Wizards Snap Five-Game Losing Streak To Miami as Defense Continues to Hold | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Snap Five-Game Losing Streak To Miami as Defense Continues to Hold

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Updated: November 16, 2017

The word “defense” has transitioned from a buzzword the Wizards used as a scapegoat when they were losing to a rallying cry that has lead to tangible results (wins!). For the fourth consecutive game, the Wizards held an opponent under 100 points and their record is now 6-0 overall when they hold teams from reaching the century mark. Washington held Miami to 93 points on 32-for-78 from the floor, or just 41 percent shooting

Propelled by this newfound focus on defense, the Wizards overcame a dreadful 10-point third quarter to come from behind and defeat the Heat, which snapped a five-game losing streak to Miami dating back to 2016.

If it weren’t for the inexplicable 10-point third quarter, Washington would have cruised to victory. The Wizards held a 62-49 halftime lead, thanks to the dominance of John Wall and Markieff Morris. Keef scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of game action, working Justice Winslow, who started at power forward for the Heat. Winslow is naturally built to play small forward and at 6-foot-7 is not big or strong enough to bang down low with the 6-foot-10 Morris. The Wizards ran 1/3 or 1/4 pick-and-rolls to get mismatches for Morris and Otto Porter down low. Once the Heat figured out the Wizards were looking for the post-ups, they started hedging the action hard and made it difficult to get that entry pass to the post. To combat that, Washington started running pick-and-pop action and Keef and Porter delivered, going a combined 4-for-6 from 3-point range.

Those were the only two players to play power forward for the Wizards against Miami, which is a bit of a surprising considering Mike Scott had played in every game this season prior to last night. With the Heat going small with Winslow at the “4,” Brooks most likely wanted to combat that by highlighting his “small ball” lineup with Porter and Oubre getting the bulk of the action at the “4.” Miami continued to play small throughout the game, especially when Hassan Whiteside was off of the floor and the Heat fielded lineups of Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson in the front court. The Wizards were able to take advantage of the Heat’s lack of size down low and used that to outscore the Heat 36 to 26 in points in the paint.

With the Wizards’ “small ball” lineups, they were able to successfully switch everything on defense 1 through 4, as they have been doing all season. The Wizards went into the fourth quarter with a Wall-Beal-Meeks-Oubre-Morris lineup, which afforded the Wizards great versatility. Morris really is the key to unlocking the variety of Wizards lineups that allow Washington to not only play physical down low, but also challenge and contest on the perimeter. Scott Brooks went to that lineup after he saw the Miami guards terrorize Wizards big men on switches and drive-and-kicks to open outside shooters. The Heat shot 43 percent from beyond the arc, hitting on 13 of their 30 treys.

In the third quarter, Miami outscored the Wizards 25-10 and turned a halftime double-digit deficit into a fourth quarter lead. Goran Dragic used his ball-handling to get directly to the rim or to kick out to open shooters, Dion Waiters used his crossover dribbles to get to his hot spots on the floor and launch contested long-2s, and together they jumpstarted the Heat’s offense. The Wizards put a stop to this third quarter onslaught from the Heat, by making sure every switch on defense was and effective in a way that made sure the Heat were taking contested jump shots.

A key to the Wizards stopping teams during this recent stretch has been communicating more on defense. Otto Porter noted last week that communication is what separates the Golden State Warriors from everyone else, and the Wizards are trying to implement that into their defensive system. Washington was able to communicate their switches against the Heat and that allowed very little space for Dragic and Waiters to operate in crunch time.

In the fourth quarter when the team needed buckets to get back in the game, John Wall and Bradley Beal delivered. The two stars went back and forth with aggressive moves to the basket, which resulted in increased free throw attempts for the dynamic duo. Beal finished the game 13-for-14 from the free throw line, including going 8-for-8 on charity-stripe attempts in the fourth quarter. Wall had a game-high 27 points, including a 7-for-8 effort from the free throw line. The Wizards as a team are now taking 26.6 free throws per game, which ranks fifth in the NBA. Taking and making free throws is a major tenet of playing smart analytical basketball, and is an ancillary benefit that has developed as the team continues to attack the basket.

This Wizards team continues to develop different ways to score the basketball, and that combined with their newfound defensive prowess, can only make the Wizards even more of a legitimate threat in the East.

 

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.