Defense Struggles, But the Wizards' Triumvirate is Enough to Hold Off the Pistons | Wizards Blog Truth About

Defense Struggles, But the Wizards’ Triumvirate is Enough to Hold Off the Pistons

Updated: October 21, 2017

At halftime of the Wizards second game of the season they found themselves in the same position as the first: reeling into the locker room with a deficit because of subpar defense. Coach Brooks commented that he was excited to talk to the team at halftime and when John Wall was asked about what that interaction between coach and players was like, he painted a vivid picture of Brook’s motivational tactics:

“He didn’t really have to say nothing. He was like, ‘put the film on’ then he was like ‘there’s no point in watching film’ and we felt the same way. We were just being soft, they were being more physical than us. But we wasn’t doing what we wanted to on coverages. They were getting wide open threes, getting to the free-throw line and also put backs. So we didn’t do a great job. For [Marcin] to have zero rebounds in the first half. He was frustrated by that. So he did a better job in the second half, and we locked in a little more.

In the first half it seemed as if the Wizards were lacking simple effort as they let the the Pistons get to their open spots all over the floor en route to giving up an easy 65 points. The Pistons were able to get so many easy baskets, because the Wizards bench collectively were unable to keep their man in front of them. The main culprit in this matador style of defense was Tim Frazier who had difficulty containing Ish Smith.  Smith used an assorted bag of tricks to get by Frazier including jab steps and power right-to-left crossovers. Frazier deserves a bit of the benefit of the doubt since he missed a good portion of the Wizards training camp with a strained groin, and he is still working himself back into peak physical condition.


Otto Porter Shines in Second Quarter

The Wizards were badly outplayed  by the Pistons in the second quarter, and if it weren’t for Otto Porter, the game could have gotten out of hand. Jason Smith was out with a shoulder, which forced Coach Brooks to move Kelly Oubre  to the starting lineup, leaving the Wizards without a replacement small forward.  Brooks also choose to play Otto with some of the second-unit players. That decision payed crucial dividends as Porter went off for 12 of his 28 points. Porter was able to get out in transition for a few wide open layups, but he was also able to show off some of his handy post-game footwork. How the Wizards were able to set Otto up with some of those mismatches was just masterful quarterbacking skills from John Wall who kept going back to the 1-3 pick-and-roll and using the Pistons coverage to make a sound basketball decision.

If the Pistons showed on the pick and roll the John would use his speed to get by his defender and attack the rim or drive-and-dish to open teammates. If the Pistons switched that action, than Wall would read the defense and kick it to Otto for an easy post-up. The tactic was something the Wizards were familiar with because the Pistons ran a lot of the same action in order to slip Luke Kennard and Tobias Harris out of those screens and find open shots.


Luke Kennard, who made his NBA debut after receiving a DNP-CD in the Pistons’ f irst game, played well offensively, but struggled mightily with some of his pick-and-roll coverage in trying to slow down Otto Porter. The fact that Porter can take advantage of much lesser experienced players is a positive sign that not only did the Wizards make the right decision in retaining Otto’s services, but that the best is yet to come in the journey of Slenderman.

John Wall vs Reggie Jackson

The two players who were once in the same tax bracket will forever be connected at the hip in topical discussions because of Wall’s 2015 comments in which he lamented the fact that he and Reggie Jackson were getting paid the same amount of money. Since then, Wall has managed to earn his 4th consecutive All-Star berth, while Jackson has a large contingent of Pistons fans who believe that Ish Smith should be starting at point guard. That conversation surrounding Wall and Jackson was never really about their basketball skill-sets, but strictly about their bank statements.

Wall took the high-road when asked about Reggie Jackson and admitted that he’s not surprised that Jackson is engaged to face off against him: “Yeah, I think he would be [engaged to play against me]. The comments that were in the past, I think he will want to live up to it and play a good game against us. I’m just glad that we came up with the win but, yeah, I enjoyed playing against him.”

Optimus Dime finished the game with 26 points on an uber efficient 8-12 from the field and also logged his first double-double of the season by notching 10 assists. Wall put on a masterful performance which would have been nearly perfect if it weren’t for the six turnovers. Give credit to Jackson for challenging Wall with his physicality and trying to get under his skin as the Pistons rallied to a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter after Andre Drummond fouled out of the game. Jackson probably wishes he could have played more physical, but he believed that the refs were not allowing the Pistons to actually get up close and guard Wall and Beal.

“They’re proven in this league, it makes it tough when you can’t necessarily really play them. Feels like we we’rent allowed to play basketball. Personally I might be ashamed of myself if I wore stripes into the building tonight.”

Jackson’s comments will surely receive the ire of the league office, and maybe a few side-eyes from his peers. It’s one thing to give credit to Wall and Beal for being proven players, but it is something completely different to insinuate that they were beneficiaries of kind whistles. To Reggie Jackson’s credit, he did play well and finished with 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and a whopping 5 steals (many of which occurred during that 14-0 run). This is not a rivalry by any stretch of the imagination, but it will be interesting to see these two match up throughout the season.

Extra Notes

  • Bradley Beal continues to make an early case for his first All-Star bid. Beal scored 25 points to go along with 4 assists and 4 rebounds to help anchor the Wizards through second half comeback. The most notable difference in Beal’s game is his aggressiveness in attacking the basket this season and getting to the free throw line. After shooting 16 attempts from the charity stripe in the first game, Beal got back to the line for 7 more attempts, several of the and-1 variety. Scott Brooks was even impressed with his attacking of the basket:

“The thing that I love about this game that was different, like last game I love the fact that he was going to the basket, getting to the free throw line, attacking, using his playmaking skill to get free throws. Tonight, he didn’t have that fast start. He had a stretch in that second quarter, I think he had four, six points quick but I think he only had like 10 points but he ended up playing big for us throughout the game. When you don’t have the fast start you just got to keep playing like he did. It turns around. Great players, they play well usually night in and night in.”

  • Gortat is looking as spry as ever. The “Polish Hammer” was just one rebound short from logging his second consecutive double-double. The big-man appeared to be unhappy with his potential role at the end of last season, but the organization has done a good job of prioritizing Gortat in such a way that surely has to have him feeling very much included in this teams plans for the season.
  • Shout out to Todd Dybas from the Washington Times who asked Stan Van Gundy a very poignant question pregame about what he hopes comes out of all of this athlete protest


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.