Wizards Can't Even Tread Water Against the Magic | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Can’t Even Tread Water Against the Magic

Updated: December 7, 2016


What on earth is going on with these Washington Wizards? The team is 7-13, tied for sixth fewest wins in the NBA, and just gave up a season-high 124 points to the second worst offense in the league. The Verizon Center is dead as a doornail, players are ducking the media, the coach is questioning their ability to execute the basics, and a career-high 52 points from their star was wasted on Tuesday night.

Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s time to evoke the Curse o’ Les Boulez. OK, not really. But it’s bad, almost astoundingly so. And something’s gotta give. This is a business we’re talking about. The Wizards are struggling with every chance to keep their head above water.

“I think we just didn’t come out with defensive intensity, kind of like the last game in Brooklyn,” said John Wall after losing to the now 10-12 Orlando Magic, 116-124. Wall was the only Wizards player who faced the media after the game. “We didn’t play to engage or [with] chippiness, and they were the more aggressive team.”

Wall displayed an amazing will to keep going, to try to jump-start his squad. Unfortunately that—scoring 50-plus points for the 11th time in franchise history and being the first to do so since Gilbert Arenas in January 2007—can’t be the focus right now. Especially when Wall has things like this to say:

“Not even just defense, just playing hard. Our job is to wake up and just play hard. Before you made it to the NBA or got any college scholarships, you played hard everyday to get to where you wanted to. To still be talking about playing hard, that’s something that you should be able to just do waking up.” —John Wall

As the evening transpired…

First quarter: A missed Markieff Morris bunny turned into a Marcin Gortat offensive rebound and immediate hook shot miss while teammates formed a standstill perimeter and just watched.

Did you see Wall push the rock in transition? His pass just sailed out of bounds and Morris didn’t make much of an attempt to secure it. Later Morris jutted down the lane, weaved his way toward the hoop … and just kind of lost the ball against defender verticality. Whoops.

Bradley Beal: he’ll attack! Instead: odd footwork and a settled-for, sailing pull-up that banged off the glass. Andrew Nicholson was first off the bench and, darn, couldn’t handle a John Wall pass. It’s OK, Wall skipped his frustration away before slapping Nicholson a courtesy five. Patience is a virtue.

But then an ill-timed and uncoordinated Beal-Gortat pick-and-roll flopped like toast on the floor, butter side down. Oh, and then there was this, the new, new Washington Wizards season summary:

If you think the start was bad enough, the Wizards allowed 40 points in the second quarter. Forty! In advanced stat news: the Magic did that with an Offensive Rating of 152.2. That’s like the Golden State Warriors, owners of a league-high 115.4 OffRtg, on a whole bunch of steroids.

Again, Orlando entered the night with the league’s second worst offense. Thanks to the Wizards, they are now third worst (after Philly and Dallas). Elfrid Payton, now accepting a role off the bench, scored 14 of his career-high 25 points in that second quarter. Not even Wall’s talk of better defense or his actual defense could stop Payton.

No one played well for the Wizards in the second. The starters saw 4.5 minutes of action, minus-4. The Lineup That Causes Death: Burke, Thornton, Oubre, Nicholson, and Smith played 3 minutes, minus-5. Burke, Beal, Oubre, Morris, and Smith scrambled for 1.9 minutes, minus-7.

And to quantify how valuable the dosages of these minutes are: the game was played at a Pace of 106.57, meaning that’s the number of possessions, meaning there were around 4.5 critical possessions taking place every 2 minutes. Incremental four-, five-, and seven-point confidence building swings in Orlando’s favor against a variety of talented Wizards who just couldn’t get their act together added up to a significant variable in the calculus of losing basketball.

A lazy pass by Beal to Morris sent the Magic in the other direction, except, after a Morris deflection to disrupt the break, no other Wizard bothered to get back on defense.

Warriors? The Magic looked like the Spurs with ball movement to get Evan Fournier a corner 3 later in the second period, except Beal didn’t bother to jump and contest the shot; didn’t even put a hand up. Scott Brooks called this quarter “unacceptable,” but most of the Wizards seemed perfectly fine accepting it in later stages of the game.

Out of halftime and apparently out of java, Washington didn’t really wake up till midway through the third quarter, when John Wall bombed some 3s to lead a 9-0 Wizards run. Wall scored 15 of his 52 points in the third (and 18 in the fourth) but the Magic didn’t back down. Or rather, the Wizards’ defense did. Brooks seemed especially pissed after Kelly Oubre tried to chase Aaron Gordon over a screen—points—and when Markieff Morris was once again a step behind with help-side defense—points.

Very first play of the fourth quarter, I promise you: Jodie Meeks left Marcus Thornton in his dust and Morris’ awareness of what was going on behind him was dusted.

It was quite striking to observe the Wizards get a defensive rebound and pop it to a streaking Beal with only Payton in his way and two Magic players in hot pursuit. All other Wizards froze and watched, didn’t chase. Maybe one player barely made it past half court as the whistle blew: Gordon had goaltended Beal’s layup attempt.

Later, Beal would miss a gargantuan transition dunk after the fun of a Marcus Thornton-Jeff Green jump ball. Wall was there running with Beal but others not so much. Forty seconds later, an Elfrid Payton drive and miss but easy putback by Bismack Biyombo, followed closely by a drive-and-kick Jeff Green 3-pointer, served as the daggers into the evening’s belly. Not so much a cliché “mass exodus” from the Verizon Center; just several handfuls of the dozens of handfuls of people in attendance simply left.

There’s something stained into the current culture of this ball club. If they are not edging perilously close to a major shakeup, then someone’s not truly paying attention to these results and the inability of the players to work together. Twenty games in an 82-game season are gone and the coach is questioning his team’s ability to adhere to basic principles of Naismith’s game.

“Our guys need to come out better with the defensive disposition, of just being solid with understanding the principles of guarding your man, understanding the principles of contesting the shot, and also understanding the principles of blocking out,” exclaimed Scott Brooks. “We’ve all learned that from the day we started playing, but we have to be able to do that consistently throughout the game to give us the best chance to win, and tonight that was not the case.”

Sixty-two chances to right the ship remain, or at least however many it would take to get eliminated from the playoffs.

Kyle Weidie on EmailKyle Weidie on GoogleKyle Weidie on InstagramKyle Weidie on LinkedinKyle Weidie on TwitterKyle Weidie on Youtube
Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.