopping around the District of Columbia for years. He's down with a range of sports, etc. and has covered the Washington Wizards for TAI since 2010.