Dragic Breathes Fire as Wizards Flame Out Against Heat | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Dragic Breathes Fire as Wizards Flame Out Against Heat

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Updated: December 14, 2016

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[Image via Robert Mayer / USA TODAY Sports] 


Another day, another disappointing Wizards loss. The reason why Monday’s defeat in Miami was so disappointing is Washington’s creativity in finding new ways to lose. The 2016-17 Wizards have fully established themselves as consistently inconsistent.

In one game, the team is being done in by poor bench play.

In another, it’s poor communication on help-defense and even poorer on-ball defense that leads to their demise.

The last time the Wizards played the Heat, it was an astounding rebounding margin and second chance points that caused defeat.

This latest iteration of losing was due to missing open 3-point looks, key turnovers, and the inability to stay in front of Heat point guard, Goran Dragic.

There is no doubt in my mind the Wizards are actually showing signs of improvement in almost every contest, but these moral victories don’t really amount to much if the team is incapable of putting all of the pieces together each they step on the court.

Goran Dragic picked up his fourth personal foul early in the third quarter, so he had to sit out the rest of the period as he watched his team go from having an 11-point lead to a 5-point deficit. During that frame, the Wizards used some pretty good ball pressure to disrupt the rhythm of the Heat offense and not allow them to get into their sets until late in the shot clock. This forced Heat players who are not particularly known for their shot-creation to attempt highly contested shots.

When Dragic entered the game in the fourth quarter, everything changed for the Heat offensively and he was able to score 13 of his season high 34 points. The Wizards started out the period with Kelly Oubre defending him, because John Wall was resting on the bench and Dragic is a bit too much for Trey Burke to handle. Scott Brooks has done a pretty decent job over the last few weeks of getting his lineup rotations in order, but I still vehemently disagree with him having fourth quarter lineups that do not include Wall nor Beal. While the bench has shown signs of improvement, it is playing with fire to field lineups without one of your best players on the court—especially in a closely contested game, where every possession matters.

When Wall got back into the game he did a good job of creating points to keep the score close but was not at his best with his on-ball defense of Dragic. Wall has been everything that the Wizards could possibly want in a franchise player this season except an elite defender. Currently, Wall is the 29th ranked point guard in terms of Defensive Real Plus-Minus. The problem with Wall defensively is that he picks and chooses his spots when he wants to expend maximum energy. On possessions where he delays getting in his stance and getting up on his man, he often times gets caught trailing and compromises the help defense behind him. There were a few critical possessions in Monday night’s game where Wall was trailing Dragic, and that gave Dragic just enough space to get to his hot-spot of the night (fadeaway jumper from the right elbow).

Defensively, Wall showed some warts that on most nights would be acceptable given his ability to carry the team offensively. On this particular night, however, Wall was not able to protect the ball in crunch time and committed two critical turnovers that halted any chance of keeping the Wizards in the game. The few possessions where Wall was able to use his dribble-drive skills to create wide-open 3-point looks for the team’s best shooter, Bradley Beal was not able to capitalize. Beal started the game hot, scoring 19 of his 29 points in the first half, but he only shot 2-8 on his 3-point attempts. While his offseason talk of offensive aggressiveness has led to tangible results in terms of increased attempts from behind the arc and at the free throw line, his max contract status obligates him to finish plays on a more consistent basis.

The other problem that I can see with how this game turned out is the fact that Wall and Beal both took 20-plus shots … and the most efficient scorer on the team, Otto Porter, only took seven shots from the field.

Otto made his first appearance this week on the Synergy Sports Tech most efficient scorers in the NBA because he scores 1.16 points per possession and gets 12.2 possessions per game. It would greatly behoove the Wizards to get Otto involved more in the offense, especially to take pressure off of Wall and Beal. The team seems to be leaning on Porter heavily on defense in small-ball lineups with him playing the power forward position, but I would like to see Brooks be a little bit more creative in designing opportunities for Porter to use his athleticism and create mismatches versus bigger opponents.

Monday’s game was a momentum stopper for a team that appeared to be turning the corner, but it is not a total killer in terms of the season-long goals that this team has set out for themselves. The Wizards are only one game back in the loss column of the 8th seed, and with more critical matchups against Eastern Conference opponents who are ahead of them in the standings, there is still a reasonable sense to be cautiously optimistic.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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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.