How to Not Appreciate Loss Avoidance and Wizards Drama | Wizards Blog Truth About

How to Not Appreciate Loss Avoidance and Wizards Drama

Updated: January 14, 2018

[Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Brooklyn Nets
Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)]

If you’re like me, you’re constantly caught between what this Wizards team can be — appreciating how far the franchise has come but not being spoiled by it — and the sheer exasperation of watching a bunch that almost just refuses to grow up. It can be exhausting, for sure, but boy does it make for great theater.

The rebuilding Brooklyn Nets had already beaten Washington twice this season by a combined 40 points, both times at the Barclays Center. So when the Wizards outscored the Nets by 20 points over the first 24 minutes of play at the Capital One Arena on Saturday night, it was only partially presumed that it would be smooth sailing from there. You see, Washington is perfectly capable of completely dismantling an opponent, but this season even more so capable of inexplicably losing themselves in a state of discontent. What we forget is, although lacking talent and experience, this Nets team is no pushover.

So how did Washington allow Brooklyn to score 68 points in the second half (to Washington’s 48) to push the game into overtime? It starts with what seemingly, on the surface, went well.

Both teams, having played the night prior, started the evening sluggish. The offense was scripted, all five Nets settled for immediately getting back for transition defense, and the Wizards didn’t really test them by pushing the ball. The Wizards were missing clean, if sub-optimal looks. But they cracked an egg when John Wall finally found a cutting Otto Porter — the first time Brooklyn relented in defending the break. Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris added cracks with physicality (screens and mismatched post-ups), and Wall executed his first drive and push to the rim nearly five minutes in.

The Wizards’ offense was humming, although it didn’t take long for actions holding down success to surface. Gortat’s paint defense and footwork got stuck in quicksand for a spell. And despite Tomas Satoransky’s best efforts in running the show for Wall, the construct of the second unit often bogs down offensive flow.

The bench being sluggish is nothing new. And it was not as accentuated on this night. Brooklyn was able to hang with confidence with a distributed attack. If it wasn’t Caris LeVert giving fits with his length and ability to slash, it was Jarrett Allen disrupting inside. Joe Harris and Nik Stauskas hit long range shots, and even Jahlil Okafor made an appearance, catching Ian Mahinmi with a floater in the lane. And this was all from Brooklyn’s bench.

But the lull in the second quarter was countered when Wall and Porter returned. The point guard directed, others slashed, and the floor opened up when Brooks put Morris at the 5. Porous defense also opened up, with the tendency for some Wizards to leak out on offense sometimes. For instance, once Gortat was found trotting down to the offensive end and not helping secure the defensive rebound for a shot that his guy attempted. Nonetheless, tougher, stronger attacks and a 6-for-11 output from deep defined the first half narrative of Washington’s 59-39 lead.

Then came whatever happens during halftime of a Wizards gamechecking social media, soft whispers from Scott Brooks, weary muscles relaxing and forgetting the night’s not done. The third quarter, as is commonplace, is where things became undone for the Wiz, at least Act 1 of it.

Begin by blaming the dead crowd. The announcers from the Nets broadcast on the YES Network could not help but notice several times. It’s a cross between poor game operational logistics and DC being a fashionably late city, even between halftime and the start of the third quarter. The Wizards are familiar with this, and some opponents, like Brooklyn, are smart enough to take advantage.

The Nets were much more aggressive than at the start of the game — and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was everywhere. His tangled-limed effectiveness baffled the sleep-walking Wizards. Wall answered a Quincy Acy 3 with a free throw line jumper, but the continued back-and-forth between the two morphed into embarrassing basketball, disappointingly fueled by Wall. Twice he displayed poor body language after a lob to Gortat, then a dump off pass to Gortat, both resulted in failure. It was hard to tell who was at fault, but still. Out of timeout, Wall dribbled the clock out and chucked a left elbow brick. The team collectively started picking up cheap fouls. Brooklyn successfully targeted Gortat on switches several times. Gortat and Morris could not get on the same page, even when the matchup favored Washington’s defense. Wall got a tech out of frustration and the whole starting unit was just a mess.

The Wizards managed to save some grace at the very end of the third quarter when Kelly Oubre stepped into a Steph Curry-level deep three at the buzzer. This was after Oubre’s defensive slip on the other end led to a dunk in Mahinmi’s face by Allen. Washington equally backed into the fourth quarter. Oubre made some dopey pass attempts, Satoransky provided a countering burst, and Mahinmi picked up fouls left and right. It seemed like Brooklyn was playing spread-the-floor chess while the Wizards were stuck playing checkers. Not one of Scott Brooks’ options at 5 — not Gortat, not Mahinmi, not even Morris — can consistently stay in front of a smaller big when forced to guard the perimeter. And it’s often too burdensome to ask Jason Smith or Mike Scott to do such outside of a stretch of a possession or three.

So as Wall would provide a firecracker to put the Wizards up 11, Hollis-Jefferson countered — Washington made him seem like an unsolvable riddle. Brooks turning to the much vaunted Morris at the 5 lineup didn’t help undo any problems or mask inefficiencies. Hollis-Jefferson simply would not quit. And that allowed Allen Crabbe to wake up from his slumber with clutch-time 3s in succession. Not to ignore bad habits, Wall didn’t respect nor bother to contest a Spencer Dinwiddie 3-pointer that pulled Brooklyn within three, 102-105. That was followed with more chagrined body language from Wall toward Gortat when the big man did not take up the space in the paint expected of him. The Nets scored on the other end off the turnover while perceived wounds were licked.

Washington won in overtime, as you know. They did their job, in the end, sort of. What was needed in the win column, counts. But progression continues to be listless. The stars too easily maneuver between brilliance and apathy. Secondary options easily get lost in themselves. The bench teeters between inept and just competent enough. But too much continues to come back to Wall and Beal, whether it be them too often needing to put the team on their backs under heavy minutes, or whether they take hero shots on misplaced principle. With 33 seconds left Wall tossed up a 20-foot brick on an empty possession — the Wizards were up by one. Brooklyn ended up turning the ball over with good intentions and Wall hit two clutch free throws to make it a three-point possession game.

As the Wizards played like they hoped their odds of losing would dwindle instead of seizing the day, LeVert, who has been a thorn in Washington’s side all season, snuck to the rim unscathed to tap-rebound a missed desperation 3 by Dinwiddie right in to the hands of Acy, who calmly hit the shot to tie the game and send it into overtime. Washington’s last attempt to end the misery in regulation was a passionless possession that ended with Wall air-balling a baseline fadeaway jumper. Take solace in the fact that the Wizards won, 119-113, but don’t under appreciate the drama they continue to create.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.