Wizards Get Texas Two-Stepped to Start 2017 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Get Texas Two-Stepped to Start 2017

Updated: January 4, 2017

It was all good just a week ago. The Wizards were one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference and on their way to finishing the month of December with a 10-5 record, fully cementing themselves in the conversation as serious playoff contenders in the East. Now the Wizards find themselves having to dig themselves out of a very familiar hole: trying to surpass .500.

The Dallas Mavericks are one of the worst teams in the NBA, and a lot of that has to do with injuries more than a lack of basketball talent. Future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitizki has missed 25 games this season, but of course he was ready to play against a Washington team he has dominated over his career. The Wizards have just one win over the Mavericks in their previous 12 contests, and throwing current records out, they are still little brother to Mark Cuban’s squad. Dirk started the game at center, his second such start at the position since returning for the previous game against the Warriors. Rick Carlisle pulled a little bait-and-switch on Scott Brooks with his trickery, knowing that Brooks and the Wizards would not be able to help themselves from trying to attack a perceived weakness in Dallas’ lineup.

Instead of trying to attack Dirk with their bread-and-butter Wall/Gortat pick-and-roll, the Wizards ended up wasting many critical possessions of the game force feeding the Polish Hammer in the post. Even Wizards broadcaster Phil Chenier lamented the strategy of continuously going to Gortat in the post: “Marcin has to realize that just because [the ball] goes into him, he doesn’t have to shoot it every time.”

Gortat could not stop himself from taking advantage of his rare shot opportunities, as he is usually not a major priority for the Wizards in terms of offensive touches. Marc finished the game with a respectable stat line of 5-for-11 from the field with 12 points and 16 rebounds, and on many occasions appeared to be the only Wizard actually interested in chasing down rebounds. No other Wizard finished with more than five rebounds for the game, and as a team they were out-rebounded by the worst rebounding team in the NBA, 44-38.

Conversely on the defensive end, Gortat seemed to be confused for much of the night. He was too focused on not leaving Dirk open for jumpers. Instead of letting the defensive coverage roll naturally, Gortat would stick to Dirk all over the court, and that basically left Washington with no rim-protection.

To Gortat’s defense (no pun intended), the Wizards’ perimeter defense was piss-poor on this night. Scott Brooks seemed to think the team lacked a sense of effort.

“I haven’t said that a lot about this team, but we got outworked.”

The Wizards spent a majority of the game attempting to chase the Mavericks off the 3-point line, and after Dallas opened up the third quarter with a barrage of makes from behind the arc, it appeared as if Washington gave up trying to force misses. The Mavericks, sensing that the Wizards were being lazy on closeouts, found driving lanes and forced their way to the free throw line. Dallas shot 22-for-24 from the charity stripe — one of the key differences in the outcome of this game.

#WallStar Not Enough to Makeup for the Bench.

The Wizards found themselves down 11 in the second quarter and it looked as if this game would be getting out of hand quickly. Then John Wall swung the game like a pendulum with a foray of steals, drives, and jumpers.

Thirteen points in less than two minutes of game action is super human. Hours after the NBA announced Wall as December’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month (for the second straight year), Wall was dead-set on not allowing his team to be embarrassed on the road against a 10-win team. Wall finished the game with 27 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and three steals. He did a good job of helping his team avoid a large amount of embarrassment by leading them on a 20-3 run to end the second quarter, but it was still not enough.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Wizards bench was outscored 39-13 when all of the starters once again reached double figures in points. It definitely has something to do with that.

Washington cannot continue to allow the starters to carry the entire load and not receive proper contribution from the bench players. Kelly Oubre appeared as if he would get out of his shooting funk that he has been in since he suffered a concussion against the Detroit Pistons a few weeks back. Oubre scored all eight of his points in the first half, including hitting on two 3-point shots. He seemed to be confident in his shooting stroke coming into the game, and maybe it had something to do with the fact that he had spent the afternoon getting shots up at a local Dallas YMCA with his personal trainer Drew Hanlan.

Give Wave Papi credit for being proactive and not being content with his dip in production, and while the intention was great, it ultimately proved to be more of a distraction because of some whining professionals in Dallas who complained about their lunchtime 5-on-5 being ruined. The Wizards bench as a whole shot 6-for-15 from the floor and still remains on pace to have the worst overall point differential (-17) of any NBA bench in the modern NBA.

The Wizards are completely strapped when it comes to assets, so there is almost no way that they will be able to add a quality piece to complement their already struggling bench without giving something up, i.e., a future first round draft pick. Don’t put it past Ernie Grunfeld to pull the trigger on such a deal, as he has in two of the last three seasons. But it would be beyond idiotic given the approval of the new CBA and the importance emphasized on developing young/cheap labor through the draft. The only way that the Wizards bench will get better is from within, and that will include potentially adding Ian Mahinmi who will be able to spell Gortat, as well as the continuing development of Oubre and Sheldon McClellan.

Maybe it will soon be time for Brooks to turn back to Tomas Satoransky and pray that he has developed more confidence in his shooting stroke. If the Wizards are not able to get more out of the bench, this season will more than likely end up just like last season: Hanging around until the very end, just to fall short of one goal (playoffs), and having nothing to blame but poor performances against bad teams.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.