Wizards Keep Eating In Indy — Washington Wins Fifth Straight Without Wall | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Keep Eating In Indy — Washington Wins Fifth Straight Without Wall

By
Updated: February 6, 2018

[Bradley Beal everything, via @wzztnzz]

[via @wzztnzz]


A John Wall-less Wizards team certainly isn’t going to feel sorry for a Pacers team without All-Star Victor Oladipo. But maybe they should, even if Indiana is the 7-seed in the East while the Wizards sit at 4.

The obvious and just as intriguing narrative goes like this: Washington has just won a season-high five games in a row, all since the team’s heart and soul went out with a bad knee. Normally this would not be such a thing — just a team in need coming together, which it is. But, unless the compact dirt under a rock has been your home, a variety of stats do enough to convey the before and after. For example, 73.9 percent of Washington’s made shots have been assisted over the last five games, compared to just 58.5 percent over the 48 games before that (most with Wall, some without him).

Even without Oladipo, the Pacers still field a decent starting five: Cory Joseph, Lance Stephenson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner; with Domantas Sabonis and Al Jefferson being two primaries off the bench. This is a playoff team after all, albeit a surprise one this season, and one most likely to fall out of the race (in favor of potentially surging Detroit).

But how Washington has been playing now is basically how they were built to play, so constructed by three head coaches in succession over Wall’s career — Flip, Randy and Scott. They all preached well-roundedness to varying degrees, particularly with a pass-first point and then a shooter like Beal, it had to be democratic (perhaps Saunders and Wittman more in practice while Brooks’s track record is questionable via his ISO OKC days). The Wizards have not been playing near their potential this season — big surprise, the table has been bare yet those sitting at each head still got greedy.

Take comfort in knowing that they know better, and even without Wall, and that there’s a correlation between how this team has been constructed (in theory, with mouths capable of chewing with the ball in their hands in the right spot at the right time) with how the Wizards have played over the last five wins. In Monday night’s 111-102 win in Indy, Washington tallied 29 assists on 45 buckets as double figures in Wizards players scored in double figures (but only one Wizard scored more than 13 points — Beal with 21 on 16 shots). Flaws linger below the surface, but it feels like teaching middle-aged dogs new tricks.

Here’s how everyone ate on Monday: 

Act 1: Spacing

Look, credit the Pacers defense for allowing Marcin Gortat to cut around unimpeded early. But also credit newfound Wizards team comfort with Beal finding a lot more space to operate these days. Again, it’s driven by how Satoransky moves as a point guard.

The Wizards went cold for a spell mid-opening stanza, during which young Sabonis found a few darting buckets, and even Big Al dropped a nugget. But then the Pacers — young Sabonis — would do things like inexplicably leave Mike Scott wide open after a high ball screen. That’s a 3, my brother. Young Sabonis got Ian with some baskets but also got Ian’d, thanks to a Mahinmi up-and-under late in the period — that worked!

Beal dropped 10, Gortat 7, and Sato delivered 3 assist, two of which kept Markieff Morris involved. 28-23, Wizards.

Act 2: Dive & Recover

Indiana’s secondary combinations knew how to pick their spots. Sabonis continued to force action with cuts and Jefferson had the green light versus every mismatch (or otherwise — vs. Mahinmi, Scott, whomever). The Wizards even forgot Bogdanovic’s ability to deceive on the drive or pull up from Steph Curry range a time or two. And, sorry, but the Oubre-Mahinmi combo just didn’t have much resistance to offer versus the Lance-Sabonis pick-and-roll. Washington managed once to slow down Domantas Sabonis (15 points in 27 minutes off the bench overall), but not really for long.

The second quarter recovery was sparked by Beal checking in with a three-point Wizards lead and dropping 7 points in 2.5 minutes. The recovery was fueled by Oubre’s 9 points (4-6 free throws) and back-to-back charge draws versus Turner and Stephenson. And while Tim Frazier continues to be solid, Scott Brooks couldn’t help but field a lineup where Beal ran point with the lengthy Oubre and Otto at 2-3, Morris at stretch-4, and either Gortat or Mahinmi at 5 (with the Ian-anchored crew usually better at defense, love it or leave it).

58-49, Wizards at halftime.

Act 3: Why You Pay Otto, Sometimes

I’ll tell you as much as anyone that Otto probably needs more of a chance to sink into that max contract — since I’ve criticized his snail’s pace development in the past. Sure, higher expectations are OK and the need for him to accelerate progress is a necessity. But you also pay him to sneakily drop 11 points in a quarter (but he did have just 13 for the game … so many ate). It shouldn’t necessarily be about Otto needing to attack more one-on-one. Just hit open shots, be aggressive in the open court and keep cutting, please.

What also helped on this night were instances like this: Washington in transition, at least two Pacers players pointing to an open Otto on the right wing, but no one gets him, and Tim Frazier’s job was made easy — assist to 3-ball for Porter. Bogdanovic tried his best to stick it for his former for-a-cup-of-tea franchise with a steep of points (29 total on 15 shots for the night). But a spoonful of Mike Scott buckets, which did sandwich a tech that Lance Stephenson drew on Scott while being a bug during free throw lineup, kept the Pacers a gear behind. 86-74, Wizards.

Act 4: Formality

The Pacers actually won this quarter, 28-25, with 13 of Bogdanovic’s 29 points coming in the period. But let me tell you a little story of Ian Mahinmi scoring 9 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter (before fouling out) and Jodie Meeks scoring 5 of his 10 points also in the fourth (as he seems to be shooting with more freedom, less pressure — nothing on earth to do with an open trade request). That long sentence says enough!

Indiana made it almost interesting for a few seconds, enough to make one wonder about the Wizards blowing it before remembering the steady confidence this team is building. While the combo of still being flawed and winning a tad lucky exists, this habit of winning while everyone eats might not wear off anytime soon. Game Wizards, 111-102.

Alas, weary legs head to Philadelphia for a third game in four days on Tuesday. This match will be nationally televised on TNT in front of a raucous Philly crowd, feeding of a Super Bowl victory and riot blood but still thirsty for The Process to bring them to the promised land. Good luck, Wizards, another chance to see what’s what and who’s who.

 


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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.