Collapse Against Big D — Mavericks Outlast Wizards
Throughout this season Wizards games have transpired in a few common ways. They either win handily, build up a large advantage then hold on, comeback after a deep hole, or a late rally falls short. The Wizards have usually found ways to prevail, even when not on their A-game, but delivering in the clutch.
What happened on Wednesday night in the Phone Booth was new: an utter collapse. Shoddy defense and sloppy offense allowed Dallas to overcome a double-digit second half deficit to win, 112-107.
The routine early deficits of the recent road trip appeared to be a bad memory after Washington finished the first quarter up, 39-32. The Wizards connected on five 3-pointers — two from Bradley Beal, who began strong with 12 points in the opening period. The Wizards’ second quarter performance was underwhelming and only Bojan Bogdanovic’s hot shooting kept the offense afloat. Bogey Buckets finished the game with 19 points on five goal attempts.
Washington built on their four-point halftime lead by seemingly taking control of the contest in the third quarter. John Wall, who twisted his left ankle right before intermission, returned to excellent form. The All-Star guard found teammates Otto Porter and Beal, created his own offense, and helped fuel a 79-68 advantage for Washington at the 1:50 mark of the third quarter.
But then it all fell apart. Dallas got red hot from downtown and went on a 16-5 run to tie it up at 84. After Beal splashed a step back 3-pointer, the Mavericks responded with a 13-0 run and took the lead for the first time the entire night.
During this decisive 13-0 fourth quarter stretch, Washington’s anemic offense was more responsible for the pain than defensive woes. In the three minute span, Washington committed three turnovers, missed one field goal attempt, and Marcin Gortat bricked two free throws. Dallas made all five of their shots, three of them were 3-pointers. Washington finished out on a 20-12 run but it was not enough to overcome that miserable stretch of basketball from the starters.
I asked Wizards Coach Scott Brooks about the offensive futility in the pivotal sequence.
“Yeah, a lot of empty possessions to start that fourth on both ends. We gave them opportunities, we gave them hope, we turned the ball over, we didn’t take good shots to start that fourth. We gave them easy opportunities. That’s a recipe for not a successful start,” said Brooks. “We’ve got to figure it out. The last couple of games we’ve had that starting the fourth quarter. We have to clean it up. You have 12 minutes of basketball – whatever happened prior to that you have to just focus on the next 12 minutes.”
Dirk Nowitzki, who poured in 20 points and had a late dagger, highlighted that Dallas’ defense is what helped them turn the game around.
“When we were down 10, we turned up the defense a little bit, and finally made some shots, so that was good to see,” said Nowitzki. “I got hot there. Finally got some stops, that really helped. Got into [Bradley] Beal a little bit, and made him take some tough shots. We rebounded the ball. I thought Seth [Curry] got hot there, got us going. Harrison Barnes was a workhorse all night for us. In the third when our shots weren’t going, we kept posting them up, he kept making plays for us to still stay in striking distance, just made some big shots. [Nicolas] Brussino came up big for us with some big shots, and he was fired up. It was good to see.”
Washington has now dropped two games in a row, losing ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Wizards now face another winnable home game tonight against Chicago, who will be without Dwyane Wade (out for the season); John Wall’s status (ankle) is questionable.
Seth Curry split a pair of free throws to put Dallas up three with 5.8 seconds remaining. Washington could not advance the ball because they were out of timeouts. Instead of trying to get the ball to a 3-point shooter or throwing the ball near half court, Wall got the ball 75 feet away from the hoop and was immediately fouled by Yogi Ferrell with 2.6 seconds left. Wall missed the first free throw, which put a tip for the tie out of reach. Wall missed the second free throw on purpose, and Dallas secured the rebound. This was poor execution by Washington in failing to get off a potential game-tying attempt (much less running out of timeouts in the first place, and allowing Dallas to have fouls-to-give).
Wizards Nation and #WizardsTwitter collectively gasped and held its breath at the same time when Wall sprained his ankle. His return was questionable during halftime but he came back and later the X-rays were negative.
What it looks like when your life is flashing before your eyes pic.twitter.com/p7FeE28iax
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) March 16, 2017
— J. Michael (@JMichaelCSN) March 16, 2017
We often point to the Washington’s brass (essentially) passing on Golden State stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson in the NBA draft, but they also could have drafted two key Mavericks players. Washington selected Bradley Beal over Harrison Barnes in 2012 and Otto Porter instead of Nerlens Noel in 2013. Weirdly, both of those guys no longer play for the teams that originally drafted them.
Nowitzki recently announced that he will come back for his 20th season. The future Hall of Famer is still popular amongst basketball fans. Hours before the game, hundreds of them lined near the Mavs tunnel to watch Dirk warm-up. The German finished shooting and then signed every autograph request along with taking numerous picture.
Washington’s stellar run in 2017 has started to received much deserved national media attention. John Wall is even talking about bringing a championship to D.C. These accolades are understandable due to Washington’s impressive record since beginning of January and completing one of the most successful West Coast road trips in franchise history. However, a major troubling sign can no longer be conveniently ignored. While Washington’s high powered offense is still humming along (9th in offensive efficiency), but their defense is coming apart at the seams. Currently, Washington ranks 18th in NBA defensive efficiency, a drop of six spots in a month. In the 12 games since the All-Star break, the numbers are awful:
- 26th in defensive efficiency, compared to seventh in offense.
- Opponents shot 42.9% on 3-pointers – last in the NBA.
- Giving up 11.6 made 3s per game – third to last in the league.
- Allowing 48.7% field goal shooting – second-to-last.
- Defensive Rating is 110.8, Offensive rating is 109.2, Net Rating, minus-1.7 – 19th in NBA.
This ugliness is why Washington is just 7-5 and 2-3 over this span. If they don’t get back to playing good team defense, a solid season could either quickly end in the first round or with a disappointing second round exit from the playoffs.