Hornets Bury Wizards: Basketball as Fugue State | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Hornets Bury Wizards: Basketball as Fugue State

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Updated: January 18, 2018

[Just watching things fall apart with the guys.]

Beat badly by another shitty team, the Washington Wizards are reeling. Except it’s more like a carousel, isn’t it? Look, there’s Scott Brooks getting pissed, “plain and simple” per Bradley Beal. And the scary-movie-cheery music plays on. There’s Wall and Beal watching from the bench in the fourth quarter after pissing away another game to a sub-.500 team. The music catches, the gears turn, a puff of smoke pushes free from the machinery, and the thing keeps spinning. Oh look, there’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist smoking a cigar and shredding the riff from “All Along the Watchtower” while dunking on Otto Porter. I didn’t think he could shoot! But then again, this is Washington, and they didn’t think he could shoot either, and maybe that means you don’t have to defend him.

Look, that’s free agent sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, shooting a below-average 31.1 percent from beyond the arc. Not even a career-low (28% as a rookie), so let’s count it as a win. The carnival attendant coughs and coughs and hacks up something that looks like a marble. Look, there’s our old pal Markieff running full steam into a guy without going for the ball. Oh, you’re saying he didn’t get ejected? Thank goodness for small favors! Pink ponies, yellow ponies, a depiction of a cowboy. It’s all incredibly fun.

Last night, Washington fell to Charlotte. The Wizards have as many losses (10) to teams under .500 as they do to teams over .500, yet somehow remain five games over .500 themselves.

Where does this loss rank among their worst of the season? I’ve lost count. I was angrier after the loss to Dallas, frozen solid after the blowout loss to Utah. But this had its own heady mix, one that put me in a place to be angry at the Wizards when Dwight Howard blew a kiss to the bench and shamed them with Sam Cassell’s Very Own Special Dance.

The Hornets scored 38 points to Washington’s 36 in the first quarter, and despite giving up close to 40 points to the 14th highest-scoring team in the NBA, there were signs of life: Beal came out swinging, swishing, sweet. He was 5-for-7 in the first quarter, and made all three of his 3-point attempts. Wall had six assists to just one turnover. You could almost be forgiven for chalking up a hot-shooting Charlotte team’s lead after one quarter to an outlier pining for regression.

But then, you didn’t see the defense.

It was awful.

The glue came off at the end of the second quarter, as Washington rushed to respond to easy Charlotte baskets and either threw the ball away or simply missed a shot. Bad defense is a corrupting influence, and too often Wall reacted to defensive lapses by overcompensating on the next play, forcing the shot or, once, cocking back and slanging a would-be cross court pass to Beal that was promptly intercepted.

In the third quarter, the glue had coagulated at Scott Brooks’ feet, formed a primordial consciousness, and set out to infect a planet. Charlotte played a turnover-free quarter and played professor to the Wizards, who should take notes on how a team can stay aggressive with a comfortable lead. The Hornets hit the Wizards in the mouth again and again, and eventually the Wizards did what they do under pressure: give the ball to Beal or Wall and let everyone else stand still while the shot clock rolls its eyes. Beal’s usage rate in the third quarter was 40.2 percent. Wall’s was 25.2. Aside from Kelly Oubre, no one else broke the 20 percent mark.

No Washington starter played in the fourth quarter. What was the point? What is the point? Is there a point? I hope there is.

Which brings us to Otto Porter, who is still on the team. Washington needs to find out how to bless young Otto with greater volume. Porter isn’t as aggressive on defense as Oubre, and isn’t as assertive on offense as Beal. He needs to develop that, but it’s not all on him. Brooks should chaperone the effort, building plays that center around Porter’s great cutting ability and dynamism. Wall should pound the passivity out of him (figuratively, of course) by putting the ball in Otto’s hands late in shot clocks and with the game on the line. And Beal should work with Porter, giving him some guidance on how to approach 1-on-1s when there’s nothing left to do but create your own shot.

If the Wizards can’t do this, they should consider moving Porter over the summer for someone who gels better with Wall and Beal. This isn’t ideal, but good organizations have foresight, solve chemistry problems, and don’t just trade a first-round pick for a mediocre player every year. Washington has more top-level talent than their second-tier Eastern Conference peers, but it isn’t showing.

Per the Washington Post‘s Candace Buckner, Scott Brooks had this to say after the game: “It’s unacceptable the way we competed. We’re going to have change some things and make sure we’re all going to compete. If not we’re going to have find guys who are going to compete.”

The roster is what it is, for now. And this isn’t a trip to Safeway on payday. Options are limited, and the Wizards don’t have much, if any, financial flexibility. I’d be interested to know who Brooks is talking about. I suspect it’s pretty much everyone.

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.