Porous Defense Allows the Rockets to Pour on the Points | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Porous Defense Allows the Rockets to Pour on the Points

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Updated: April 3, 2018

Another day, another embarrassing Wizards loss.

Washington is “back dooring” their way into the playoffs, and that might even be considered generous. This team is climbing through the basement storm door because they haven’t a clue where they left their keys to victory. Having lost six of their last eight games and 11 of the last 17, the Wizards are on the verge of starting the playoffs in less than two weeks as a team in complete disarray and, quite honestly, they have the look of a team that has run out of gas.

John Wall missing more than two months of the season put a lot of undue pressure on Wizards role players, who stepped up in order to win enough games on the front-end of Wall’s absence to ensure that the playoff berth was clinched. But now Kelly Oubre has looked like a shell of the guy who blossomed during the first half of the season, shooting an abysmal 28 percent from 3-point range since the All-Star break, including going 1-for-6 tonight beyond the arc. Tomas Satoransky, too, has been hit by the slow-acting ill-effects of added responsibility. Sato shot the ball incredibly in the month of February when John went down, shooting 60 percent from the floor and 55 percent from 3. In the month of March, Sato’s shooting percentages decreased to 49 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3. Those are still good numbers, but it is clear that Tomas is slowing down as the season progresses. An even more concerning aspect of Tomas’ game is that he will have to spend time getting re-acclimated to coming off of the bench and feeding Kelly Oubre and Mike Scott as the primary scorers on the second unit. Satoransky will still play a significant role on this team in the postseason and the sooner Brooks properly staggers Wall and Beal’s minutes by allowing them both opportunities to play with Sato, the better.

Wall and Sato could be a lethal combo because of Sato’s ability to move without the basketball and John’s innate ability to find open cutters. It will be imperative that Wall get back into a groove and puts players like Satoransky and Oubre in the best possible positions to succeed, something that he’s had much success at in years past.

In Wall’s first game back he dished out 14 assists to just three turnovers. In his second game since returning, Wall had 10 assists but eight turnovers and did not look like the franchise point guard that the team will be relying heavily on to make a deep playoff run. Granted, Wall was matched up with arguably the best defensive point guard in the NBA in Chris Paul, but it is still unlike him to look so untidy when running the offense. What this game proved is that Wall still has a ways to go in getting back to full strength for the postseason—there’s just not a lot of time.

Where Was the Defense?

The Wizards struggled to get into a rhythm on the offensive end, but that is not where this game was lost. Washington allowed Houston to score 120 points with very little resistance, giving them virtually no chance of competing in this ball-game. The Rockets started out the game attacking the rim with pick-and-rolls and were able to carve up the Wizards to the tune of 48 points inside the paint. The Wizards are now 14-27 when being outscored in the paint.

There was once again a fundamental problem with the Wizards scheme, something that has happened far too many times this season under Scott Brooks’s watch. In the past the Wizards have used their big men for hard shows on hedges but assigned the big men to get back to the rim, not trap ball-handlers such as Harden and Paul at the top of the court. Sometimes in those situations, the scheme backfires if the opposing big prefers to pick-and-pop instead of roll to the basket, like we saw in the Nuggets game against Jokic.

One of the main culprits against Houston, and all the paint points they scored, was Marcin Gortat, who continues to struggle mightily against more athletic big men. Gortat finished the game with four points and just one rebound in 14 minutes of game action. Gortat’s biggest problem was the fact that he is entirely too slow to be able to successfully trap James Harden or Chris Paul at the top of the key when they run their pick-and-rolls with Nene and Clint Capela. As Gortat’s feet are stuck in cement, Harden was able to dribble right around him and either shoot a step-back 3 or pass the ball off for an easy layup or dunk to the roll man.

The other Wizards defenders were clearly not helping out enough with quality rotations, but the idea of having Gortat defend the most dynamic backcourt that far away from the basket is baffling. Give Brooks enough credit to have realized that having Gortat on the floor was not going to work this game and only playing him 14 minutes, but the damage had already been done as the Rockets outscored the Wizards 18-0 on points in the paint in the first quarter. Brooks elected to go small rather than give Ian Mahinmi a shot at the same flawed scheme. Mahinmi only logged 4 minutes, but still somehow out rebounded Gortat two to one. Ian has looked better and at least healthy over the second half of the season, but it is very clear that Scott Brooks does not trust his backup center to do what the team is paying him $16 million dollars a year to do.

With Gortat and Mahinmi on the bench, Markieff Morris played the majority of the minutes at center and finished with a game-worst plus/minus of minus-21 in 27 minutes of game action. Note: By the time Morris was getting big minutes at center, the Rockets were in a groove from behind the 3-point line and would go on to make 16 3-pointers.

The Rockets are one of the more advanced teams in the NBA when it comes to using analytics, on Tuesday night provided a blueprint of how to win ball games by following the three tenets of analytical basketball:

  1. 3-Pointers
  2. Points in the paint
  3. Getting to the throw line

Since we’re tallying up, the Rockets scored 48 points on 3-pointers on top of 48 points inside the paint and added an additional 18 points from the charity stripe, for a grand total of 114 points. This means that over 48 minutes, the Rockets only scored SIX total points on so-called inefficient basketball plays.

If the Wizards are going to defend like that, it’s not going to matter who they play in the first round of the playoffs, this season will be over before the month of May. Scott Brooks has to go back to the drawing board and figure out a better defensive scheme for this team heading into the postseason and the players have to help him out by actually giving a damn.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.