Washington Wants to Win, Unsure How to Night After Night | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Washington Wants to Win, Unsure How to Night After Night

Updated: December 20, 2018

[Photo: Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle]

The Houston Rockets hit an NBA record 26 3-pointers against the Wizards, with Michael Carter-Williams of all people burying the final shot from deep. But Washington lost this game between the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second quarter. At the 1:30 mark of the first, Chasson Randle entered the game with the Wizards down one point, 25-26. Immediately after entering the game, Randle fouled Chris Paul to put him on the free throw line, unwittingly starting a chain reaction. By the time that Randle checked out at the 10:15 mark of the second quarter, about three minutes later, the Wizards were down 28-40 and Randle was a minus-11. No, the run Houston went on was not completely Chasson’s fault, but to expect a G-League player to come out and competently defend future Hall of Famer Chris Paul and Co. is incredibly naive from head coach Scott Brooks (more on him at the bottom).

Washington has so many moving parts with the revolving door that is their roster for the season, but one thing has remained constant in Scott Brooks’s overall tenure as Wizards coach: he has never figured out to properly stagger John Wall and Bradley Beal so that the Wizards can limit the minutes that they play without either of their All-Star guards. If anything, Brooks should take note from the opposing team’s coach on this night, Mike D’Antoni, who has his rotations down to a science—the Rockets did not play a single second of basketball without Harden or Chris Paul till the game was in hand and they ultimately rested the two stars in the fourth quarter.

Harden and CP3 looked like the dynamic back court which was able to lead the Rockets to an NBA-best 65 wins last season, and they got additional help from their teammates who chipped in with 15 made 3-pointers in their record setting performance. Wall did not look particularly right in the two-game road trip and one can only wonder if the bone spurs in his foot that gave him so much trouble two weeks ago in Cleveland flared up (and prohibited him from competing like he did in that 40-point performance against the Lakers on Sunday). Wall was not explosive, nor careful with the basketball, and was not able to hit from the outside, either. The seven turnovers Wall committed helped the Rockets get out in transition, and his lack of attentiveness on the defensive end did little to slow Houston’s players on the perimeter or the glass.

Joining Wall on the low-effort team was Markieff Morris, who strayed far too much from the paint despite playing the majority of his minutes at center. Morris only grabbed five rebounds and added five points, and contributing little else positive in this game. One of the barometers for the Wizards’ success this season has been the play of Morris, who had been playing fantastic basketball since moving to the bench, but was clearly off against Atlanta and Houston. The Rockets were able to expose Keef’s size disadvantage against Clint Capela by constantly putting him into pick-and-roll situations, which allowed Capela to draw so much attention at the basket that the Rockets were able to pass the ball around the perimeter with impunity and knock down open 3 after open 3.

Houston was able to stretch the Wizards new defensive “weapon,” Trevor Ariza, by having him chase through screens all night. Ariza is savvy enough as a defender to correctly read a few of those plays, and added three more steals to the six he had in Atlanta. But while it is evident to see the difference that Ariza will make on the defensive end for the Wizards, even if he mostly closed out wide-open Houston shooters, the “3-and-D” wing struggled mightily with his outside shot. Ariza was only able to connect on one of his eight 3-point attempts.

Bright spots for the Wizards on the night included activity and energy from Thomas Bryant and Sam Dekker, who finished with 12 and 15 points respectively on a combined 12-for-14 effort from the field. Scott Brooks has mentioned all season about the need to have players who will play with energy and effort—these two are likely it.

As far as head coaches go, Brooks has not been terrible as the Wizards lead man, but he certainly has not been the transformative leader the team anticipated when they offered him a five-year, $35 million contract. Questionable rotations aside, he’s been rigid and failed to express the sort of creativity that’s celebrated in other head coaches, such as Brad Stevens or Quinn Snyder. Arguably more concerning, his reputation as a guy who can develop young players seems to have been slightly exaggerated given the fact that there is almost no discernible growth in the Wizards young players since Brooks took over.

When the Wizards traded away Kelly Oubre, 23, to acquire Trevor Ariza, 10 years his senior, they put Brooks and the rest of the team on notice that the organization intends to win this season (something they’ve trumpeted for the previous five seasons). If the team fails to get out of this rut, it will be an indictment on the players, Scott Brooks, and especially Ernie Grunfeld. The team has exactly 50 games left to figure this thing out, and can probably win 30 of those games to reach .500 for the season. That may be enough to squeeze into the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and save some jobs, but at this point such an outcome is just more of the same. And simply not good enough.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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.