Incremental Improvements — Wizards Defeat the Heat, 121-114 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Incremental Improvements — Wizards Defeat the Heat, 121-114

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Updated: October 6, 2018

Preseason basketball looks quite similar to a regular season game at first glance. The starters begin the game, the bench players are slowly worked into the mix, and toward the end, those on the floor — usually players who figure to play little or not at all during the regular season — try their absolute best to win the game. As the headline of this article demonstrates, there are official winners and losers after preseason contests, but it is virtually meaningless.

As Wizards Coach Scott Brooks alluded to after Friday night’s game, what really should be gleaned from preseason games, especially since there are now just five of them to be played, is the discovery of productive lineups and getting players into proper game shape.

“There are so many layers to an exhibition season, so you don’t have a lot … it used to be you had eight games, so you could play a lot of different lineups and get guys in condition, NBA shape and game shape. Now you just have to do as much as you can in practice and in smaller sample sizes in a game.” —Scott Brooks

Compared to Washington’s performance in their first preseason game against the Knicks on Monday, the Wizards did pretty damn good and made incremental improvements. There were no technicals fouls, no one was prematurely ejected from the game, and there were moments of sustained offensively continuity, which is more important than the 121-114 on the scoreboard at the end of the night.

4 Observations:

#4) Dwyane Wade Still Has Game.

A few weeks ago, Dwyane Wade announced via Twitter that this season — his 16th — would be his last. He’s not as explosive as he was in his prime, and he’s a bench player, not the starter he was during Miami’s championship seasons in 2006, 2012 and 2013. Still, at the age of 36, Wade still has the skillset of a productive NBA player, and he put that on display against the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

He played just 15 minutes, but Wade still managed to score 10 points in a variety of different ways. He hit two 3-pointers, he scored via an up-and-under move in the post, he hit midrange shots, and he showed that his advanced age was not a hinderance at all. The odds are highly against Wade being able to sustain this level of injury-free play throughout the entire season, but his ability to tap into this high level of play early in the preseason was quite impressive.

#3) Markieff Gets Redemption.

In the first preseason game, Markieff Morris finished with no points, three fouls and an ejection after just 12 minutes of play. Based on his play in the first quarter against the Heat, Morris seemed determined to prove to himself, Coach Brooks and his teammates that the outing wasn’t going to define his next.

In the first quarter alone, Morris had seven points on five shot attempts to go along with four rebounds. He aggressively looked for his shot around the basket, he hit a 3-pointer, and on defense he held Kelly Olynyk scoreless. Morris finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.

#2) D-C Threes.

The Wizards took 39 3-pointers against the Heat, and they connected on 12 of them, which is just 30 percent. John Wall went 0-for-5, Bradley Beal went just 3-for-11, and conversely Jeff Green went 3-for-4 and Morris went 3-for-5. At times it looked like the Wizards were simply shooting 3s to humor Coach Brooks and his edict that his team shoot more often from beyond the arc. At other points during the game, the Wizards seemed to be shooting 3s completely within the flow of the offense. Coach Brooks noticed the inconsistency as well:

“I just want good 3s. I’m not just saying jack up 3s just for the sake of us becoming top 10 or top five in the league in attempts. We want good shots. The things that we are focusing on … the quick, long 2s, our percentages aren’t good. So keep moving the basketball and find a better shot — and not pass up 3s. And if that leads up to 38 3s great, and if it leads up to 29 3s great. We just need to not pass up 3s and take those quick long 2s.

#1) The 3rd Quarter.

The Wizards scored 38 points on 56 percent shooting in the third quarter. Beal had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, and Wall tallied seven assists. They didn’t exactly play lockdown defense as a team, but the Wizards “held” the Heat to 25 points, and they went from trailing by eight points at halftime to leading by five. But that wasn’t what made thethird quarter unique.

Wall spent a significant amount of time off the ball in the quarter, and Beal and Otto Porter found themselves in facilitating roles. Wall would run to the corner during some sets, and in others, he’d come get the ball halfway through the shot clock and run the offense from there. Coach Brooks said he wants Wall to “expand his game and trying to challenge him to be more of a playmaker on the catch instead of on the dribble.” To Wall’s credit, he seems to be completely on board.

“I’m fine with that. There’s just different ways where teams can’t load up on me all the time. Most of the time I’m getting the ball in transition or pick and rolls. But nine times out of 10 the ball’s going to end up back in my hands. It just gives these guys the opportunity to get more comfortable with the ball and push the ball. One time Otto [Porter] had a fast break and I got in the lane, he threw it to me, I had a lay-up — I just missed it. I’m just trying to find ways to score so the other team can’t load up on me every time.”

Next Up: Wizards at Knicks, preseason game No. 3 on Monday, Oct. 8 at Madison Square Garden.

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.