Wizards Stumbled Upon Their Best Lineup and Used it to Get First Road Win | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Stumbled Upon Their Best Lineup and Used it to Get First Road Win

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Updated: October 24, 2017

[Screenshot from nba.com]

On their first road trip of the season, the Wizards showed the resiliency and mental toughness of a team that has been through the ringer once or twice. Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal struggled offensively in the first half and the Wizards fell behind by as many as eight points to the Denver Nuggets. It was Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat who carried the Wizards offensively in the first half and then Kelly Oubre who ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter. Combine that with head coach Scott Brooks timely charge and plea to the officials, and the Wizards were able to grit out a tough 109-104 victory in the Mile-High City. Let’s go back through the game action to see how the Wizards were able to stay the lone unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference.

Coming into last night’s game, Nikola Jokic had only scored 7 points for the entirety of the season, albeit only two games, but the Nuggets made it known early that Jokic would be a focal point in their offensive game plan. The Joker scored 12 of his game-high 29 points in the first quarter and displayed that soft shooting touch that NBA fans have come to know and love. Denver seemed to be running their offense through Jokic at the high post because he is such a magnificent passer. This created some mismatch problems for Marcin Gortat who is not used to defending 20 feet away from the basket.

Gortat held his own in terms of scoring, logging 13 points on just 6-for-7 shooting from the field. Not all of Gortat’s baskets were easy buckets from John Wall dimes either. Gortat showed a little touch around the basket with a few of his patented set shots outside of the lane.

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Otto Porter was about the only starter who was able to knock down perimeter shots to start the game as he nailed two 3-pointers early to stabilize a struggling offensive unit. Porter continues to be the benchmark for efficiency, as he knows how to take advantage of his opportunities. It’s not as if the Wizards call a bunch of plays for Otto, they kind of let him get in where he fits in on the court.

One of the advantages the Wizards have when starting Otto at the power forward position is allowing him to run around screens and beat slower defenders to his spots on the wing. John and Otto both talked about their pick-and-roll reads against Detroit, which saw the Pistons switch a lot of that action and allowed Otto to take advantage of smaller defenders closer to the basket. Unlike the Pistons, the Nuggets rarely switch. They gave a hard hedge with the man that was being screened, which allowed Otto to pick-and-pop to the wing and knockdown his open looks.

After Otto was able to keep the starting lineup afloat, two key bench contributors allowed the Wizards to stay competitive during the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second: Tomas Satoransky and Tim Frazier. Satoransky made his season debut by playing alongside Frazier as a small forward option. Sato was able to score five points in just five minutes of game action by showing off his new and improved ball-handling skills that allowed him to create a bucket on a dribble-drive turned fade away jumper and also knock down a 3-pointer in rhythm on a broken play. Frazier scored his first bucket of the season as well when he hit a a 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer.

The second quarter is where the Nuggets tried to pull away from the Wizards. Denver increased their lead to a game-high eight points (42-34) at the 6:25 mark of the second quarter. The Wizards were struggling to create opportunities offensively once again sans Wall and Beal on the court. This is becoming a theme for the season, which has been touched on before, but is something to keep in mind as the sample size grows. Once Wall and Beal returned at the 6:52 mark, the Wizards were able to go on a 22-13 run to finish the half strong and take a 56-55 lead. Wall and Beal led the Wizards run by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. Wall leads the entire NBA with 11.7 free throw attempts per game, and Beal is 10th with 8.7 attempts per game. The dynamic duo has figured out how to draw the ref’s whistle when attaching the rim — or maybe the refs are just finally giving the star guards the calls they deserve.

In the second half, the Wizards continued their balanced offensive attack. Tim Frazier finally was able to lead the second unit by keeping his dribble all the way through possessions instead of picking it up at the top of the key and searching for someone to bail him out. Jodie Meeks hit a 3-pointer and even get in on the free throw party, but once again in the Wizards first three games it was Kelly Oubre who came in and provided the team with the spark to get over the hump. Oubre scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half and more importantly showed the defensive versatility that the Wizards have asked of the 3rd year player. During one key stretch in the 4th quarter, Oubre had consecutive possessions where he stayed down on a Paul Millsap pump-fake special and also pushed Jamal Murray off of his spot and forced a highly contested fade away jump shot. There is something to be said of a player who can defend one of the better power forwards in the league and an up-and-coming guard on back-to-back possessions.

Oubre has played so great with the starting five, he has put a lot of pressure on Scott Brooks to make sure that Oubre gets on the floor with the other starters.

Jason Smith’s early injury may have put this team in the position where they found a lineup that they can use over the course of the season. The beauty of this information is that the Wizards will eventually add Markieff Morris to their rotation and could close out games with a Wall-Beal-Oubre-Porter-Morris lineup. Washington’s very own death lineup.

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.