Wizards Miss the Mark in Game 3, Now Must Find Keys to the Car | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Miss the Mark in Game 3, Now Must Find Keys to the Car

Updated: April 24, 2017

The Wizards lost a basketball game on Saturday evening. Not a series, just a game.

But it was a playoff game. And Atlanta led wire to wire. The Wizards, for their part, looked as discombobulated as they have all series — and that was just in quarters two and three.

They lost the game by 18 points, and the first quarter by 18 points.

This series has been a slugfest, and the Wizards losing game 3 was no big surprise. I picked them to win in five games and if they were to lose one, it’d be this game, the first in Atlanta.

But it was the way that it went down, the game’s manner, that’s troubling. They never had a chance — in a playoff game. Only John Wall, basically, showed up. And even he didn’t set the best tone for this teammates . . . if we are picking on the tiniest things . . . which we will, because it’s the playoffs.

Wall dominated one end of the floor, for sure. He scored nearly 30 percent of his teams points while accounting for just 13.5 percent of the shot attempts. Furthermore, his seven assists led to 16 points for the Wizards.

But on the very first play of the game, he fell for a pump fake by Dennis Schröder, who easily penetrated Washington’s defense to score. Wall followed that by air-balling a floater, and his teammates followed suit by taking quick shots before they felt the squeeze from Atlanta’s defense.

As the first quarter progressed, the Hawks simply drove to the basket more — there’s a reason they’ve been drawing lots of fouls — while the Wizards looked to be cutting meat with a dull knife. A casual attempt by Wall to dish the ball to Marcin Gortat got easily deflected — Gortat was 0-for-1 at halftime and shot just 1-for-4 from the game. Wall would then let Schröder pressure the ball to the point where the Wizards easily wasted eight seconds of a possession just to get the ball past half court, and what followed was often no-pass possessions with empty shot attempts. Washington was down 2-13 within three minutes and 4-19 after nearly five minutes into the game. They never recovered.

Let’s take look at three key areas that have defined the series thus far.

Make-or-Miss League.

Yes, there was something about the Wizards ‘just missing good looks’ in Game 3, even if I had been using the sentiment as a crutch.

Washington shot around 49 percent on contested field goals in games 1, 2, and 3.

Uncontested shots were bit different. Over the series, 41 percent, 55 percent, and then 54 percent of Washington’s shots were considered “uncontested” by Atlanta, per NBA.com/stats.

The results: 43 percent in Game 1, 39 percent in Game 2, and then a drop-off to 35 percent in Game 3. To note, people are likely still trying to dig into the contested shots statistic and its impact, but it seems more the norm for a team to shoot better on contested shots versus uncontested shots.

Here’s the thing: If the Wizards merely shot 5 percent better on uncontested shots in Game 3, it would have led to just five or six net points — not necessarily a difference maker in a game decided by 18 points.

Drawing Fouls.

Both teams have a right to complain about how the refs have managed this series and butchered the potential for entertaining basketball. Maybe the Wizards have more of a right to complain — particularly if words off the court have influenced calls on the court in any way — but the difference is extremely nominal.

This chart conveys personal fouls drawn by each player during the regular season versus the playoffs. Wall has upped his attacking game, but Millsap, Schröder, and Hardaway, Jr. have collectively made more of an impact.

Also, shocking: Wall was the only Wizards starter to get to the line in Game 3, as TAI’s Rashad Mobley pointed out soon afterward.

Why? Drives.

During the regular season, the Wizards averaged 26.2 drives per game (ranked 19th) and scored 17.7 points on those drives (also ranked 19th). The Hawks averaged 30.5 drives (sixth-most), scoring 18.9 points (ranked 13th).

The Wizards were clearly more efficient, even if you’d expect them, led by Wall and Bradley Beal, to drive more. Last season the Wizards averaged 23.8 drives per game, scoring 15.4 points, so there has been improvement here under Scott Brooks.

In the playoffs: Atlanta’s drives per game is up by 4.5 (35.0) and their scoring off drives is way up — 32.7 points per game leads all playoff teams. The Wizards, for their part, are driving about the same (26.7) and scoring about the same (17.0).

Making it to the second round starts with stopping drives, something Washington and its lead guards have been inconsistent about doing all year. It doesn’t help, either, that Brandon Jennings, Otto Porter, and Bojan Bogdanovic are all very substandard when it comes to defending dribble drives.

Who’s on the attack more? This chart conveys drives per game in the regular season versus the playoffs. Again, Wall has slightly upped his game here, and he and Schröder are nearly dueling to a draw … but it’s more about what Millsap and Hardaway, Jr. have done compared to their counterparts.

What now?

The Wizards need to regroup, as they say, with the priorities being:

  1. How can Wall, Beal, and Morris better contain the drives of Schröder, Hardaway, Jr., and Millsap; and
  2. How can Scott Brooks put his team in better position to create spacing with ball movement?

It’s a simple game, a lot of the time, and changing a few simple things should have a big impact.

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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.