A Plea to Scott Brooks: Please Stop Playing Without a Point Guard in the Fourth Quarter | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A Plea to Scott Brooks: Please Stop Playing Without a Point Guard in the Fourth Quarter

Updated: February 28, 2018

Tomas Satoransky has started every game since John Wall’s latest injury. The team is 10-3. They are leading the league in assists. The offense is humming with Satoransky on the court and he’s been phenomenal on defense. Yet, when his contributions are needed the most, he is consistently benched. It’s as if Will Smith flashes a neuralizer at Scott Brooks midway through the fourth quarter and he completely forgets everything that happened the previous two hours.

Brooks abandons the rotation that has made the Wizards a joy to watch over the last month and plays Bradley Beal at point guard instead of Satoransky during critical stretches of the fourth quarter, leading to a lot of ball-pounding and empty possessions.

Initially, it was just a minor annoyance. Perhaps Brooks needed a game or two to recognize Tomas as a legitimate starter who deserved the majority of fourth quarter minutes. After all, it took a year and a half for Brooks to even acknowledge Tomas was a point guard.

Turns out that’s not the case. Thirteen games is a large enough sample size to deduce that Scott Brooks prefers to play without a point guard for long stretches in the fourth quarter — despite the fact that Satoransky is playing out of his mind, despite the fact that the offense is incontrovertibly worse when he sits, and despite the fact that Brooks has watched the point-guard-less lineup sputter time after time, only to be bailed out by an unsustainable number of buzzer beaters.

Brooks’ fourth quarter rotation has become a legitimate problem and it has cast a black cloud over three very impressive post-All-Star break wins against Cleveland, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

Against Cleveland, Tim Frazier started the fourth quarter and subbed out with 7:08 remaining. Scott Brooks played Beal and Jodie Meeks in the back court together for nearly five (5!) minutes before Satoransky entered with 2:14 left in the game.

Before you ask whether Satoransky was having a bad game, the answer is “No.” In the 29 minutes prior to his benching, Tomas had 15 points (6-for-7 FG), eight assists, four rebounds, two steals and no turnovers.

Prior to the Wizards’ next game, I asked Brooks about his fourth quarter point guard rotation in Cleveland:

“I think it’s a combination of trying to get him [Beal] some more reps at the point guard spot and also giving Tomas a little bit of a break. Last night’s decision was to give Jodie some more minutes. I thought he had a good game, he was locked in.  Offensively he gave us some good possessions I thought in that stretch, then he missed two wide open threes so that could have really made a nice stretch when Brad was at the point. Not going to do a lot of it, just two or three minutes, four minutes at times. I thought last night was one of Brad’s better games as the point.”

Brooks’ explanation was underwhelming. It’s one thing to give Tomas a break in the fourth quarter. It’s another to wait until a 6-0 run late in the fourth quarter to finally call a timeout to insert a point guard into the game.

Against Philadelphia on Sunday, it happened again. Satoransky subbed out of the game with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter and Bradley Beal played point guard for the next four and a half minutes. Brooks even had Otto Porter bringing the ball up the court. Philadelphia’s length and trapping defense can be difficult for any NBA team – especially ones without a point guard. It’s no surprise Beal had seven turnovers in the game.

Brooks watched Washington’s lead – and its offensive rhythm – fade from 13 to eight points before finally putting Satoransky back in with 3:33 left. Washington immediately went on a 7-0 run over the next 90 seconds to seal the game.

Last night against Milwaukee, it happened yet again. Tomas picked up his fourth foul with 8:09 left in the third quarter and subbed out for Frazier. Then he waited and waited and waited and waited. Satoransky did not return until 3:37 remaining in the game. That’s over 16 and a half minutes of game time on the bench. During that stretch, Frazier played over 12 consecutive minutes, Beal took over at point guard for over four more minutes, and there were even a few occasions when Otto brought the ball up the floor.

This makes no sense. If Brooks wants to play Beal at point guard a few minutes per game because he has lost faith in Frazier, that’s one thing. But he is playing Beal at the expense of Satoransky, and he is doing it for prolonged stretches deep into the fourth quarter. Washington finally has a very good backup point guard. In Wall’s absence, he has been a very good starting point guard — to the point that Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis singled Satoransky out in the NBA-TV halftime show as the difference maker on the team.

There is no reason to play without a point guard for critical stretches in the fourth quarter. There is even less reason to do so when the point guard you are benching has arguably been the fourth or fifth most important player on the team – on both offense and defense.

What’s even more frustrating is that Brooks often waits for a bad offensive possession or a defensive breakdown before he puts Satoransky back in the game. In other words, he acknowledges that Satoransky’s presence on the court will make those types of plays less likely to occur in the future, but he won’t put Tomas in earlier to prevent them from happening in the first place.

It’s unclear what Tomas must do to earn the right to play alongside his fellow starters for the final seven minutes of close games. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say he can’t play much better. Whatever it is, he better do it fast. If Brooks continues to lean on this no point guard lineup, it is going to start costing the Wizards games.

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.