Soundin' Like Old Records: No Defense, No W's — Wizards Fall to Heat, 111-114 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Soundin’ Like Old Records: No Defense, No W’s — Wizards Fall to Heat, 111-114

Updated: November 20, 2016

We’ve done this bit before. The Wizards don’t defend, so the Wizards lose, as they did by way of a 114-111 bout that left them battered and bruised in more ways than one. We’ve seen this story play out a million times (or more precisely, nine times and counting this season), and no matter how many times we talk about it, it doesn’t get any better. Like a broken record, some might say. Or as Bradley Beal might say, like old records.

How is [defensive effort] something you fix? Is something you need to do in practice? A new strategy?

“I wish you could see our practices, and see how much defense we do. We do it. Like we guard each other in practice, we just gotta carry it over to the game. Like we sound like old records, man, we keep saying what we need to do, we know what we need to do, it’s just effort and a matter of doing it.”

With no defense comes great responsibility, and the Wizards seemed to be on track to make up the difference with superior offensive play. John Wall started the game like a man possessed, racking up six assists in the first 4:14 of the game. He added a 3-pointer and a pair of layups, then he was subbed out for Tomas Satoransky at the 2:50 mark. His statline through one frame: 7 points (3-for-4), 6 assists, 1 rebound, 0 turnovers.

Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, and Markieff Morris each finished the first quarter shooting 3-for-4, as well, contributing six points apiece, and Satoransky and Marcus Thornton combined to go 3-for-3 off the bench for seven points. Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter collectively missed seven of eight shots and grabbed just two rebounds in the first period (12 minutes of Otto, four minutes for Oubre), but otherwise it was a generally strong opening stanza.

Except for, you know, stopping the other team. Hassan Whiteside was held without a single rebound in the opening quarter, during which the Heat committed six turnovers to Washington’s one. And yet, the Wizards led by just two points, 35-33. The primary culprit was, of course, a total inability to contest shots.

The Heat made 13 of their 20 shots in the quarter, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc and, just for kicks, 5-for-5 from the free throw line. They grabbed three offensive rebounds—the Wizards grabbed three defensive rebounds.

“The difference in the game, they got layups and they got wide-open 3s,” John Wall explained. “They have some guys that usually don’t make shots, but they made shots because they basically were like workout shots: There was nobody there to contest them.”

Miami entered the game averaging 94.5 points per game, the third-worst in the league. They surpassed that mark with a Tyler Johnson triple just more than a minute into the fourth quarter that made it 97-87.

Almost every Miami player of note either matched or exceeded their season scoring average, with Tyler Johnson (5 points on 1-for-9 shooting on Saturday night, averages 12.6 points per game) being the only significant exception:

Hassan Whiteside: Averages 17.6, scored 18
Goran Dragic: Averages 16.3, scored 22
Dion Waiters: Averages 12.5, scored 16
Josh Richardson: Averages 11.4, scored 15
James Johnson: Averages 8.5, scored 17
Derrick Williams: Averages 4.8, scored 12

The Heat played without Justise Winslow, who averages 11.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, but they didn’t need him as they scored at least 23 points in each quarter and 64 combined in the first and third.

“It’s frustrating, but you know we’re only doing it to ourselves,” Beal said. “We’re beating ourselves. We are allowing teams to be comfortable, to do what they want to do. They were just bombing up 3s left and right and they were going in, and that’s draining. When you see three points going up on the board, that’s draining every single time, especially when they are hot, they’re having fun, they feel like they are in the game. That sense of hope, it kinda affects you a little bit.”

Weird hearing a Wizards player yearning for a sense of hope.

Scott Brooks was visibly dejected after the game, looking like he’d been through a war. This is a guy whose NBA coaching career began with a 3-29 start, and he is already throwing his hands up in frustration with this Wizards team.

Every loss brings the same sad song: We have to defend. We have to play together. We have to make an effort.

Even before the game, Brooks questioned his team’s ability to give a legitimate, consistent effort.

It’s hard to watch at times (read: most of the time). The Wizards, to a man, identify the problems they have. And to a man, they fail to address those problems on anything resembling a consistent basis. It’s easy and convenient to blame some of the recurring themes—the significant offseason roster turnover, Wall and Beal getting back to full strength, the absence of a second interior presence with Ian Mahinmi out, etc.—but after 12 games, this degree of ineptitude has to be blamed on something deeper, something at the Wizards’ core.

What page you’re on is a good place to start:

All season, the offense has shown a tendency to get stagnant at times, as it did in the late third and early fourth quarter of this game. How do you fix that?

“You can get out of it by getting defensive stops and getting out in transition. All teams in the league are better when they’re not taking the ball out of the net, and you’re getting out and running before the defense gets set. We have to do a better job on the defensive end. I can nitpick our offense, and we were stagnant at times, but we still scored enough points. We still have to get stops.” —Scott Brooks

All season, the offense has shown a tendency to get stagnant at times, as it did in the late third and early fourth quarter of this game. How do you fix that?

I don’t think it got stagnant. I think we just did a great job of calling plays and moving the ball, we just missed shots. Give credit to teams that play good defense sometimes, but we got kind of the same looks we had in the first half, we just didn’t make shots and they were making 3s and getting easy layups, and it put us in a tough position.” —John Wall

You want to say the Wizards would be fine if Mahinmi was healthy, Beal and Wall were at full strength, and Markieff Morris hadn’t gotten hurt (oh yeah, that happened, but he says it’s no biggie)? The Heat lost Dwyane Wade this summer, Chris Bosh remains inactive, and Winslow sat out with a sore wrist. Luke Babbitt and Rodney McGruder combined to play more than 27 minutes in this game and were a net plus-5; they tallied 9 points (3-for-7), 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 fouls, and 4 turnovers, but they weren’t enough to lose the game for Miami.

The Heat started Josh Richardson, Derrick Williams, and Dion Waiters, and James Johnson was their top man off the bench. If you’re going to give bullshit excuses about health or roster turnover, this is not the game to do it after.

To the Wizards’ credit, they didn’t make excuses. (“We have enough to win,” Brooks said after the loss.) They just can’t figure out how to fix their communication / effort / focus / determination / consistency problems.

And that could be a bigger problem than health or roster/coaching turnover have ever been. There’s not enough natural talent on this team for players to just show up, put in the minutes, and hope wins follow. This isn’t a team that can coast, and while the Eastern Conference is still rather weak, it is improved in the middle and lower tiers.

That bodes poorly for the Wizards, who, with every uninspired loss, get nearer and nearer the inevitable whispers: Is it time to blow it up and start over?

One Final Takeaway.

Is there discontent in the locker room? On a general level, of course there is, considering the Wizards are 3-9. But I wonder if some of these players want a change of scenery. Quotes like this are ignored when a team is 9-3, but coming from the mouth of the best player on a 3-9 team who has a questionable relationship with his running mate, these words stood out to me. Here’s John Wall talking about what changed about the offense from the first quarter on:

“I passed the ball to a couple of guys who missed some easy shots, the ones we made in the first half, and that’s something I can deal with. I still believe in those guys to make shots. It’s just different when we made them in the first and didn’t make them in the second.”

It’s certainly possible I’m reading too much into it all. But between that, Brooks’ comments on effort levels, and Marcin Gortat calling out the bench players while also leaving early after every game before talking to media, this doesn’t seem like a group that gets joy from playing basketball with each other.


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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.