Wizards Return Their Christmas Gift in Atlanta | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Return Their Christmas Gift in Atlanta

Updated: December 28, 2017

[A sullen Bradley Beal during his post-game interview after a disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Photo – Screenshot from NBCSWashington.]

Remember when Washington turned its season around with a signature win over the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day? That didn’t last long.

Less than 48 hours later, Washington threw away any goodwill they earned in Boston with a 113-99 loss in Atlanta. Gone was the defensive intensity. Gone was the hustling for offensive rebounds. Gone was the offensive efficiency. In its place was the kind of effort we witnessed during the disastrous blowout in Brooklyn.

There is no question about Washington’s talent. That was on full display on Christmas Day. But there is a huge question about their effort.

As Candace Buckner reported after the Celtics win, John Wall was well aware of the stakes in Atlanta:

“If we back this up with a win on Wednesday, I think it gives us momentum going into Friday against Houston and going into the new year. But if we don’t back it up, I think it’s just doing the same thing back over and over again. Playing against the great teams, you play up to the competition. Then play against the lower teams, you fail to [win] those games.”

Bradley Beal gave the same lip service:

“We got to realize it’s time for us to take off. We got to start making some noise and really showing our identity each and every game. Being physical, getting stops, being able to score the ball, taking care of the ball and being active on defense. Because when we get out in transition, we’re one of the best teams in the league. At the same time, you don’t want to get too cocky about it. Respect each opponent that you play and be prepared that night.”

I say “lip service” because the players obviously do not believe what they are saying. Or they simply do not care enough to show up every night. How else do you explain it? Because the alternative — that they are not good enough to consistently beat the Hawks, Nets and Mavs — is not an option.

Small Ball Did Not Work

Scott Brooks went to his small ball lineup early in the fourth quarter. Wall and Markieff Morris entered with 9:51 remaining. Otto Porter joined them at the 9:13 mark and Beal entered with 8:10 remaining and Atlanta leading 86-80. Brooks was obviously hoping for the same spark that the non-center unit brought in Boston. Unfortunately, he got the opposite result.

It was a cavalcade of errors and uninspired play. The Wizards gave up offensive rebounds, allowed uncontested three-pointers, complained constantly to the refs and played hero-ball on offense. The Wizards were more concerned with drawing fouls at the rim than actually running an offense. By the time Brooks emptied his bench with 1:56 remaining, the Hawks’ lead ballooned to 111-93.

The Mahinmi Problem is Not Going Away

There may be nights when Ian Mahinmi provides value on the court. This was not one of them. There was a particularly troubling stretch early in the fourth quarter when Atlanta was taking control of the game. With 10:57 remaining and Atlanta leading 79-78, Mahinmi received a pass in the paint and immediately traveled — something he does quite often.

Kent Bazemore hit a three-pointer on the other end to extend Atlanta’s lead to 82-78. On the ensuing possession, the Wizards offense was out of sync and Mahinmi eventually grabbed the ball on the right block with the shot clock winding down. He made a move to the basket and shot from about three feet away, hitting nothing but the backboard. The shot clock expired a few seconds later as players scrambled on the floor for the loose ball. On Atlanta’s next possession, John Collins dunked to extend the Hawks lead to six points and Scott Brooks exasperatedly called a timeout.

These plays may seem like isolated incidents or unlucky breaks. But they are not. The Wizards’ second unit is already offensively challenged. If Mike Scott is not shooting 70% from the field (he was 3-for-7 FG; 0-for-3 3PT), Washington cannot afford to have Mahinmi routinely converting low post scoring opportunities into turnovers. If he is not providing resistance at the rim — and he was not — then his three turnovers and three personal fouls in 17 minutes are a net-negative.

Who Is To Blame For Consistent Lack of Effort?

Washington is now 9-10 against teams under .500. And that stat does not do the problem justice. Several of those losses were by wide margins and several were against teams that are way below .500.

Take the Hawks. Not only were they 8-25 and in last place entering the game against Washington, but they had not won back-to-back games all season. It won’t shock you to learn that the win over the Wizards gave Atlanta their first two-game winning streak of the season.

So, who’s to blame for this ongoing lack of effort? Of course, the players deserve blame — probably the lion’s share of it. But at what point do you start to point the finger at the coaching staff? After all, its Scott Brooks’ responsibility to get the players ready each night and to create an environment where the players strive for greatness.

After the game, a visibly perturbed Brooks took some responsibility for the debacle in Atlanta:

“We got to stay focused guarding your man and tonight we struggled with that. It’s unacceptable. I take the blame as much as the players take it. We all are responsible for this and we got to do a better job of playing and competing and staying focused throughout the 48 minutes.”

“At the end of the third and fourth quarter, we didn’t have the focus that we need. I keep telling them, it’s like a broken record and we got to put a stop to it.”

For their part, the players said the same things after the Hawks loss as they do after every confounding loss. There is no point to transcribe their comments. You have heard it all before.

So, we are left in the same place we were before that Christmas Day win — stuck with a team that only shows up when it wants to. It’s anyone’s guess when — or if — the Wizards will ever turn it around. And after tonight, I’m done guessing.

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.