Offensively Without Identity: Wizards Forget to Make Statement in Milwaukee | Wizards Blog Truth About

Offensively Without Identity: Wizards Forget to Make Statement in Milwaukee

Updated: December 24, 2016

This was supposed to be a statement game, and the Wizards certainly made one thing very clear: The “identity” they keep preaching, that of a defense-first team, is nowhere near reality.

The Milwaukee Bucks put up 100 points in the first three quarters of Friday night’s 123-96 win over Washington. It probably could have been more, but the visiting team in red, white, and blue had long since thrown in the towel. The closest thing to a glimmer of hope Washington could point to was at the 6:47 mark of the first quarter, when Otto Porter—who wasn’t even sure to play due to a sore back—drained his fourth 3-pointer in as many attempts to put his squad ahead, 16-13. Milwaukee then went on a 6-0 run that eventually became a 24-13 run to end the first quarter, which led into a second quarter that started with an 8-3 Bucks run, which was actually part of their 19-7 run to open the period. And when that finally ended, another 9-2 run near the end of the second pushed the Bucks ahead by 20.

Milwaukee’s 123 regulation points tied for the franchise’s 20th most of the past 20 seasons, and that’s despite scoring just 23 in the fourth quarter when the game was already long past decided. If this had been a midweek match played at the Verizon Center, the remaining crowd in the final five minutes would have been in the triple digits, even if chicken sandwiches were on the line.

John Wall put up 18 and 10 on 8-for-18 shooting to go along with three boards, three turnovers, and a steal. Bradley Beal had a very quiet 10 points on 10 shots, including five shots in the first quarter and none in the second. Porter finished with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, but he had just seven points on 2-for-4 shooting after the first quarter. The bench finished with respectable numbers, but those mostly came during mop-up time in the fourth quarter; through the third quarter, the entire bench had 10 points on nine shots to 28 points on 17 shots from Milwaukee’s bench.

At times, it wasn’t the Wizards’ fault on defense. I mean, how do you really stop something like this, short of giving a foul at midcourt every time?

And when the Bucks’ shoot the way they did to start the game, give credit where credit is due.

But the Bucks realistically aren’t going to put up NSFW numbers from the field on a consistent basis if the Wizards play even somewhat capable defense, which they did not. Milwaukee shot at least 65 percent from the field in each of the first two quarters (.682 in the first, .650 in the second) and finished the first half a cool 28-for-42 (.667) from the field and 13-for-14 from the line. They also outrebounded the Wizards 21-13 in the first half, with Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe (12.2 rebounds per game between them), grabbing as many rebounds as the entire Washington squad.

In the first half, Washington shot .512 from the field (22-for-43) and .538 from 3-point range (7-for-13) while turning it over just six times, all en route to 58 points. Those should be winning numbers. Washington was losing by 15 points. The Wizards average 53 points per first half this season; they scored 58 on Friday night. The Bucks average 52.6 points per first half this season; they scored 73. See where the problem is in this equation?

Yet sure enough, every time a Wizards player is asked about a positive outcome, or what the team needs to continue to work on, or what the identity is, or any other generic postgame question, the answer always comes back to two things: defense and effort. And that’s all fine and good, but if this team is truly so focused on defense and effort, how exactly does something like this happen (repeatedly)?

There are many things that happened in this game that Washington is not to blame for. Giannis Antetokounmpo seems to be realizing more and more with each game that passes that he is one of the most dominant forces in the league when he is in attack mode. He scored a career-high 39 points on 12-for-19 shooting, and he added eight rebounds and six assists—though he was in the game longer than he needed to be, seemingly in stat-padding mode. But the Greek Freak was unstoppable for the entirety of the first half, singlehandedly pouring in 24 points on just 11 shots while hitting all eight of his free throws.

Not many teams can stop him, and the Wizards struggled, and that’s OK. But the Milwaukee bench core of Malcolm Brogdon, Greg Monroe, Mirza Teletovic, Jason Terry, and Thon Maker combined to score 40 points on 16-for-27 shooting, and that’s despite an 0-for-9 night from Teletovic (who scored a season-high 25 points on 5-6 from deep when these two teams met in D.C. two weeks ago).

Milwaukee outscored Washington in the paint by a whopping 66-46 margin, lending additional credence to the notion that Marcin Gortat is painfully lonesome in the Wizards’ painted area. Ian Mahinmi, who is almost definitely probably maybe perhaps returning in five or six more weeks (or more), would certainly help the overmatched Polish fellow under the basket. But the fact that there’s such an obscene drop from Gortat’s interior presence to the Wizards’ second-best such defender—Jason Smith? Markieff Morris?—transforms nights like this from a rough start to a complete and utter rout too violent to be shown during daytime television.

Wall’s quote about getting one’s “ass whupped” one in every five games, while great for soundbites and future reference, is bullshit. If you get your ass whupped in 20 percent of your games, you are a terrible team. Not bad, terrible. Teams that get their ass whupped once every five games should trade away their best players for assets and start all over, because that’s a team that’s nowhere near winning.

Let’s wrap this up and never think about it again:

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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.