Musings on a Road Trip to Los Angeles | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Musings on a Road Trip to Los Angeles

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Updated: December 11, 2017

With both the Washington Wizards and Washington Redskins in Los Angeles for games over the weekend, many fans made the trek cross-country for a very D.C. road trip. Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace) attended both games.

By now you have heard about the clock malfunction that wiped away Bradley Beal’s game-winning buzzer-beater versus the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s easy to point to that play as the reason Washington lost the game. But that’s a red herring. One freak play should not serve as a distraction from the larger, more troubling trend for the Washington Wizards: their inability to close out games.

The Clippers game was just one more bad loss in a season of bad losses. When Ian Mahinmi hit a reverse layup (I know, it surprised me too) with 1:01 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Wizards led 109-105. On the ensuing Clippers’ possession, Tomas Satoransky hustled for a loose ball and appeared on his way to a game-clinching fast-break layup, but he was fouled at mid-court.

Tomas calmly walked to the free throw line and … missed both shots. To add insult to injury, the Clippers run the same Chick-fil-A “Fowl Shot” promotion as the Wizards, so Satoransky’s misfires gifted the sparse Clippers crowd free sandwiches.

To be fair, those two free throws did not cost the Wizards the game. In fact, Tomas made a great hustle play to get to the line in the first place and Satoransky’s strong play all game was one of the main reasons Washington was in a position to seal the game. The Washington Post‘s Jerry Brewer described Satoransky’s play as fantastic, as he notched 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting with six rebounds, six assists and only one turnover in 27 minutes.

But it always seems to be something in these bad losses for Washington.

After the game, Beal repeated the comments we have heard too many times this season about having to close teams out, play complete games, etc. etc. etc. Most of the debates among Wizards observers during the first 25 games of the season have focused on Brooks’ inconsistent rotations, backup point guards and the struggles of Ian Mahinmi. But if the issue of blown leads is not corrected, then the Wizards have no shot at breaking the second round glass ceiling.

Scott Brooks Finally Getting Upset

(Left) Scott Brooks during his post-game press conference. (Right) Ned Flanders emoting.

Scott Brooks has a little Ned Flanders in him. He is always even-keeled, always giving a positive quote. But you know there must be something brewing below the surface. Brooks cannot possibly watch all these Wizards losses without wanting to scream.

After the Clippers loss, Brooks looked about as perturbed as I have seen in a post-game press conference. I expected his ire would be directed at the clock malfunction on the last play, but he oozed Flanders on that one: “I never complain about tough decisions and tough plays at the end of the game that the refs have to make.”

Instead, Brooks snapped at his own players. The transcript does not do it justice. Brooks’ tone was just as important as his words:

“This is a game that we all need everybody to play. And without calling out names – that’s not my style – my style is our team, and as a team we have to be ready to play…”

Brooks added that he does not differentiate between starters and the bench and he will play whoever is worthy. While Brooks did not name names, the most likely culprit was Markieff Morris. After a breakout game versus Phoenix, Morris played only 15:41 minutes and was benched down the stretch.

Markieff was such a big part of Washington’s turnaround last season but his contributions have been less than stellar this season (and Zach Lowe is noticing). Ordinarily, you could chalk up the slow start to injury, but guessing by Brooks’s post-game reaction, he thinks that effort – not just conditioning — is the issue.

A few other players — Kelly Oubre, Jodie Meeks and Marcin Gortat — also played fewer minutes than usual but it’s unclear if their demotions were effort-related. Oubre seemed relatively active, but he was highly ineffective guarding Lou Williams and his offense (0-for-5 FG) was non-existent. Meeks was unplayable against Lou Williams due to his lack of lateral movement and general one-dimensional play. Gortat and Mahinmi played 24 and 23 minutes, respectively, and their output was similar, but Brooks clearly preferred Mahinmi down the stretch, playing him all but 45 seconds of the fourth quarter. That is a trend to keep an eye on.

Battle of The Backup Point Guards: Satoransky vs. Frazier

[Tomas Satoransky talks with assistant coach before Los Angeles Clippers game – Photo: A. Rubin.]

With John Wall likely returning to the court in the next couple games, the most pressing question for Scott Brooks is who will be the back-point guard.

I asked Brooks this very question before the game and he gave a very non-committal answer.

“I think they both are capable of doing it. I just have to make decisions to see who is better during that particular game. The thing with Tomas he can play, with his size, he can play some two he can play some three, so you do not really have to have him with the ball and not play Tim, or they can play together. But they are both gaining some confidence, not only from myself, our staff, but from their teammates. They’ve done a good job of leading us in important moments in games. They both played well.”

Brooks’ suggestion that his backup point guard decision could be match-up dependent was curious for two reasons. First, there really is no debate that Satoransky has played much better with the second unit than Frazier. The numbers and the eye test agree.

Second, Brooks does not play match-ups in any other situation. When the Miami Heat played Kelly Olynyk at center, Brooks still used Ian Mahinmi. When Damian Lillard covered Otto Porter, Brooks said he does not like to attack particular mismatches because it can throw the offense out of rhythm.

Why would Brooks all of a sudden start making match-up dependent decisions at backup point guard based on whether an opposing coach is playing Shabazz Napier or Juwan Evans? It makes no sense.

Even worse, Scott Brooks used the dreaded, ‘Satoransky can play multiple positions’ argument. I covered this in an earlier article, but the short version is: Satoransky is a natural point guard. Can he play shooting guard or small forward? Sure. Should he? No. It’s a waste of his skills.

In the Clippers game at least, Brooks chose Satoransky over Frazier when it counted.

“I thought Tomas was playing better than Tim tonight. Nothing against Tim, someone has to play those minutes down the stretch of the game. I thought Tomas gave us a great chance to win the game.”

Tomas played the entire fourth quarter and – up until the missed free throws – he played well. However, it remains to be seen if Satoransky will be the top point guard option off the bench when Wall returns.

For his part, Tomas is not worrying about his spot in the rotation:

“To be honest I’m really not thinking about that – when John is coming back – I think it’s not smart to be thinking about it. We still have one more game in Brooklyn. I still want to continue to play good with the second unit. The only thing that matters is to win a game in Brooklyn and then we’ll see but my focus is on how we play on the second unit. So far I think we did a good job.”

Satoransky Explains The Final Play

After Bradley Beal’s would-be game winner was called off, the referees gave Washington a second chance with 1.1 seconds left. The only caveat was that the in-bounds location was moved a few feet towards the corner of the court. As Satoransky explained, those few feet proved to be the difference between setting up a Bradley Beal baseline jumper and settling for a Marcin Gortat fadeaway 3-pointer.

“To be honest, I haven’t seen too many things open. You know they put us in the corner so it kind of took away some angles, the lobs to the basket, and mostly I was looking for Brad but I thought that I didn’t have the line of the pass for him. They were switching everything and obviously they helped a little bit from Marc [Gortat] so my intention was not passing to him but you have to pass it – better than keeping it five seconds — so I felt five seconds coming so was just passing for last shot.”

Satoransky said there were secondary options on the play but DeAndre Jordan’s size made it difficult for him to go through his progressions:

“There were secondary options but I think being in the corner was tough to see what was happening on the other side. I think they switched everything. I might have had a lob but I didn’t see that through DeAndre Jordan who was guarding me, which was smart on their part.”

Who Wears Short Shorts?

Kelly Oubre’s proclivity for short shorts is well documented. In Los Angeles he seemed to take it to another level.

Clippers Eclipse

The Los Angeles Lakers have won a lot of NBA championships – 16 to be exact. And the team has retired a lot of jerseys. All of those accomplishments are memorialized with an impressive display of banners towering above the Staples Center crowd.

You can imagine how embarrassing it would be for the Clippers to play their home games beneath those towering purple and gold reminders of their inferiority. So, they decided to do something about it: cover them up.

You would never know that hidden behind those 30-foot head shots of Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, and Austin Rivers, are decades and decades worth of NBA history. Well, now you do:

A D.C. Affair in Los Angeles

With the Redskins playing the Chargers on Sunday, the Staples Center was full of D.C. fans. While most were wearing Wizards attire, there was no shortage of Redskins jerseys.

But nothing compared to the sea of burgundy and gold at the Stubhub Center on Sunday for the Chargers game. The concourse felt like FedEx Field West.

Best Practices

It’s always interesting traveling to different NBA arenas and comparing their game operations to the fan experience at Capital One Arena. First thing that stood out at the Staples Center was the scoreboard. They have under-side screens that give a good view for fans seated near the court. It’s also convenient for players and coaches when they complain about a missed call and then immediately look up at the scoreboard waiting for the replay so they can start yelling all over again.

The Clippers also had an intriguing Star Wars Night giveaway:

One area where Washington came out ahead was in-game hosts. Los Angeles had its own version of Rodney Rikai and Gia Peppers but they were just missing something.

Beal in Hollywood

The Wizards (OK, mostly John Wall) regularly complain about their team’s paltry national exposure. John Wall’s lack of a shoe deal is one glaring example. But at least one Wizard is getting a bit of exposure in L.A. Displayed among the Lonzo Ball jerseys and Blake Griffin T-shirts at the Nike Store was a larger than life image of Bradley Beal dunking. It may not be much — and it may have been all the way in the back of the NBA section — but it’s something.

Mood

The warm weather was a welcome break from the snowstorm back in D.C., but in the end it is all about wins and losses. And after yet another lost lead in the final minutes of a game, this was how the Wizards fans looked before making their way out into the California sunshine:

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.