Weekend Recap: John Wall Leads Point of Attack in Washington's First Road Victory | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Weekend Recap: John Wall Leads Point of Attack in Washington’s First Road Victory

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Updated: November 26, 2016

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[photo via the inimitable @recordsANDradio]

The Wizards were finally able to get their first road victory of the season on Friday against an Orlando Magic team that can best be described as little brother—Washington has won 13 of the last 14 versus the Magic. Despite that dominance, the contest still came down to the wire (as it often has for the Wizards).

Playing what appeared to be their best basketball of the season, the Wizards built a 19-point lead in the first quarter, just to watch it all crumble as the team was barely able to reach the finish line. But as the old adage goes, a win is a win.

Washington got their double-digit lead by wreaking havoc on the defensive end against Orlando, not to be mistaken for an offensive juggernaut with their measly 91.9 points per game average (29th in the NBA). That defensive intensity started at the point of attack with John Wall leading the way with his three steals. The most beautiful of those was when Wall used a freakish burst of speed to pick the pocket of an oblivious Elfrid Payton as he tried to advance the ball. Wall circled all the way back to finish with a slam at the rim (pick courtesy Bradley Beal).

“Defense won this game for us, John set the tone defensively for us in the first quarter. His pressure on the ball and keeping (Elfrid) Payton out of the paint. He just did a good job of orchestrating our team.” —Scott Brooks on Wall’s defensive effort and leadership

Wizards television announcers Phil Chenier and Steve Buckhantz told Wall, as he casually at on the scorer’s table after the victory, of his accomplishment in passing Elvin Hayes for No. 2 on the franchise’s all-time steals list. Wall responded by saying that he wants to be first at everything. In due time, he may actually lead the Wizards in every statistical category. We already watched him pass Wes Unseld to become the franchise’s all-time leader in assists earlier this season; Wall added 10 more assists to that total with his performance on Friday night. Wall currently averages 8.7 assists per game, over 40 percent of his team’s total 20.7 assists per game (ranked 22nd in the league). Ball movement is one of Washington’s weaknesses, and that very lack of offensive fluidity caused the stagnation which let the Magic back into the game.

Another glaring weakness the Wizards weren’t able to hide: opposing dominance in the rebounding department. Washington was out-rebounded by the Magic, 55-46, marking the fourth straight game they were thoroughly beat on the glass. Despite that, the Wizards maintained an offensive advantage in the paint, outscoring the Magic 46-40 near the basket. Wall deserves much of the credit for that, because he was attacking the rim like a man possessed. When the Wizards needed to close out the game, it was Wall who converted on two driving layup attempts, including an and-one finish with one minute left that gave the Wizards a 91-87 lead, the final cushion they needed to win.

Continued Bench Struggles.

Washington’s bench was outscored 22-12 and all five second unit players finished with a negative in plus-minus. Scott Brooks went back to an all bench lineup in the second quarter, just as he did against the Suns earlier in the week. It’s hardly a coincidence that Washington’s massive lead subsequently evaporated, and many are finding it hard to imagine how Brooks can go extended stretches with neither Wall nor Beal on the court.

Staggering Wall and Beal’s minutes is a theme that Wizards critics have been wanting to see for the past few seasons, as it allows for both to have spurts where they can keep the offensive flow. Too many times it seems as if Washington’s second unit is aimlessly running around the court instead of trying to execute. While Tomas Satoransky has proven to be a legitimate NBA rotation player, his defensive versatility is further along than his offensive play-making skills. There’s no doubt going to be a learning curve—playing point in the NBA is the hardest position to learn. But Satoransky needs to be more assertive and less timid with the ball in his hands.

The rest of the bench is a cast full of misfits who either can’t create their own shot, or in the case of Marcus Thornton, are not trustworthy enough to take enough “good” shots within the offense. It is becoming more and more apparent that the second unit desperately needs help. Until then, Wall and Beal will have to continue taking turns putting this team on their respective backs to maintain some sort of semblance of respectability, and even that might not be enough.


STAT CHECK.

  • The Wizards as a team are minus-45 in 725 minutes on the season (15 games).
  • With both Wall and Beal on the court, they are plus-21 in 316 minutes.
  • With only Wall, the Wizards are minus-15 in 129 minutes.
  • With only Beal, they are minus-6 in 89 minutes.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Writer
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.