Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:16:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.9 Hornets Bury Wizards: Basketball as Fugue State http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/hornets-bury-wizards-basketball-as-fugue-state.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/hornets-bury-wizards-basketball-as-fugue-state.html#respond Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:16:48 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54898

[Just watching things fall apart with the guys.]

Beat badly by another shitty team, the Washington Wizards are reeling. Except it’s more like a carousel, isn’t it? Look, there’s Scott Brooks getting pissed, “plain and simple” per Bradley Beal. And the scary-movie-cheery music plays on. There’s Wall and Beal watching from the bench in the fourth quarter after pissing away another game to a sub-.500 team. The music catches, the gears turn, a puff of smoke pushes free from the machinery, and the thing keeps spinning. Oh look, there’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist smoking a cigar and shredding the riff from “All Along the Watchtower” while dunking on Otto Porter. I didn’t think he could shoot! But then again, this is Washington, and they didn’t think he could shoot either, and maybe that means you don’t have to defend him.

Look, that’s free agent sharpshooter Jodie Meeks, shooting a below-average 31.1 percent from beyond the arc. Not even a career-low (28% as a rookie), so let’s count it as a win. The carnival attendant coughs and coughs and hacks up something that looks like a marble. Look, there’s our old pal Markieff running full steam into a guy without going for the ball. Oh, you’re saying he didn’t get ejected? Thank goodness for small favors! Pink ponies, yellow ponies, a depiction of a cowboy. It’s all incredibly fun.

Last night, Washington fell to Charlotte. The Wizards have as many losses (10) to teams under .500 as they do to teams over .500, yet somehow remain five games over .500 themselves.

Where does this loss rank among their worst of the season? I’ve lost count. I was angrier after the loss to Dallas, frozen solid after the blowout loss to Utah. But this had its own heady mix, one that put me in a place to be angry at the Wizards when Dwight Howard blew a kiss to the bench and shamed them with Sam Cassell’s Very Own Special Dance.

The Hornets scored 38 points to Washington’s 36 in the first quarter, and despite giving up close to 40 points to the 14th highest-scoring team in the NBA, there were signs of life: Beal came out swinging, swishing, sweet. He was 5-for-7 in the first quarter, and made all three of his 3-point attempts. Wall had six assists to just one turnover. You could almost be forgiven for chalking up a hot-shooting Charlotte team’s lead after one quarter to an outlier pining for regression.

But then, you didn’t see the defense.

It was awful.

The glue came off at the end of the second quarter, as Washington rushed to respond to easy Charlotte baskets and either threw the ball away or simply missed a shot. Bad defense is a corrupting influence, and too often Wall reacted to defensive lapses by overcompensating on the next play, forcing the shot or, once, cocking back and slanging a would-be cross court pass to Beal that was promptly intercepted.

In the third quarter, the glue had coagulated at Scott Brooks’ feet, formed a primordial consciousness, and set out to infect a planet. Charlotte played a turnover-free quarter and played professor to the Wizards, who should take notes on how a team can stay aggressive with a comfortable lead. The Hornets hit the Wizards in the mouth again and again, and eventually the Wizards did what they do under pressure: give the ball to Beal or Wall and let everyone else stand still while the shot clock rolls its eyes. Beal’s usage rate in the third quarter was 40.2 percent. Wall’s was 25.2. Aside from Kelly Oubre, no one else broke the 20 percent mark.

No Washington starter played in the fourth quarter. What was the point? What is the point? Is there a point? I hope there is.

Which brings us to Otto Porter, who is still on the team. Washington needs to find out how to bless young Otto with greater volume. Porter isn’t as aggressive on defense as Oubre, and isn’t as assertive on offense as Beal. He needs to develop that, but it’s not all on him. Brooks should chaperone the effort, building plays that center around Porter’s great cutting ability and dynamism. Wall should pound the passivity out of him (figuratively, of course) by putting the ball in Otto’s hands late in shot clocks and with the game on the line. And Beal should work with Porter, giving him some guidance on how to approach 1-on-1s when there’s nothing left to do but create your own shot.

If the Wizards can’t do this, they should consider moving Porter over the summer for someone who gels better with Wall and Beal. This isn’t ideal, but good organizations have foresight, solve chemistry problems, and don’t just trade a first-round pick for a mediocre player every year. Washington has more top-level talent than their second-tier Eastern Conference peers, but it isn’t showing.

Per the Washington Post‘s Candace Buckner, Scott Brooks had this to say after the game: “It’s unacceptable the way we competed. We’re going to have change some things and make sure we’re all going to compete. If not we’re going to have find guys who are going to compete.”

The roster is what it is, for now. And this isn’t a trip to Safeway on payday. Options are limited, and the Wizards don’t have much, if any, financial flexibility. I’d be interested to know who Brooks is talking about. I suspect it’s pretty much everyone.

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Milwaukee Bests The Wizards…Again http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/milwaukee-bests-the-wizards-again.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/milwaukee-bests-the-wizards-again.html#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 06:26:48 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54884

If you are a Wizards fan, you simply do NOT want to see the Bucks in the playoffs regardless of the round. The matchups are not in their favor

— Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) January 15, 2018

A little over a week ago, when the Milwaukee Bucks visited the Capital One Arena, the Wizards were in control in the first quarter, played even with the Bucks in the second and third, and then lost control in the fourth quarter. The Wiz ultimately lost the game, 103-110.

In that January 6 game, John Wall and Bradley Beal, who combined for 30 points and 13 assists (12 by Wall) in the first three quarters, fell victim to cold shooting and hero ball and went just 1-for-12 for six points in the final quarter. Conversely, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe combined for 20 points, and the Bucks as a whole outscored the Wizards 28-18 in the final stanza. Otto Porter (hip) did not play.

From the post-game quotes, the general feeling from Wall, Beal, and Coach Brooks was that missed shots here and there, a few bad calls and the presence of Giannis were all that stood between them and a victory.

Nine days later, the Bucks were right back in the Capital One Arena for an afternoon Martin Luther King Day game, less than 24 hours after losing to the Miami Heat. The Wizards were the fresher team having not played the night before, but it was still their third game in four nights. Regardless of the variables surrounding the game, the end result last night was similar to the January 6 game: Milwaukee went on an 11-2 run the last 5:17 of the game, and won 104-95.

Wall and Beal combined for 43 points in the first three quarters of basketball, but in the fourth quarter, they combined for just three points–and Beal went scoreless.

Kelly Oubre (8 points) and Tomas Satoransky (5 points) did their best to keep the game close, but as a team the Wizards shot just 33 percent. Similar to the last game, Milwaukee down the stretch was led by Eric Bledsoe (11 points), Giannis (6 points) and Khris Middleton (7 points). Six of Bledsoe’s 11 points came on wide open 3-pointers that the Wizards failed to contest. As a team, the Bucks shot 52 percent in the fourth quarter.

In addition to their inferior fourth-quarter offense, the Wizards also had to overcome their game-long inability to protect the basketball. They committed 23 turnovers (seven by Beal, four by Wall) which not only limited the Wizards to just six fast break points all game but also hindered their ability to achieve any offensive fluidity. Wall, Coach Brooks and Satoransky all mentioned the Bucks’ length as a major factor, but the Wizards knew that coming into last night’s game, and they still were not judicious with the basketball.

But by far, the oddest, most unexpected scapegoat of the night, was Otto Porter–who addressed the crowd before the game, and implored them to remember and celebrate Dr. King’s legacy. Otto, who still seemed a bit hindered by the hip strain, finished the game with just eight points and six rebounds in 30 minutes of play. He took just eight shots the entire game and hit just three of them.

After the game, both Brooks and Wall implied that Porter’s offensive reticence was not because Wall and Beal were not looking for him or Brooks was not calling plays for him. Instead, they implied that Porter needed to do a better job of working hard, getting open and getting himself involved in the offense:

“We would like to see Otto get more [shots], but Otto needs to help himself get more. The bottom-line is that Otto needs to get himself open and be ready to catch and shoot and get more shots.” —Scott Brooks

“We just have to do a better job at getting Otto the ball, but he’s also gotta do a better job himself at just being aggressive when he gets it.” —John Wall

Wall’s comments about Porter were particularly interesting because of his body language. When Wall was being complimentary of Porter, he looked directly at the media. But when his words turned slightly more critical, he looked in the direction of Porter’s locker (where Porter was quietly dressing) before he finished his thought. It could have been intentional or it could have simply been an involuntary reflex, but the concept of Porter somehow being at fault was odd.

Regardless of whether it was Porter, turnovers, hero ball from Wall and Beal or the shortening of the Wizards’ bench (Jodie Meeks, Tim Frazier and Jason Smith were DNP-CDs and Ian Mahinmi was scoreless in just 13 minutes), the bottom line is that the Wizards dropped two home games to a Milwaukee team that will surely be jockeying with them for playoff position. And the Wizards, who still have visions of Eastern Conference Finals grandeur, are unable to consistently close games, produce consistent bench rotations and are just two games in the loss column from falling out of the playoffs.

Not exactly what was expected when the Wizards touted their ability to maintain personnel continuity over roster upheaval in the off-season.

Satoransky Silver Linings

Against the Bucks, Tomas Satoransky did not have many opportunities to run the second unit the way he’s been accustomed to since taking over the back-up point guard role from Tim Frazier. But he did get rare minutes in the back-court alongside John Wall and his athleticism was on display on this impressive play, which gave Washington a two point lead early in the fourth quarter:

 

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How to Not Appreciate Loss Avoidance and Wizards Drama http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/how-to-not-appreciate-loss-avoidance-and-wizards-drama.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/how-to-not-appreciate-loss-avoidance-and-wizards-drama.html#respond Sun, 14 Jan 2018 19:44:14 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54876

[Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Brooklyn Nets
Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)]


If you’re like me, you’re constantly caught between what this Wizards team can be — appreciating how far the franchise has come but not being spoiled by it — and the sheer exasperation of watching a bunch that almost just refuses to grow up. It can be exhausting, for sure, but boy does it make for great theater.

The rebuilding Brooklyn Nets had already beaten Washington twice this season by a combined 40 points, both times at the Barclays Center. So when the Wizards outscored the Nets by 20 points over the first 24 minutes of play at the Capital One Arena on Saturday night, it was only partially presumed that it would be smooth sailing from there. You see, Washington is perfectly capable of completely dismantling an opponent, but this season even more so capable of inexplicably losing themselves in a state of discontent. What we forget is, although lacking talent and experience, this Nets team is no pushover.

So how did Washington allow Brooklyn to score 68 points in the second half (to Washington’s 48) to push the game into overtime? It starts with what seemingly, on the surface, went well.

Both teams, having played the night prior, started the evening sluggish. The offense was scripted, all five Nets settled for immediately getting back for transition defense, and the Wizards didn’t really test them by pushing the ball. The Wizards were missing clean, if sub-optimal looks. But they cracked an egg when John Wall finally found a cutting Otto Porter — the first time Brooklyn relented in defending the break. Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris added cracks with physicality (screens and mismatched post-ups), and Wall executed his first drive and push to the rim nearly five minutes in.

The Wizards’ offense was humming, although it didn’t take long for actions holding down success to surface. Gortat’s paint defense and footwork got stuck in quicksand for a spell. And despite Tomas Satoransky’s best efforts in running the show for Wall, the construct of the second unit often bogs down offensive flow.

The bench being sluggish is nothing new. And it was not as accentuated on this night. Brooklyn was able to hang with confidence with a distributed attack. If it wasn’t Caris LeVert giving fits with his length and ability to slash, it was Jarrett Allen disrupting inside. Joe Harris and Nik Stauskas hit long range shots, and even Jahlil Okafor made an appearance, catching Ian Mahinmi with a floater in the lane. And this was all from Brooklyn’s bench.

But the lull in the second quarter was countered when Wall and Porter returned. The point guard directed, others slashed, and the floor opened up when Brooks put Morris at the 5. Porous defense also opened up, with the tendency for some Wizards to leak out on offense sometimes. For instance, once Gortat was found trotting down to the offensive end and not helping secure the defensive rebound for a shot that his guy attempted. Nonetheless, tougher, stronger attacks and a 6-for-11 output from deep defined the first half narrative of Washington’s 59-39 lead.

Then came whatever happens during halftime of a Wizards gamechecking social media, soft whispers from Scott Brooks, weary muscles relaxing and forgetting the night’s not done. The third quarter, as is commonplace, is where things became undone for the Wiz, at least Act 1 of it.

Begin by blaming the dead crowd. The announcers from the Nets broadcast on the YES Network could not help but notice several times. It’s a cross between poor game operational logistics and DC being a fashionably late city, even between halftime and the start of the third quarter. The Wizards are familiar with this, and some opponents, like Brooklyn, are smart enough to take advantage.

The Nets were much more aggressive than at the start of the game — and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was everywhere. His tangled-limed effectiveness baffled the sleep-walking Wizards. Wall answered a Quincy Acy 3 with a free throw line jumper, but the continued back-and-forth between the two morphed into embarrassing basketball, disappointingly fueled by Wall. Twice he displayed poor body language after a lob to Gortat, then a dump off pass to Gortat, both resulted in failure. It was hard to tell who was at fault, but still. Out of timeout, Wall dribbled the clock out and chucked a left elbow brick. The team collectively started picking up cheap fouls. Brooklyn successfully targeted Gortat on switches several times. Gortat and Morris could not get on the same page, even when the matchup favored Washington’s defense. Wall got a tech out of frustration and the whole starting unit was just a mess.

The Wizards managed to save some grace at the very end of the third quarter when Kelly Oubre stepped into a Steph Curry-level deep three at the buzzer. This was after Oubre’s defensive slip on the other end led to a dunk in Mahinmi’s face by Allen. Washington equally backed into the fourth quarter. Oubre made some dopey pass attempts, Satoransky provided a countering burst, and Mahinmi picked up fouls left and right. It seemed like Brooklyn was playing spread-the-floor chess while the Wizards were stuck playing checkers. Not one of Scott Brooks’ options at 5 — not Gortat, not Mahinmi, not even Morris — can consistently stay in front of a smaller big when forced to guard the perimeter. And it’s often too burdensome to ask Jason Smith or Mike Scott to do such outside of a stretch of a possession or three.

So as Wall would provide a firecracker to put the Wizards up 11, Hollis-Jefferson countered — Washington made him seem like an unsolvable riddle. Brooks turning to the much vaunted Morris at the 5 lineup didn’t help undo any problems or mask inefficiencies. Hollis-Jefferson simply would not quit. And that allowed Allen Crabbe to wake up from his slumber with clutch-time 3s in succession. Not to ignore bad habits, Wall didn’t respect nor bother to contest a Spencer Dinwiddie 3-pointer that pulled Brooklyn within three, 102-105. That was followed with more chagrined body language from Wall toward Gortat when the big man did not take up the space in the paint expected of him. The Nets scored on the other end off the turnover while perceived wounds were licked.

Washington won in overtime, as you know. They did their job, in the end, sort of. What was needed in the win column, counts. But progression continues to be listless. The stars too easily maneuver between brilliance and apathy. Secondary options easily get lost in themselves. The bench teeters between inept and just competent enough. But too much continues to come back to Wall and Beal, whether it be them too often needing to put the team on their backs under heavy minutes, or whether they take hero shots on misplaced principle. With 33 seconds left Wall tossed up a 20-foot brick on an empty possession — the Wizards were up by one. Brooklyn ended up turning the ball over with good intentions and Wall hit two clutch free throws to make it a three-point possession game.

As the Wizards played like they hoped their odds of losing would dwindle instead of seizing the day, LeVert, who has been a thorn in Washington’s side all season, snuck to the rim unscathed to tap-rebound a missed desperation 3 by Dinwiddie right in to the hands of Acy, who calmly hit the shot to tie the game and send it into overtime. Washington’s last attempt to end the misery in regulation was a passionless possession that ended with Wall air-balling a baseline fadeaway jumper. Take solace in the fact that the Wizards won, 119-113, but don’t under appreciate the drama they continue to create.


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John Wall Plays the Hero (Instead of Hero Ball) Against Orlando http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/john-wall-plays-the-hero-instead-of-hero-ball-against-orlando.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/john-wall-plays-the-hero-instead-of-hero-ball-against-orlando.html#respond Sat, 13 Jan 2018 09:07:09 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54865

John Wall joined Elvin Hayes, Jeff Malone & Wes Unseld as the only players to score 10K pts for Washington's basketball franchise. Many of John's buckets looked like this pic.twitter.com/bOkW1stZgT

— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) January 13, 2018

SCOTT BROOKS WALKED into the media room after the Orlando Magic game wearing an expression that is normally reserved for the losing coach. He took a seat at the podium and before a reporter could utter a question he sighed and said, “Well, we wanted offense. We got it.”

Brooks’ statement cuts to the heart of the 2017-18 Washington Wizards. They can score with ease against most NBA teams but their defensive efficiency too often falls flat.

Washington waltzed through Orlando’s defense in the first half, racking up 65 points on 55.8% shooting, with the overwhelming majority of those baskets coming in the paint (20-for-30, 40 points). The first 24 minutes played out like a glorified layup line for Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Only one problem: Washington rolled out the same red carpet for Orlando’s offense.

The Magic scored 63 points on an absurd 63.2% shooting and nearly matched the Wizards’ paint scoring with 36. Washington offered zero resistance at the rim and turned Bismack Biyombo into a young Amare Stoudamire (7-for-7, 18 points).

John Wall perfectly summed up the Wizards’ defensive performance: “We know what our coverages are, but at times we don’t do them.”

Ok then.

Magic guard Evan Fournier gave a more likely explanation for his team’s offensive success: “Honestly I felt we played good offense but I think part of that was maybe the Wizards not being as aggressive and they were casual and maybe they took us lightly.”

(You know you’ve got a problem when even your opponents think you are coasting.)

Things didn’t change much in the second half. Washington was content to trade baskets for the entire third quarter and over half of the fourth. With 5:49 remaining in the game, Orlando led 111-110 and it felt as if the Wizards might add another notch on their sub .500 belt.

The close game provided yet another test for Washington’s inefficient clutch-time offense. Before the game, Scott Brooks was asked to address the team’s performance in the first half of the season and his first comment was, “We’re having trouble scoring the ball late games.”

Brooks suggested that his team’s late-game inefficiency could be a function of defensive attention:

“Teams are loading up on John and Brad, let’s face it, and they should. They’re forcing us to make the extra pass and I think we’ve taken some good shots but maybe we can look for some better shots.”

In other words, hero ball has not been working for the Wizards this season. Would Washington find another way to close out a game against Orlando?

Yes. Sort of.

Instead of playing hero ball, John Wall decided to just be the hero. In the manner of three minutes, Wall hit three jumpers, assisted on a Kelly Oubre, Jr. three-pointer and punctuated the decisive run with an alley-oop to Marcin Gortat.

When the smoke cleared, the Wizards outscored the Magic 11-2 for a 121-113 lead.

For one night, at least, Washington executed down the stretch. However, as Scott Brooks’ post-game opening remark indicated, all is not right with these Wizards. Their performance over the first 42 minutes of the game was not acceptable and would not be sufficient to beat most teams in the league. In other words, the second half of the Wizards’ season started exactly how the first half ended.

Brooks Tightens the Rotation

Scott Brooks is still trying to figure out his optimal rotation. Against the Utah Jazz, Brooks played Jodie Meeks extended minutes alongside John Wall in the hopes of getting Meeks into a rhythm. It did not work. Meeks missed all of his shots (four three-pointers) and had difficulty keeping up on defense.

Against the Magic, Brooks shortened the rotation to nine and Meeks was the odd man out, collecting his first DNP of the season. In his place, Brooks played Satoransky as the first shooting guard off the bench alongside John Wall in the first quarter.

After the game, Brooks was non-committal on his rotation going forward. He intimated that he might keep a nine-man rotation and suggested that Meeks “will have a good chance to play tomorrow,” which was far from an endorsement. If the Wizards move to a nine-man rotation, that means either Oubre, Mike Scott, Satoransky, Ian Mahinmi or Jodie Meeks is out of luck.

By process of elimination, it seems that Meeks will be the odd man out. Oubre – despite some head-scratching plays – has solidified himself as the first wing off the bench. Satoransky is the primary back-up point guard. Mahinmi gobbles up all reserve center minutes and Mike Scott has emerged as the best shooter off the bench.

You get the feeling that Brooks was auditioning Satoransky for the back-up shooting guard role and hoping he has chemistry with Wall in the back-court.

Kelly Oubre, Man of Mystery

Kelly Oubre remains one of the most polarizing players on the team. He has limitless potential and looks the part of a difference-making 3-and-D guy. However, he will also make some boneheaded plays that make you question his basketball IQ.

Against Utah, it was helping off Joe Ingles and allowing an uncontested go-ahead three-point shot. As bad as that was, his gaffe against the Magic was even more egregious.

Washington led 123-116 with 26 seconds remaining and Oubre had the ball in the corner. It appeared Orlando would not foul and the game would be over.

Oubre had other ideas.

Kelly shot a three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He missed and Orlando raced down court and hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to four points with 20 seconds remaining. Brooks called timeout and was livid.

Washington hung on for the victory, but these are the types of mistakes that will come back to haunt you against better opponents in more important games.

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From The Other Side: How Orlando Copes With Limited Magic http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/from-the-other-side-how-orlando-copes-with-limited-magic.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/from-the-other-side-how-orlando-copes-with-limited-magic.html#respond Sat, 13 Jan 2018 07:24:08 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54857

“We’re 29th in the league, that’s where we are” – Orlando Magic forward Jonathon Simmons

People who root for and cover the Washington Wizards are currently nitpicking the bad and good (mostly bad) habits of the team as they move past the halfway point of the season. With their 125-119 win over the Orlando Magic, the Wizards stand at 24-18 which is good for fifth in the Eastern Conference.

As Scott Brooks said before the game, “23 wins at the half point, it’s not like we’re excited about it but it’s not the end of the world either.” The 23 wins they amassed before the game weren’t that bad at all,  but considering their substandard play late in the game, the defensive lapses and their overall inability to defiantly close out inferior teams–like the Orlando Magic–the nitpicking is absolutely justified.  After all, this isn’t a team looking to collect moral victories, this is a team trying to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.

The Orlando Magic do not have the luxury of dreaming those types of lofty dreams. In fact, at 12-31, they are just barely scratching and surviving and some have suggested that they set aside their visions of grandeur this season, and focus on the treasures the NBA draft may provide:

But since the NBA draft is six months away, and the coaches and players still get paid to do their jobs, the show must go on, and for Coach Frank Vogel, that show is identifying and building upon incremental success. In his post-game comments, Vogel paid homage to the Wizards and their All-Star (hopefully) duo of Wall and Beal, but he also praised his team’s effort, their 32 assists, and their ability to put up 119 points on the NBA’s seventh-best defense.

The MVP for the Magic, and the player who most embodied the small picture, moral victory spirit of this team, was Bismack Biyombo. The Magic shot 60-percent through three quarters of basketball, and Biyombo contributed to that lofty number by shooting 7-of-7 during that span with 19 points and 10 rebounds–many of those points came at the expense of Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat.

Biyombo finished 8-of-9 from the field and had 21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.  His active play was not lost on Magic guard Evan Fournier who said, “He set some really good screens to get us open, and they[the Wizards] had to commit and we just had an easy pass to drop off to him. He was open, but give him credit for setting the screens and staying ready.”

With 5:49 left in the game, it was Biyombo who dunked home his only field goal of the second half and gave the Magic a brief 111-110 lead. Then John Wall scored or assisted on the Wizards’ next ten points, while the Magic mustered just three, and the game was virtually out of reach.

Biyombo was not impressed by his career-high 21 points–in fact, when a teammate asked him if he knew his career high, he said he didn’t and it didn’t matter because the Magic lost the game. In fact, Biyombo did not want to focus on the offensive success that he and his teammates had, but instead he wanted to discuss how the Magic could improve on their defense going forward:

Although the box score shows that he had just 14 points (on 4-of-15) shooting along with 10 rebounds, Aaron Gordon was another one of Coach Vogel’s MVP’s in the loss to the Wizards because of his passing ability.

Gordon had watched film of his play in the four games prior to the Wizards’ tilt, and he noticed that he was so focused on his own offense, that he had been ignoring his wide open teammates. “If I don’t like the way I’m playing, I’ll watch film. I watched four games because I didn’t like the way the game felt and look at it objectively, ” Gordon said before last night’s game against the Wizards. “What I saw was I wasn’t creating enough for my teammates.”  Gordon had three assists in the first quarter, and he helped the Magic score 33 first quarter point. He finished the game with seven assists and Coach Vogel was impressed:

“The other night he forced a lot, and we talked about it and he came out really playing to pass–he really wasn’t looking to pass, he was just trying to make the right play. He attacked to score and then when the help comes you share it. And he did that real well, probably better than he has all season. And when we needed him to score in the second half, he picked it up there.”

To D or not to D

Every Wizards player who was interviewed after the game, mentioned the mercurial nature of the team’s defense of the Magic and with good reason. The Magic scored 30 or more points in the first three quarters, before the Wizards finally buckled down and got some stops while holding the Magic to 21 points and 27-percent shooting in the game’s final stanza.

But after the game, Magic guard Evan Fournier did not feel like praising his team’s offensive performance the first three quarters, because he felt like that success was less about how his team performed, and more about what he perceived as the Wizards not taking the Magic seriously enough:

“Honestly I felt like we played good offense but I think part of that was maybe the Wizards not being as aggressive and they were casual and maybe they took us lightly.”

Someone needs to hide that quote from Scott Brooks.

Elfrid

Elfrid Payton had 27 points and eight assists in 38 minutes, which sounds grand until you consider the man that he was guarding (John Wall) had 30 points, nine assist and three blocked shots in just 36 minutes of play. But Payton was not demoralized or crestfallen when Wall would score on him. Instead, on several occasions he went right back down the floor and scored a basket at Wall’s expense–a tactic most opposing guards do not utilize enough.

In fact, it seems as if Payton may have solved the Wall/Wizards cheat code as evidenced by his numbers in the last eight quarters against Washington:

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Jazz 107, Wizards 104: Grand Opening, Bad Closing http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/jazz-107-wizards-104-grand-opening-bad-closing.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/jazz-107-wizards-104-grand-opening-bad-closing.html#respond Thu, 11 Jan 2018 08:41:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54844

[Photo via @WashWizards]

Two days ago, my fellow TAI colleague Bryan Frantz wrote an astute piece explaining that the Wizards’ hero ball antics–particularly from John Wall and Bradley Beal late in a game–needed to cease if the team has any designs on improving their record and their chances for a deep playoff run.

At one point, Frantz mentioned that high minutes from Beal and Wall, along with their combined 33 percent fourth-quarter shooting, was a recipe for failure.

The next day, Kyle Weidie, another TAI colleague (and founder), re-posted Frantz’s article, highlighting the damning statistics that show just how putrid Wall and Beal’s late-game shooting has been. John Wall himself was none too pleased and he offered a response to Weidie’s tweet: “It’ll change long season buddy.”

Two days later, after the 107-104 loss to the Utah Jazz, Wall was once again put in a position of explaining why his team relinquished a second-half lead (this time nine points) and had to play from behind most of the fourth quarter. His responses were a bit more expansive than his retort to Weidie:

“I just think we had too many turnovers and we just made simple lapses at the end of the game. When its the fourth quarter, last five minutes, you gotta be locked in . . . we gave up backdoors, wide-open 3s in transition and those are things that hurt.”

While hero ball and the lack of ball movement were two of the main factors in the Wizards’ loss to the Jazz, Wall is correct about the defensive lapses playing a part in their demise as well. The two main lapses occurred at the end of the third and fourth quarters.

With 7:32 left in the third quarter, the Wizards led the Jazz 66-57, after a Markieff Morris corner 3-pointer. Then Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell went right back down the court and drilled a wide-open 3 of his own. Beal and Wall turned the ball over on consecutive possessions and Ekpe Udoh (via a three-point play) and Joe Johnson (via his traditional step-back jumper) quickly cut the lead to just one point.

Utah’s confidence began to build, and the Wizards, partly because of Brooks’s decision to insert bench players and partly due to the lack of ball movement, began to slowly let the Jazz back into the game. The Jazz tied the game at 72 with four minutes left in the third quarter, and Brooks called a timeout to re-group. The team did not respond.

The Wizards proceeded to turn the ball over four times in the last four minutes and they were outscored 11-5 during that span. The Jazz scored 37 points in the third quarter en route to a six-point lead–and they weren’t led by Rudy Gobert (injured), Derrick Favors (injured) or Donovan Mitchell, who scored seven points but played cautiously thanks to foul trouble. The Jazz’s leading scorers in that pivotal third quarter were Ekpe Udoh,whose 10 third-quarter points tied his highest scoring output all season, and 36-year-old Joe Johnson, who scored eight points on 3-for-3 shooting.

The second and most costly defensive lapse came late in the fourth quarter, thanks to a careless gamble by Kelly Oubre.

John Wall hit a tough 3-point shot to give the Wizards a one-point lead, and he and the rest of the Wizards’ players on the floor (Oubre, Beal, Gortat and Porter) were visibly pumped as the Jazz came down on offense. Utah coach Quin Snyder shunned the timeout and let his team run the offense. Donovan Mitchell appeared to get past John Wall, but Marcin Gortat was in the lane to contest the shot. However, before Mitchell could take another step to find out if he could get to the basket, Oubre left his man (Joe Ingles) and decided to take a swipe at the ball as Mitchell drove by. Oubre missed, Mitchell made the correct pass to a wide-open Ingles, who hit the shot, leaving Scott Brooks incensed:

Oubre’s defensive lapse put the Wizards down two points and it took the Wizards from a position of strength to one of desperation, which meant the hero ball gene reared its unsuccessful head. Both Wall and Beal took and missed 3-point shots and, after Joe Johnson hit two free throws to extend Utah’s lead to four, Kelly Oubre took a rare fourth quarter pass from Wall and hit a tough driving layup. The Wizards, down two points, intentionally fouled Johnson and he made just one of two free throws to bring the Wizards within three points.

Unfortunately, Beal botched his last-second attempt to tie the game and the Wizards lost. After the game, Beal took responsibility for losing the ball and not finding anyone to pass it to, but in all fairness to him, the game was not lost there. The game was mostly lost due to the turnovers (the Wizards had 23 total) and the defensive lapses in the second half.

But let’s revisit the concept of hero ball, because that also had a hand in the Wizards’ demise.

From the 4:30 mark of the third quarter to the 3:34 mark of the fourth quarter, none of the Wizards’ baskets came via an assist. Wall and Beal would either try to split Jazz defenders to get into the lane, or they would hunt and peck until they found enough space to get off a shot. And when someone other than Wall or Beal got the ball, they played that same selfish brand of basketball. Save for Oubre, the bench players–who typically share the ball–did not get a chance to play extended minutes thanks to Brooks’s rotations. And even when the bench mob did play, the results weren’t ideal: Jodie Meeks missed all four of his 3-point attempts, Mike Scott didn’t get his open shots because of the selfishness of Wall and Beal, and the rest of the reserves were relegated to limited minutes (Jason Smith, 4 minutes; Satoransky, 5).

Wall and Beal shot a combined .500 (23-46) from the field and totaled 58 points and 18 assists. On paper, it appears as if they pulled their weight and the rest of the team fell short. But in reality, the ball was not popping the way former Wizard Mike Miller would want it to, and the Jazz exploited that flaw and eventually won the game.

At the conclusion of his post-game presser, Wall was asked what he and his teammates need to improve upon during the second half of the season. Wall may have thought he was looking ahead, but in reality, he described the very reasons why his team lost to the Jazz.

“When we move the ball offensively, and trust guys cutting, and trust guys passing the ball, and trust playing team defense, we’ve already shown what we’re capable of it. It’s the same thing that we’ve been saying the past four, five years. I know y’all are tired of hearing it, I’m tired of saying it, but it is what it is. Until we can prove we can do it on a nightly basis, we’ll be having the same conversation.”

It’ll change, it’s a long season buddy.

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Wall and Beal Hero Ball Needs to Go http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/wall-and-beal-hero-ball-needs-to-go.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/wall-and-beal-hero-ball-needs-to-go.html#respond Sun, 07 Jan 2018 18:17:10 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54831

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the best players on the Wizards, and teams typically look to their best players to take over late in close games. LeBron James has taken the most shots in fourth quarters this season (208), followed by Russell Westbrook (192), Kyrie Irving (181), and Jimmy Butler (180). It is therefore reasonable to expect Wall and Beal to take the bulk of the Wizards’ shots with the game on the line.

But what if the best players on your team aren’t good at taking over games late? Sure, there have been some incredible runs by Wall to close out games, and nobody is arguing that he and Beal can’t dominate when it matters. They just don’t dominate, and actually hurt the offense, much more frequently.

After the All-Star foursome of James, Westbrook, Irving, and Butler, the next player on that list of fourth-quarter field-goal attempts is Tyreke Evans, the best pure scorer on a bad Grizzlies team, with 177. After that? Bradley Beal, with 175.

Here’s the difference between Beal and those other five players: Beal is shooting .354 in the fourth quarter, while each of those other five are shooting at least .411. Of the 20 players with at least 140 fourth-quarter shot attempts this season, only Beal and James Harden (.370 on 154 shots) are shooting below 40 percent.

Wall, who has missed 11 games this season due to injury, has taken 90 fourth-quarter shots, but he’s made just 29 of them, good for an atrocious .322 shooting percentage. Of the 123 players who have taken at least 75 shots in the fourth quarter this season, only three players have worse shooting percentages than John Wall: Marcus Smart (.304), Fred VanVleet (.316), and Rodney Hood (.317).

Then comes Wall, followed by Jodie Meeks (that’s Wizards Shooting Specialist Jodie Meeks), Wesley Matthews, Frank Kaminsky, Marreese Speights, Tyler Johnson, and Bradley Beal.

Pause.

Look at that again. The Wizards employ three of the 10 least-efficient fourth-quarter scorers so far this season, and two of them are on max contracts.

If Frank Kaminsky and Fred VanVleet aren’t efficient late-game scorers, so be it. They’re Frank Kaminsky and Fred VanVleet. If John Wall and Bradley Beal are inefficient to close out games, there’s a significant problem in Washington.

Use Saturday’s games as an example.

The Wizards lost to the Bucks by seven after being outscored in the fourth quarter by 10. Here is what the fourth-quarter shooting breakdown looked like for the Wizards.

Wall: 0-for-5, 2 points
Beal: 1-for-7, 4 points
Everybody else: 4-for-7, 12 points

Numbers don’t tell the entire tale, of course. Some of those shots Wall and Beal took were thrust upon them because the offense wasn’t moving, or because other less-talented scorers couldn’t get themselves a look. But numbers tell a lot of the tale, which is essentially Wall and Beal playing your-turn-my-turn à la Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook two years ago.

Otto Porter was out for the game with a hip strain, so Wall and Beal were always going to be leaned on even more heavily. And it’s absolutely fair to wonder how much of the blame for this goes on the rest of the team, and on Scott Brooks, for allowing Wall and Beal to take all the shots. The offense is visibly stagnant at the end of close games, whether because everybody knows it’s going to be The Wall and Beal Show or because the Wizards tense up and the star pair is expected to make everything happen on their own.

But you see Wall bringing the ball up in the final three minutes of a narrow game, and way too often it goes exactly like this: Somebody, usually Marcin Gortat, sets a screen at the top of the key for Wall, who waves it off. Wall dribbles in place for several seconds, begins dancing with the ball, rips off a few crossovers with varying degrees of success, then either fires up a 19-footer or drives for a heavily-contested layup and complains when he doesn’t get the foul call.

The next time around, after the opponent has likely put in a bucket on the other end, Wall defers to Beal and lets him try to create a shot for himself. Beal’s version of this game is a less-predictable one, but the ending often feels similar.

Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo went 3-for-3 while only taking the shots that presented themselves to him. Quality shots kept opening up for his teammates as the Wizards defense bumbled around, so he deferred. As a result, the Bucks went 8-for-16 from the field and 11-for-12 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter; the Wizards went 5-for-19 and 7-for-10, respectively.

A glance around the three other close games Saturday night (Houston-Detroit, Boston-Brooklyn, Cleveland-Orlando) shows a remarkable disparity between Washington’s late-game offense and everybody else’s. In the four games, the two worst volume shooters in the fourth quarter were Wall and Beal. Here is every player in those four games who attempted at least five shots in the fourth quarter, ranked by efficiency:

John Wall: 0-for-5, 2 points
Bradley Beal: 1-for-7, 4 points
Kyrie Irving: 1-for-5, 4 points
Marcus Smart: 1-for-5, 5 points
Joe Harris: 2-for-5, 4 points
LeBron James: 2-for-5, 8 points
Spencer Dinwiddie: 3-for-8, 6 points
Jahlil Okafor: 3-for-7, 6 points
Eric Gordon: 3-for-6, 7 points
Aaron Gordon: 5-for-10, 11 points
Jayson Tatum: 3-for-5, 7 points
Mario Hezonja: 4-for-5, 10 points
Elfrid Payton: 4-for-5, 8 points

The sample size is negligible in the grand scheme of things, of course, but there are many nights you could perform this same exercise and get similar results. Wall and Beal taking over games late is a painfully inefficient strategy, and it’s the primary reason the Wizards are 22nd in fourth-quarter plus-minus (-20) and 26th in fourth-quarter field-goal percentage (.424).

Eliminate the players who are out of the rotation on Washington’s roster—Jason Smith, Tim Frazier, Chris McCullough—and you’ll see a brutal fourth-quarter trend. Wall is the worst shooter on the team in the quarter, followed by Meeks, then by Beal. After that trio, the next-worst shooter is Otto Porter, who is a full 10 percentage points better than Beal (.354 vs .455) and 13 percentage points better than Wall (.322).

And it only goes up from there!

Kelly Oubre: .483
Marcin Gortat: .484
Markieff Morris: .487
Ian Mahinmi (!): .531
Tomas Satoransky: .574
Mike Scott: .600

Those are all on much lower volume, yes, but that’s the point. We’re looking at Kobe Bryant-esque volume splits this season in Washington, and despite Bryant being one of the best pure scorers to ever tie up the laces, that strategy often left the Lakers grasping for air late in games.

The final piece to all this is the fatigue element, and there are two parts to it. First, with Beal playing a career-high 35.6 minutes per game and Wall playing 33.7 minutes per game despite injury problems, the duo often looks winded late in games, so you’re not even getting top-quality Wall and Beal to close out games.

Second, the more you rely on them in these high-stress situations, the more you’re adding to their fatigue. It’s like in baseball when you look at a pitcher’s pitch count for a game and factor in whether they’re high-stress pitches (i.e. bases are loaded for 10 straight pitches vs. empty bases).

Wall and Beal shouldering the greatest portion of the load at the time when the load is heaviest and their shoulders are weakest is a recipe for failure. So far, that recipe is producing exactly what’s expected, which is the failure we saw Saturday night.

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The Experiment Continues — How the Wizards Almost Didn’t Win in Memphis http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/the-experiment-continues-how-the-wizards-almost-didnt-win-in-memphis.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/the-experiment-continues-how-the-wizards-almost-didnt-win-in-memphis.html#respond Sat, 06 Jan 2018 14:40:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54822

Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The visiting Washington Wizards slipped out of Memphis with a Friday night win on one of their usual adventures. They scored 15 points on two made field goals in the fourth quarter.  And thanks to a last-second 3-pointer, the Grizzlies countered with 28 points. The Wizards won by two.

The roadie started well enough with John Wall and Bradley Beal fuel. The first play of the game featured Beal and Marcin Gortat action on the left while teammates lined up in formation on the right-side arc of the 3-point line. Memphis was content to let Wall plant himself at the top right of the arc and he was feeling enough to hit it. It was lining up to be that kind of night — Wall hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter. He and Beal combined for 18 points in the opening stanza, which helped mask the struggles of Marcin Gortat (3-12 FGs, Bunny Night) and Otto Porter (1-6 FGs, departed early with a hip).

With a 33-24 lead to start the second quarter, Scott Brooks continued his bench adventure. The Tomas Satoransky, Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre, Mike Scott, Ian Mahinmi lineup has its moments these-a-days and seeing them try can actually be enjoyable. It feels like part coaching experiment, part indignant toward lineup criticism, part patience, part why not. Let them try to make it work, let Satoransky try to gesture and voice the arrangement through offensive stagnancy.

Turnovers are also a big problem for that particular bench lineup, and it’s not necessarily the point guard, Sato, who continues to post one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the NBA. The all bench squad finished five points in the hole over their eight and a half minutes of game play, shot 40 percent, and turned the ball over five times. Not a killer.

At the 8:45 mark of the second quarter, Brooks inserted Markieff Morris as the “5” man with the bench squad. Morris’s play on the night could actually be described as inspirational, for him. He darted to 50-50 balls, he went tit-for-tat with Marc Gasol, and that sort of display even continued into the second half. He finished with 17 rebounds, trying a career high — only the fifth time in 479 career games where he’s snagged 15 or more boards. The rest of the starters trickled back into the game and fun was found again, or at least a further glimpse of what’s to come with Morris at 5 and what that allows for others on offense. The Wizards led by eight points at intermission; Wall and Beal combined for 31 and the bench added 16 to team totals.

Brooks’s team kept the pedal pressed to start the third, which is not always the case. The starters added four points to the lead in the opening seven minutes. Then Brooks started experimenting with Ian Mahinmi at the 5, a tad with Morris at the 4 and a little more time with combinations of Oubre, Porter or Mike Scott as the 3-4 combo. The smaller lineup combos, mostly with Beal as the anchoring starter, added four more points to the advantage. The Wizards led 87-72 after three quarters.

Then whatever has been happening, did happen. It’s difficult to contextualize or quantify unexplained basketball struggles. And the Wizards seem to have the most unexplainable.

Sure, you can blame the bench for starting the undoing, but I’m not so sure they are the root of it. The fourth began with Meeks sailing a pass to the corner, Oubre trying to save it, and it (being the ball) ending up in the hands of a Grizzly — layup. Next possession: Oubre dribbled, jumped, and passed the ball through what must have been a ghost and right out of bounds. Down the court, Memphis grabbed four offensive rebounds in a row. The game became a classic Memphis grind. And Washington bought into it. Wall and Beal were summoned to unpack their legs and take part in the grind with around eight minutes left and the Wizards holding an 11 point lead.

There was that possession where Wall dribbled a soft spot in the floor at the top of the key while he waited for Beal to maneuver off the ball. Beal eventually drew a foul, a grab, which he is becoming increasingly adept at. And maybe that was Washington’s addition to the grind. Not exactly resulting in sparks. Subsequently, Wall missed 16 or 17-foot pull-ups, Beal and Satoransky boinked 3-point opportunities.

The back-and-forth: Gasol dunks through lost defense off a pick-and-roll with Tyreke Evans, Wall clunks a 3. Evans then gets by Wall baseline and hits a layup with no help from Gortat, and the Wizards violate the shot clock. JaMychal Green hits a corner 3, it was Wall’s assignment — he didn’t really contest. Other end: exchanges of dribbling nowhere then pass-outs before Wall is forced to brick a long 2.

It even got as silly as Evans staring down Wall at the arc and then catching him with a hand down, man down. Evans’s 3-pointer with 18 seconds left brought the Grizzlies within one, 97-98. The Wizards then simply backed into the win by making their free throws, Beal rolling in the second to go 2-2 and Morris later hitting both of his opportunities.

Post game quotes seemed to focus on how the Wizards won with their defense. Scott Brooks, via Candace Buckner of the Washington Post:

“To win on the road shooting 39 percent means we played the defense that it takes to win on the road,” Brooks said. “It wasn’t a pretty game. It was a lot of struggle offensively in that fourth quarter but I thought we played with a lot of toughness and we got stops when we needed.

“We won the game because we defended tonight.”

The Grizzlies shot 40 percent, and so to be tied for the third-worst record in the NBA and only lose by two points at home while shooting that low of a percentage — they must’ve played pretty good defense, too. Particularly against a team, the Wizards, ranked 11th in offensive rating (a hair above the OKC Thunder at 12).

History may look back on this box score and see an even slog. The fact that the good guys won on the road will stand out even more, and only really matters. Still, the Wizards take their troubles with them into the next day, a home game versus the Bucks (who lost to the Raptors on Friday). But who (or what team) doesn’t have troubles? It’s all about making apparent how you’re going to solve them. And the Wizards still very much feel like they’re in the experimental phase.

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Wizards Obey Brooks’s Three Commandments and Defeat Knicks http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/wizards-obey-brooks-three-commandments-and-defeat-knicks.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2018/01/wizards-obey-brooks-three-commandments-and-defeat-knicks.html#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 06:54:15 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54812

On a roll on the home floor!

Beal 27p-6a
Wall 25p-9a
Gortat 21p-8r
Morris 11p-11r#WizKnicks #DCFamily pic.twitter.com/WG3frojW9J

— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) January 4, 2018

During his pregame address to the media, Wizards Coach Scott Brooks was asked about the main tenets of consistent basketball for his team — commandments if you will:

“When we’re engaged defensively, we’re one of the best teams in the league getting the ball off the rim and scoring early in the shot clock.  That’s definitely a sign…and then when we make the extra pass.”

In the first quarter, the Wizards seemed to have a firm grasp on just one of Scott Brooks’ tenets: making the extra pass. Bradley Beal and John Wall seemed to make a conscious effort to get the ball to Marcin Gortat in the post, and that, combined with the Wizards’ 68-percent shooting (Beal and Gortat shot a combined 7-for-7), helped the Wizards’ starters score 28 points in the first ten minutes of the quarter.

Unfortunately, during the same span, the Wizards had no fast break points, and their defense allowed the Knicks to score 25 points on 59-percent shooting. When the 5-man bench lineup of Mike Scott, Kelly Oubre, Tomas Satoransky, Ian Mahinmi and Jodie Meeks was in the game, they didn’t fare much better. As uneven as the Wizards’ starters play had been, they still managed to salvage a three-point lead out of it. The bench players took that baton, and completely dropped it by turning a three-point lead into a seven-point deficit in a little less than four minutes of play.

The Wizards went from obeying one of the tenets Scott Brooks laid out pregame to adhering to none. At the 9:56 mark of the second quarter, after Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina hit an improbable turn-around jumper to put his team up by seven points, Brooks called timeout and re-inserted his starters. The starters responded by outscoring the Knicks 30-19, but the fast break points were still scarce (two) and the Knicks were still shooting 58-percent and had scored a whopping 62 points. The only reason the Wizards were leading by two at the half was John Wall’s improbable last second shot:

When asked after the game what was said at halftime, both Coach Brooks and Marcin Gortat responded with vague platitudes. Brooks spoke about defensive adjustments to make the Wizards more aggressive and Gortat attributed the improved third quarter play to “determination” and “execution”.

Thankfully, Bradley Beal was gracious enough to shun those tried and true phrases in favor of the tenets his coach shared before the game:

The third quarter saw the Wizards’ starters getting stops on defense and spreading the wealth on offense. Washington held the Knicks to 14 points on 28-percent shooting while scoring 26 points on 57-percent shooting on the offensive end. The Wizards’ points were distributed fairly evenly (Gortat had seven, Beal had six and Wall had eight) and Washington also established a commanding lead in points in the paint. After both teams scored 32 points in the paint in the first half, the Wizards outscored the Knicks 16-to-6 in the third quarter to help build a commanding 90-77 lead.

The Wizards bench took the same baton they dropped at the tail end of the first quarter, but this time, at the start of the fourth quarter, they ran with it. The bench extended a 13-point lead to as high as 19, using those same commandments Scott Brooks mentioned prior to the game: defense and making the extra pass.

The Wizards led by 15 when Coach Brooks re-inserted the starters into the game, but even then, the lead never dipped below double digits. Washington was far from perfect in the execution department, but in the end, they executed when it counted, thanks to their ability to selectively adhere to the commandments their coach laid out before the game. They shared the ball, they focused on defense, and they put pressure on the Knicks’ defense via the fast break. And more importantly, they won their second consecutive game over a losing team–something they’ve struggled with all season. A Win-win.

Other Bullets

  • Bradley Beal used his patented step-back move against Kristaps Porzingis in the first half, but he simply wobbled him, as opposed to making him fall. The second time he used the move, he tried and failed to make him fall, but it didn’t make the move any less sweeter to watch. Said Beal after the game: “A shot went in in the first half and he stumbled a little bit on that one. I told myself that in the second half I’m gonna do a little bit more and see if I can make him fall.”

  • Gortat had 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field, and at first glance it appeared he was a beneficiary of the Wizards application of Brooks’ offensive tenets. But after the game, Gortat revealed he had other motives for his inspired play that were rooted in something much deeper than the coach:

 

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Wizards End the Year With a Bang Versus the Bulls http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-end-the-year-with-a-bang-versus-the-bulls.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-end-the-year-with-a-bang-versus-the-bulls.html#respond Mon, 01 Jan 2018 01:09:44 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54792

[Bradley Beal thanks John Wall after he hits the game-sealing free throws. Photo – @washwizards]

The narrative all season has been that the Wizards play well against winning teams (11-6) and poorly against losing teams (9-10). The Chicago Bulls presented an interesting test for that theorem.

At 13-22, Chicago had the ninth worst record in the league entering the game against Washington. However, the Bulls were also tied for the best record in the NBA over their last 12 games (10-2).

So, which is it? Are the Bulls good or bad? Put Scott Brooks in the former category. Before the game, he talked about Chicago’s improved offense:

“You can tell the team is playing at a high level. They are moving the ball.  You don’t win 10 out of 12 games if you don’t have good players – they do. They are passing the ball as well as anybody in the month of December and they are making threes.  They are definitely much better than their record. So hopefully we can come out and play well tonight but we’re going to have to play well to beat them.”

Unfortunately, the Wizards players did not pay as close attention as Brooks did to the Bulls’ recent play. The Wizards started the game with the same energy level they’ve been reserving for sub. 500 opponents and watched as Chicago built an early 18-11 lead.

Washington gave up easy offensive rebounds, committed dumb shooting fouls, took quick shots and generally played with the lack of interest that has been the hallmark of this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde team.

The second unit did not fare much better. Mike Scott kept them afloat with 10 points in four minutes, but the defense could not stop the Bulls. When Scott Brooks called a timeout with 10:16 remaining in the second quarter and the Bulls up by 11, the fans were fed up.

Brooks put the entire starting lineup back in the game and they slowly woke up from their New Year’s Eve slumber. Wall started pushing the pace and found multiple teammates for uncontested layups and jumpers. Washington closed the half with a 15-7 run in the final four and a half minutes to cut the halftime deficit to 63-59.

If the first half was their Mr. Hyde persona, then the start of the third quarter was the Wizards’ Dr. Jekyll. Washington started the second half with an intensity that had been absent at the opening tip and they quickly forced the first tie score of the game, 66-66, with 8:44 remaining and John Wall was the catalyst. He showed playoff level intensity on defense by harassing Kris Dunn, closing out on Markkanen on the perimeter and even attempting to block Robin Lopez’s wide open dunk attempt (he failed, but the effort was appreciated). Wall ended the game with four blocks.

Unfortunately, the Wizards could not completely exorcise their demons. The lazy closeouts returned and the Bulls hit consecutive three-pointers to build a 83-74 lead.

The remainder of the game played out like an episode of Mr.Robot with the Wizards struggling between their split personalities. Beal and Wall hit back-to-to-back three pointers and Kelly Oubre added one more a minute later to cut the deficit to two, 85-83, late in third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter “Bad Oubre” reared his ugly head in a sequence that planted Kelly on the bench. Oubre grabbed a defensive rebound and pushed the ball up court like a young Magic Johnson. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities ended. Oubre tried a highly ill-advised two-handed bounce pass between three Bulls defenders that was predictably intercepted.

To compound the problem, Oubre lost track of his man on the ensuing possession and gave up an uncontested layup. Brooks was furious and called a timeout. He had no choice but to take Oubre out after his ridiculous pass, but with Tomas Satoransky and Otto Porter already on the court, the replacement options were limited. Brooks opted to put in Wall and slide Satoransky over to small forward. The move paid immediate dividends.

Beal drove for a dunk, Satoransky hit a corner three-pointer and Mike Scott hit a mid-range baseline jumper to give Washington a  94-93 lead with 8:223 remaining.

The teams went back and forth the rest of the fourth quarter with the largest lead for either team being three points. We’ll fast forward to the final minute when things got real interesting. Kris Dunn hit a pull up jumper with 54 seconds remaining to give Chicago an 110-107 lead. After a Wizards timeout, Beal scored on a nice drive to cut the lead to one.

Justin Holiday missed a three-pointer on the other end and Wall grabbed the defensive rebound with a little over 30 seconds remaining. Wall surveyed the court and saw some daylight with only Holiday between him and the basket. Wall effortlessly drove past him and absorbed some contact for a lefty lay-in and the foul to give the Wizards a two point lead.

The Bulls had one last gasp and they put the ball in the hands of their breakout second year point guard Kris Dunn. Dunn had been killing the Wizards on step-back jumpers all night and he tried his luck again from 11 feet. The shot missed,Beal grabbed the rebound and held the ball until Markkanen committed the intentional foul.

Beal, who scored 39 points on 16-for-29 shooting, stepped to the free line for his first attempts of the game.

I think you know where this is headed…

Beal hit the front rim on his first attempt and the ball could not quite find the basket. Beal calmly stepped back to the line and….missed again. However, his teammates bailed him out.

Mike Scott snuck inside Markkanen’s box out and back-tapped the missed free throw. There was a bit of a scrum for the ball and Oubre, who was benched since the 10:06 mark in the fourth quarter until entering the game for Marcin Gortat after Wall’s and-1, made up for his earlier mistakes by reaching over his man and directing the ball toward mid-court where Wall corralled it and was fouled with nine seconds remaining. Wall sunk both free throws to seal the game, 114-100.

For one night at least, Dr. Jekyll won the battle. After the game, Brooks was happy with his players’ effort and resiliency:

“We played hard. I know much has been said, and it should be said: we were 9-10 going into this game. This team does have a record that they’re not happy with, but they’re much different now… We knew going into this game that this team was really good. They got shooters that can shoot with a split second [and] no space, they can just flat out play. But I give our guys a lot of credit, we stuck with it, we kept battling. A couple of times it didn’t look good, but we kept fighting and coming back with good defensive pressure. We made big plays and we made plays for each other.”

The Wizards ended 2017 on a high note. It remains to be seen which personality will emerge in 2018.

[Kelly Oubre dressed as an Othello board after the win over the Bulls.]

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Wizards/Bulls Rapid Reaction: The Up and Down Wizards Finish The Year on a High Note http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizardsbulls-rapid-reaction-the-up-and-down-wizards-finish-the-year-on-a-high-note.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizardsbulls-rapid-reaction-the-up-and-down-wizards-finish-the-year-on-a-high-note.html#respond Mon, 01 Jan 2018 00:33:37 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54790

Wizards 114-110. Final.

Beat back the NBA's hottest team and avoid another loss to a sub .50 squad.

Beal 39-9-9. Wall 21-6-9

— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) December 31, 2017

This Wizards/Bulls matchup could have easily been billed as the battle of Jekyll and Hyde teams.  The Wizards entered tonight’s game with a 20-16 record, and while they were 11-6 against plus .500 teams, they were a putrid 9-10 against teams with a losing record.

Conversely, the Chicago Bulls entered the New Year’s Eve matchup against the Wizards with a subpar 13-23 record, but they had won 10 of their last 12, including seven straight earlier this month.

Something had to give and thankfully for the Wizards–who were coming off an impressive 121-103 over the Houston Rockets on Friday–they were able to successfully shake that mercurial label for one night, and pull off the 114-110 victory.

Who were the key players in making that winning magic happen? Let’s delve via a rapid reaction shall we?

 

MVP: Bradley Beal

During the Comcast SportsNet Wizards’ broadcast, Steve Buckhantz brought up Coach Scott Brooks’s words from preseason, when he reminded Bradley Beal that he had the green light.  Beal had no problem exercising that green light during John Wall’s extended injury absence–as evidenced by his 51-point outburst against the Phoenix Suns earlier this month.  But tonight, when Wall shot just 6-of-20 and no other starter reached double-figures, Beal and his green light were sorely needed and he delivered and then some in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls led 97-94 for nearly three minutes in middle of the second quarter, and the Beal went on a tear.  First he scored on a driving lay-up to bring the Wizards within one, and then on the very next possession he hit a 3-pointer to give the Wizards a one point lead. In fact, from the 7:33 moment of the fourth quarter, until the final buzzer, Beal scored 18 of the Wizards final 20 points and 15 straight at one point. Yes he missed two free throws which could have cost the Wizards the game, but his good buddy Wall bailed him out my making two more just a few seconds later.  That small error notwithstanding, Beal successfully carried the Wizards to victory, and it could very well be the catalyst for a strong January.

X-Factor: John Wall

Wall was the epitome of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of these Washington Wizards in his performance against the Bulls.  For most of the first half, he unsuccessfully gambled on defense leaving his internal defenders vulnerable, he drove to the lane like he was trying to draw fouls, not score, and the Wizards offense–save for the hot shooting of Beal and Mike Scott was not running at full capacity. Otto Porter and Markieff Morris did not find any semblance of a rhythm, and Wall and Gortat did not find that magical rhythm they are so capable of dancing to when the offense is successfully clicking.

But in the final four minutes of the first half and early in the second half, he stepped up the intensity on defense (particularly on Kris Dunn),  he closed out on Lauri Markkanen who had burned the Wizards for eight points in the first quarter, and the Wizards began to resemble well-oiled offensive machine they’ve been against winning teams.

In the fourth quarter, Wall reverted to his early first half ways, and he drove to get fouled and took ill-advised shots, despite the fact that his backcourt mate was clearly feeling it. When Beal started single-handedly countering every shot the Bulls made, Wall smartly deferred to Beal–until the 29-second mark of the fourth quarter.

After Bulls guard Justin Holiday missed a 3-pointer, Wall went down the court directly at Holiday, hesitated a bit, and drove the lane with bad intentions. He scored, he got fouled and he hit the free throw for the 3-point play:

 

20 seconds later, after Beal missed two free throws to keep the Bulls within two points, Wall hit two of his free throws to push the lead to four.  Wall finished with 21 points (on 6-of-20 shooting) with nine assists, six rebounds and four impressive blocked shots. He was inconsistent, he put his team in difficult situations with this carelessness, but when the Wizards needed him, he delivered like the All-Star he is.

Kelly Kelly Kelly

Kelly Oubre had 12 points in 20 minutes and he had a big 3-pointer with a minute left in the third quarter to bring the Wizards within two points and he also had an impressive dunk after a John Wall chasedown block But he also had five fouls in that same 20 minute span and although Scott Brooks should have taken out once he picked up that fifth foul with 11 minutes left in the game, he did not.

As a result, Oubre threw a terrible outlet, bounce pass which was stolen by Bulls guard David Nwaba, and put the Bulls up six points with 10:06 left in the game. Scott Brooks promptly called timeout and subbed John Wall in the game.

He did return to the game with 29.4 seconds left and he helped keep the ball alive after Beal missed the second of two free throw, so all was not lost. But that pass was pretty damn bad:

 

 

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Paul Pierce Talks Wizards Social Media Use in Locker Room http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/paul-pierce-talks-wizards-social-media-use-in-locker-room.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/paul-pierce-talks-wizards-social-media-use-in-locker-room.html#respond Thu, 28 Dec 2017 23:57:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54743

Paul Pierce only played one season in Washington but he quickly established himself as an all-time Wizards fan favorite. Since leaving, he has spoken kindly of Otto Porter and Bradley Beal and is generally complimentary when discussing the team.

However, while filming an Uber sponsored interview segment with Cari Champion (video below at 1:36 mark), Pierce dropped an interesting nugget that paints the Wizards’ locker room in a not-so-positive light.

The segment involves Champion asking Pierce to rate various NBA players and teams using Uber’s 5-star scale. Champion asks Pierce to rate today’s players in the NBA:

“I give the NBA players a ‘3’ just based on the fact that they don’t want to practice every day no more. They don’t want to show up for the games every day anymore. Everybody is more concerned about their brand.”

Then, Pierce leans in and gives a specific example from his time in Washington to prove his point that players are too focused on outside noise:

“I remember I was on the Washington Wizards a few years ago. I just remember going in at halftime and I’m looking at everybody on their phone and I’m like ‘What is everybody doing on their phone? We supposed to be locking in to the game.’ And I’m finding out everybody is on Instagram, everybody is on Twitter. Everybody is finding out what people are saying about them for the first half. I’m like ‘Man, if you all don’t put them phones up man, I’m going to go hell wire on y’all.’”

To be fair, Pierce was not singling out Wizards players for being too consumed with their brand. He couched it as a league-wide problem and, presumably, the same social media obsession is present in other locker rooms. Nevertheless, the example he chose was from his time in Washington and it was not a particularly flattering one.

Pierce’s comments were reminiscent of his interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan in April 2015 before his first playoff series with the Wizards when he challenged Wall and Beal:

“I keep telling Wall and Beal, ‘You’ve got to make up your mind. Do you want to be good, or do you want to be great? Because if you want to be great, you gotta do it every single night, not just when you feel like it.’ … Both of those guys have the potential to be great. I love them. But sometimes I’m not sure they realize what it takes.”

Listening to Pierce’s comments to Champion and re-reading his interview with MacMullan, it makes you wonder whether this team could still use a veteran voice in the locker room, especially since Washington’s biggest problem is one that a respected veteran could help solve — showing up every day with consistent energy.

It has been two and a half years since Pierce’s comments to MacMullan but if the last two games (versus Boston and Atlanta) have taught us anything, it’s that the Wizards’ inconsistency remains in full force.

Brooks has answered questions about the Wizards’ inconsistent defensive energy all season. After Washington’s signature win over the Celtics on Christmas Day, Brooks praised the team:

“Everybody was locked in during timeouts, so whatever they did before the game we need to keep doing it. It’s obviously a special environment to be playing — Christmas Day — but you have to do this for 82 games and not let the ups and downs of a long season control your emotions or your energy.”

Seventy-two hours later, after an inexplicable loss to the 8-25 Atlanta Hawks, Brooks sang a different tune:

“It’s unacceptable. I take the blame as much as the players take it. We all are responsible for this and we got to do a better job of playing and competing and staying focused throughout the 48 minutes.”

The players sound like they are out of answers. Every post-game interview after a loss sounds the same with complaints about playing down to competition, lacking energy, taking opponents for granted, etc. As Candace Buckner reported, after the Hawks loss, Beal added a new complaint (or at least publicly aired a behind-the-scenes complaint for the first time): selfish play. John Wall echoed his sentiments:

“We talk about it. We say when we play these teams that are not above .500 or not one of the great teams, we go out there playing for stats. It’s simple as that. We can see it. I think we all can see it when we play.”

Whatever the actual reason for Washington’s uninspired play, it seems possible — if not likely — that the current voices in the locker room are not capable of solving the problem. After all, those voices have been chirping for several years now to no avail.

Paul Pierce once famously said that he might need to punch Otto Porter to get him to play with the anger needed to reach his potential. The same could be said of this entire 2017-18 Wizards team.

Scott Brooks is not the type of coach who will deliver a forceful blow (either verbal or physical). It might be time for Ernie Grunfeld to start scouring the NBA landscape for a veteran who is not afraid to speak some hard truth.

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Wizards Return Their Christmas Gift in Atlanta http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-return-their-christmas-gift-in-atlanta.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-return-their-christmas-gift-in-atlanta.html#comments Thu, 28 Dec 2017 06:53:06 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54750

[A sullen Bradley Beal during his post-game interview after a disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Photo – Screenshot from NBCSWashington.]

Remember when Washington turned its season around with a signature win over the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day? That didn’t last long.

Less than 48 hours later, Washington threw away any goodwill they earned in Boston with a 113-99 loss in Atlanta. Gone was the defensive intensity. Gone was the hustling for offensive rebounds. Gone was the offensive efficiency. In its place was the kind of effort we witnessed during the disastrous blowout in Brooklyn.

There is no question about Washington’s talent. That was on full display on Christmas Day. But there is a huge question about their effort.

As Candace Buckner reported after the Celtics win, John Wall was well aware of the stakes in Atlanta:

“If we back this up with a win on Wednesday, I think it gives us momentum going into Friday against Houston and going into the new year. But if we don’t back it up, I think it’s just doing the same thing back over and over again. Playing against the great teams, you play up to the competition. Then play against the lower teams, you fail to [win] those games.”

Bradley Beal gave the same lip service:

“We got to realize it’s time for us to take off. We got to start making some noise and really showing our identity each and every game. Being physical, getting stops, being able to score the ball, taking care of the ball and being active on defense. Because when we get out in transition, we’re one of the best teams in the league. At the same time, you don’t want to get too cocky about it. Respect each opponent that you play and be prepared that night.”

I say “lip service” because the players obviously do not believe what they are saying. Or they simply do not care enough to show up every night. How else do you explain it? Because the alternative — that they are not good enough to consistently beat the Hawks, Nets and Mavs — is not an option.

Small Ball Did Not Work

Scott Brooks went to his small ball lineup early in the fourth quarter. Wall and Markieff Morris entered with 9:51 remaining. Otto Porter joined them at the 9:13 mark and Beal entered with 8:10 remaining and Atlanta leading 86-80. Brooks was obviously hoping for the same spark that the non-center unit brought in Boston. Unfortunately, he got the opposite result.

It was a cavalcade of errors and uninspired play. The Wizards gave up offensive rebounds, allowed uncontested three-pointers, complained constantly to the refs and played hero-ball on offense. The Wizards were more concerned with drawing fouls at the rim than actually running an offense. By the time Brooks emptied his bench with 1:56 remaining, the Hawks’ lead ballooned to 111-93.

The Mahinmi Problem is Not Going Away

There may be nights when Ian Mahinmi provides value on the court. This was not one of them. There was a particularly troubling stretch early in the fourth quarter when Atlanta was taking control of the game. With 10:57 remaining and Atlanta leading 79-78, Mahinmi received a pass in the paint and immediately traveled — something he does quite often.

Kent Bazemore hit a three-pointer on the other end to extend Atlanta’s lead to 82-78. On the ensuing possession, the Wizards offense was out of sync and Mahinmi eventually grabbed the ball on the right block with the shot clock winding down. He made a move to the basket and shot from about three feet away, hitting nothing but the backboard. The shot clock expired a few seconds later as players scrambled on the floor for the loose ball. On Atlanta’s next possession, John Collins dunked to extend the Hawks lead to six points and Scott Brooks exasperatedly called a timeout.

These plays may seem like isolated incidents or unlucky breaks. But they are not. The Wizards’ second unit is already offensively challenged. If Mike Scott is not shooting 70% from the field (he was 3-for-7 FG; 0-for-3 3PT), Washington cannot afford to have Mahinmi routinely converting low post scoring opportunities into turnovers. If he is not providing resistance at the rim — and he was not — then his three turnovers and three personal fouls in 17 minutes are a net-negative.

Who Is To Blame For Consistent Lack of Effort?

Washington is now 9-10 against teams under .500. And that stat does not do the problem justice. Several of those losses were by wide margins and several were against teams that are way below .500.

Take the Hawks. Not only were they 8-25 and in last place entering the game against Washington, but they had not won back-to-back games all season. It won’t shock you to learn that the win over the Wizards gave Atlanta their first two-game winning streak of the season.

So, who’s to blame for this ongoing lack of effort? Of course, the players deserve blame — probably the lion’s share of it. But at what point do you start to point the finger at the coaching staff? After all, its Scott Brooks’ responsibility to get the players ready each night and to create an environment where the players strive for greatness.

After the game, a visibly perturbed Brooks took some responsibility for the debacle in Atlanta:

“We got to stay focused guarding your man and tonight we struggled with that. It’s unacceptable. I take the blame as much as the players take it. We all are responsible for this and we got to do a better job of playing and competing and staying focused throughout the 48 minutes.”

“At the end of the third and fourth quarter, we didn’t have the focus that we need. I keep telling them, it’s like a broken record and we got to put a stop to it.”

For their part, the players said the same things after the Hawks loss as they do after every confounding loss. There is no point to transcribe their comments. You have heard it all before.

So, we are left in the same place we were before that Christmas Day win — stuck with a team that only shows up when it wants to. It’s anyone’s guess when — or if — the Wizards will ever turn it around. And after tonight, I’m done guessing.

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TAI Round Table: Wizards Bring Home a Win For Christmas http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/tai-round-table-wizards-bring-home-a-win-for-christmas.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/tai-round-table-wizards-bring-home-a-win-for-christmas.html#respond Tue, 26 Dec 2017 16:49:38 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54723

They say the NBA season does not start until Christmas. For the Wizards’ sake, let’s hope that’s true. After giving their fans a lump of coal through the first two months of the season, the Wizards finally gave them something to cheer about with a 111-103 win in Boston.

Since this was the most anticipated game of the regular season, we decided to roll out a TAI round table to find out what everyone thought of the Wizards’ performance, where this team may be headed the rest of the season and anything else they wanted to get off their chest.

Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace):

Per Ben Standig’s Locked On Wizards podcast, this was only the second game when all 10 players in Scott Brooks’ current rotation were healthy without any minutes restrictions. The results were impressive as Washington had its entire repertoire on display against Boston.

Bradley Beal got off to a fast start (15 first half points) with easy baskets at the rim and silky smooth jumpers. Kelly Oubre provided a spark off the bench with hustle plays and dunks. Otto Porter was back to his efficient self, scoring 20 points on 10 shots. John Wall brought the late heroics, assisting or scoring seven of the team’s final eight baskets as the Wizards closed the game on a dominant 21-8 run.

Unfortunately, you can’t have all the good without some bad. A few of Washington’s demons made the trip to Boston. The bench struggled for a brief stretch to start the fourth quarter, allowing Boston to turn an 80-76 deficit into an 87-85 lead. Brooks subbed in Wall and Beal a little earlier than normal (9:11 remaining in the quarter) and, after allowing Boston’s lead to stretch to 95-90, the back-court duo led the decisive late charge. Washington’s free throw struggles also continued (19-for-28) and they had a couple defensive breakdowns that led to open three-pointers.

But any nitpicking on this Christmas Day takes a back seat to the bigger picture: Washington put together a full 48 minute game on national television against the first place team in the East. That is something nobody could have predicted with any degree of confidence. And that’s sort of the point: Washington can beat (and lose to) any team in the NBA on any given night. The Christmas win in Boston was as impressive as the loss in Brooklyn three days earlier was disappointing.

Quick hits:

  • Unlike last year’s Game 7, Scott Brooks embraced small ball in the fourth quarter. Instead of playing Ian Mahinmi or Marcin Gortat on Al Horford, Brooks played Wall, Beal, Oubre, Otto and Markieff for the final six minutes.
  • Another positive that emerged from the Wizards’ first match-up with the new-look Celtics: the loss of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder freed up space for Bradley Beal. Beal had an off shooting night  (10-for-25 FGs; 0-for-6 3FG) but he was able to get shots wherever he wanted on the court.
  • Washington’s win moved the Wizards into a tie for fifth place in the East (Pistons) and dropped the Celtics to second place (behind the Raptors).

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur):

The Wizards continue their season trend of playing to the level of their competition, and in turn may have notched their biggest win of the year. John Wall and Bradley Beal continue to dominate the shots for this team and that’s OK considering what they can do in terms of play-making, but the best Wizards player on the court on Monday was Otto Porter. There is something to be said about efficiency in the modern NBA, and Otto Porter is the new poster child for “eye-test vs analytics.” Porter’s game is not sexy because he isn’t a high-flyer or possess a killer crossover, but all he does is make buckets. Otto finished with 20 points on just 10 shots and even chipped in six rebounds, including a pair of offensive rebounds to help seal the victory late.

The X-factor of the night had to be Kelly Oubre, who is taking the Otto Porter approach to offensive production. Oubre has figured out a way to become very direct and concise with his dribbles and movements on the court. When he gets the ball on the wing, its either a shot or a hard drive to the basket. Kelly finished the game with 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting and brought a high level of intensity on the defensive end. For a guy who played only a few seconds in the Game 7 loss in Boston last season, he sure is earning the trust of not only Scott Brooks, but his teammates as well.

This win will give the Wizards the confidence in their ability to play with the best of the best going forward. As the Wizards get healthy throughout the season and are able to unlock all of their potential small-ball lineups this team will become the formidable contenders that we all expected before the season.

Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It):

There they went. Just didn’t have enough. Never really have enough, it seems.

That was my familiar refrain as the Wizards sat there, late in the fourth quarter, down 90-95 with the threat of winning fading away. Washington was first to the presents on Christmas Day in Boston. Their defense looked a step behind Brad Stevens’s offensive script, but Boston’s defense, thanks to inexperience, was a few more steps behind. Only two 30-plus point quarters were had — Washington’s first and fourth — on a day where there were only four lead changes and six ties. The Wizards led for virtually all the first half and shrugged off ghosts of any past to dominate the third quarter, leading by as much as 11 points at one juncture.

But as dominant as the game chart looked in favor of the Wizards, the contest throughout was much more even. No, the budding rivalries trying to re-discover that budding part, did not exchange blows as if in the boxing ring. Instead, both teams were measured en route to feeling each other out, particularly refreshing for Scott Brooks’s squad — measured being no where near the realm of this team, so far this season.

Otto Porter hit that And-1 bucket to put Washington up 80-73 with about 20 seconds left in the third quarter. But by the six-minute mark of the fourth the Celtics had assumed that 95-90 lead. And the heavy lifting came from Boston’s youthful bench — Jayson Tatum scored 6, Terry Rozier scored 6, and Daniel Theis (the new Kelly Olynyk) chipped in 4 points (one of his buckets was allowed by Washington in the waning seconds of the third quarter). The Celtics went 5-for-6 from deep over the 22-10 stretch, with Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart each adding a deep bucket to the other totals from Boston’s youth. That’s when it seemed like it would never be enough for Washington.

Even when the Wizards as a collective decide to show up for games, their bench, featuring only two modicums of youth, is otherwise an aging, overpaid, and underperforming display. Meanwhile, the Celtics, were propelled by their babes in toy land, those next in line for the future. Down five on the road, the deficit certainly seemed larger than it was for the Wizards — layered atop opportunistic efforts from Danny Ainge versus the swamp that Ernie Grunfeld has presided over for nearly 15 years.

Yet, the switch was a simple. John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Kelly Oubre had more collective umpfh, swagger, or what-have-you to close the game on a 21-8 run. It started with Wall just chucking up a long 2-pointer — he made it, of course; before that point he had just 15 points on 15 shots. Over the next 120 seconds, Wall racked up 4 of his 9 assists on the day, getting Oubre a cutting layup and a 3-pointer; then a Beal layup (And-1), and an amazingly risky looking chest pass on the break to Beal to suddenly put the Wizards up 102-95. Wall’s team couldn’t help but quickly glance back at encroaching competition before the game was over, but Christmas was theirs for the taking, and they took it.

The Wizards have enough. They have more than enough. We know this, we hate this. Because how do you cope when the only thing holding a team back is its stars? Sure, you can focus on management’s failure to add building blocks to the bench — and we do. Or you could wonder just what kind of mentality their head coach instills in them — yep, we do, too. Or, even, you could call it a make-or-miss league, starting with Wall’s toss that rattled in to start the game-sealing run — luck is certainly involved. But, finally, that would be ignoring the most simple part, untouched so far over these paragraphs of mine. The defense: Washington’s rotations, although starting slow, were as crisp as crisp could be. They brought their A game attentiveness for going against Brad Stevens’s offensive chops, really. Whatever happens in other games going forward will be the gift that does, or does not, keep on giving.

Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks):

Despite the warning signs, I woke up in Annapolis on Christmas Day excited to watch the Wizards play. Of course, it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing, for me or Washington’s finest, not against the Eastern Conference’s best, and my most hated, Boston Celtics. I watched the first half in Centreville, Virginia, stealing the remote away while my grandmother got up to socialize and flipping from the Steelers-Texans game to watch the Wizards. I watched the third quarter from the front seat of my father’s car, streaming it on my phone while Dad explained to me that “between 85-90 percent of NBA games are decided in the final two minutes.” But I got to my home in the District before that, and it was a treat to watch the Wizards grind the Celtics down in the final six minutes of this game. Washington made the Celtics work for everything in the fourth, including your typical “gimme” defensive rebounds.

With about two minutes left in the game, Boston missed a big shot. Washington, after some fuss, got the rebound. And those watching closely may have seen Kelly Oubre Jr., the Wave Papi, the Elf on the Damn Shelf, running past Boston’s bench and into the corner while Wall dared Boston to cut his time-killing short. His Waviness didn’t make eye contact, and he didn’t make too much of it, but as he jogged into that corner of the court, he was realizing the Wizards had this one in the bag. He pumped his fist over and over again, he looked at the court. And that’s how it felt, after too many bad losses and two long days of questions from family about the Wizards, to see John, Brad, Otto, Kelly, and the rest of ’em put the pain to the evil Celtics of Boston. The good guys won, fuck Rob Gronkowski, and Merry Christmas to all who celebrated yesterday.

Gronk and Brooks

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Wizards Get Right Versus Wounded Magic http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-get-right-versus-wounded-magic.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-get-right-versus-wounded-magic.html#respond Sun, 24 Dec 2017 04:18:51 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54707

Kelly Oubre, Jr. did it all by himself on this play.

LIVE STREAM: https://t.co/Uvk3ibqA3C pic.twitter.com/RRnhBJisiF

— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) December 24, 2017

IF YOU THINK the Wizards have been in funk lately, pull up a chair and listen to the tale of the Orlando Magic. Orlando started the season with eight wins in their first twelve games and looked like a surprise team in the East.

The good times did not last long. The Magic have only won three (THREE!) of their last 21 games and have seen their roster ravaged by injuries. Orlando’s inactive list is quite impressive: Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross and Jonathon Isaac.

Magic coach Frank Vogel sounded like a beaten man before the game when asked to explain the difference between his team’s fast start and its current predicament. He said he anticipated fast start and a bit of a drop off after the first 12 games when he saw the schedule over the summer (Orlando played eight of 10 road games after a somewhat easier opening slate). However, he could not have expected the cavalcade of injuries that would coincide with strength of schedule.

To hear Vogel explain it, his players are just trying to get through the day:

“Guys are trying to remain optimistic and focused and positive and trying to stay in the fight but it’s tough right now. We just got to try to find wins anywhere we can get them.”

Add all that up and the match-up versus Orlando was a perfect get-right spot for the Wizards.

Washington certainly took care of business against the short-handed Magic, scoring a season-high 130 points on 54.7% shooting, but it still remains to be seen whether they have truly righted the ship.

That’s the thing with this team – they are consistently inconsistent. Big wins are followed by big losses. And vice versa. As soon as you think they’ve turned the corner (like after their decisive win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday) they fall on their face (like their 35-point loss to Brooklyn on Friday).

Scott Brooks was asked about this maddening inconsistency after the Magic win: “Welcome to the world of coaching,” he deadpanned.

Going Back to Boston: A Christmas Story

Washington will not have to wait long to see if their 27-point drubbing of Orlando was the start of something new or more fool’s gold. The Wizards travel to Boston on Christmas day for a nationally televised rematch of their entertaining playoff series with the Celtics.

The players, for their part, are not shying away from the significance of the game. Mike Scott, who was not even on the team last year, said he watched the series and sounded excited to take part in the rivalry:

“Like a playoff game. It’s a big game to me. I wasn’t a part of this team last year but I did see it go seven games and it go back and forth. It’s going to be a big game. Intense; so I’m ready for it.”

Scott also seems ready for a little trash-talking: “It was chippy, which I love. It was turned up. It was great, back and forth, seven games. I mean, it’s what you want out of a playoff game.”

Brooks also seemed excited to get another shot at Boston in a nationally televised game: “That’s going to be a fun atmosphere [and] a fun game for all of us to be a part of.”

Brooks touched on the difficult match-ups that Boston’s position-less lineups poses:

“They have one of the best shot makers, layup makers, three-point shooters and finishers in the game in Kyrie and you have a tough matchup of Horford when he plays the 5….Tatum — it’s strange watching him play — he’s 20 years old I think and it seems like he’s been in the league for eight years, he just has a great pace.  He makes shots and has good athleticism. He’s a handful, he’s right there with rookie of the year. “

Bradley Beal said he was “beyond mad” leaving TD Garden last spring after losing Game 7 and he is ready for another shot:

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun. Just the fact that we’re playing on Christmas again, that’s an honor and a blessing itself. You know, not that many teams around the league get that opportunity every year so just embracing that. Staying locked in and knowing that this is a tough team. The best team in the East right now so we know we got to come out and be ready to go. We know it’s going to be energetic. This is the team, you know they knocked us out last year so we’re going to feel a little bit, some type of way about it. Hopefully, we can come out with that mindset, be mad, keep that same memory in the back of our heads and come out and compete and get a ‘W’.”

He’s Alive

Otto Porter was not himself in his first game back from injury in Brooklyn. Twenty-four hours later he looked much better at home. He got it going against the Magic, shooting 4-for-6 from downtown and scoring 17 points in only 22:20 minutes. This was the Otto that has been missing since the beginning of the season. Porter said after the game that he is feeling better but he is not back to 100%.

He’s Alive Too

It’s been an up and down season (mostly down) for Markieff Morris. Against Orlando, Morris was decidedly up. It wasn’t just the scoring (16 points on 6-for-10 shooting), but the hustle on the offensive and defensive ends. Kief, like Otto, is not all the way back, but he is trending in the right direction. That’s a good thing because the Wizards need a healthy and productive Markeiff Morris if they want to move past their lackadaisical start to the season.

Kelly Oubre Greets The Crowd

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A Wizards Loss (to the Nets) in Photos — Sad, Sad Photos http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/a-wizards-loss-to-the-nets-in-photos-sad-sad-photos.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/a-wizards-loss-to-the-nets-in-photos-sad-sad-photos.html#respond Sat, 23 Dec 2017 06:48:03 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54674 IF YOU THOUGHT the Wizards turned the corner after their decisive win over the New Orleans Pelicans, then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Washington suffered its worst loss of the season in embarrassing fashion to the Nets (again), 119-84.

It’s usually an oversimplification to say that one team played harder than the other. But in this case it was true. Washington was flat-footed and lackadaisical all night while Brooklyn crashed the boards and played with energy. No other explanation is needed. Instead, let’s take a look at some photos that capture the essence of this debacle.

John Wall Played 7:33 Minutes in the First Half

John Wall played the first seven and a half minutes of the first quarter and then did not return the rest of the half. He did not look like a guy who wanted to sit out the entire second quarter. The official explanation was that Wall was on a 25-minute restriction because Washington was playing the first game of a back-to-back. But that math does not add up because Wall would need to play 17 of the 24 second-half minutes to reach his 25 minute limit. That is a lot of second-half playing time for someone with another game in less than 24 hours. In the end, the minutes restriction was moot because Wall and the rest of the starters had plenty of time to rest during the blowout in Brooklyn.

One Play That Explains The Loss

If you missed the game and want a simple one play explanation for what went wrong, here you go:

DeMarre Carroll attempts a 3-pointer from the corner. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the only Nets player in the lane.

As the ball descends, Markieff Morris and Mike Scott stand flat-footed in the lane.

The ball bounces off the rim while Morris and Scott remain glued to the ground. Scott, in particular, appears oblivious to the fact that Tyler Zeller is crashing from the top of the key and is in serious need of a box out.

The rebound bounces straight up and Zeller leaps over the earth-bound Scott.

Markieff has a great view of Zeller’s easy put-back dunk as Brooklyn takes a nine-point lead late in the second quarter.

Wizards Fans Are Getting Too Old For This Sh*t

John Wall Still Does Not Look Happy

Do not adjust your computer/smart phone. This is not the same photo as the one at the top of this post when Wall seemed perturbed about sitting out the entire second quarter. This photo was taken about 30 minutes later when Brooklyn built a 28-point lead late in the third quarter. Wall’s feelings appear to be unchanged.

Please Don’t Put Us Back In

With 4:45 remaining in the third quarter, Brooklyn led by 20 points. With so much time remaining, that was far from an insurmountable deficit. But you can see from the players’ despondent looks on the bench that the game was not as close as the score indicated.

Kara Lawson Learning the Ways of the Wizards

At Least Someone Enjoyed That Game

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A Stocking Stuffer Stat for Every Wizards Player http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/a-stocking-stuffer-stat-for-every-wizards-player.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/a-stocking-stuffer-stat-for-every-wizards-player.html#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 20:48:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54647

[Photo: Candace Buckner/The Washington Post]

It’s the holiday season and the Washington Wizards recently completed their annual Christmas gift give-way to local families. In the spirit of the season, we’ll return the favor by giving each Wizards player their own stocking stuffer: one stat that helps tell the story of their season thus far.

John Wall – 1.2 (blocks per game)

John Wall has always been a spectacular shot-blocker, but he has taken his game to another level this season. Wall is averaging over one block per game for the first time in his career and earlier this season proclaimed himself the greatest shot-blocking point guard in history. Here are a couple of his greatest hits this year:

https://twitter.com/NBA_Skits/status/929607265543442433

Bradley Beal – 68.3% (shooting percentage from 0 to 3 feet from the rim)

Bradley Beal has seemingly improved all aspects of his offensive game this season but the most impressive change has been his finishing through contact at the rim. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner examined Beal’s finishing at the rim in early November and noted that he was shooting an unsustainable 80.4% on shots within five feet of the basket through the first nine games.

It’s interesting to note that although Beal’s offensive game is more diverse this season, his shooting percentages from every distance on the court are actually down this year — except from zero to three feet from the rim. His percentage from that distance improved from 63.4% to 68.3%.

Beal’s ability to finish through contact is especially helpful in the half-court where Washington occasionally has difficulty manufacturing shots against set defenses. In years past, those possessions too often ended with forced drives and low percentage shots by Wall and Beal. Now, Beal is setting up his man with hesitation dribbles on the perimeter, then absorbing contact at the rim for and-1s.

Otto Porter – 42% (percentage of plays at power forward)

Otto Porter signed a max contract this off-season and thus far his numbers are pretty similar to his breakout campaign last year. But one area where his game has changed is his position on the court. Last year Otto played the overwhelming majority of his minutes at small forward (77% versus 23% at power forward). This year he has played 57% at small forward and 42% at power forward.

Some of Otto’s power forward play is due to Markieff Morris’ extended absence. When Otto shares the front court with Kelly Oubre, Scott Brooks prefers to slide Porter to the 4 instead of Oubre. But whatever the reason, Porter’s emergence as a viable small-ball power forward could pay big dividends later in the regular season and the playoffs when the rotation shrinks and match-ups become more important. David Aldridge hinted in his latest column that Brooks “may be holding some small ball lineups in abeyance, not wanting opponents to see too much too early.” If that is the case, Otto’s ability to stretch the floor while also helping out on the boards will be a big reason why.

Markieff Morris – 3 (number of games he has played 30 or more minutes)

We all know Markieff has not been right all season. He has missed several games while recovering from sports hernia surgery and does not have the same energy and effort when he is on the court. Morris was a huge part of the Wizards’ turnaround midway through last season and his lack of production through the first 31 games this season is a big reason for the Wizards’ tepid start.

Of his 23 games played, Markieff has only played 30 or more minutes three times. Last season, he accomplished that feat 52 out of 76 games. Those numbers underscore just how much the Wizards have been missing thus far this season. The Wizards simply do not have another player on the roster who can do what Markieff does: defend bigger scorers (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin) and create his own shot on offense.

The good news is that Washington has managed a decent record without any contributions from Morris. Assuming he rounds into form sometime soon, the Wizards may be ready to make a run. Markieff certainly thinks so.

Marcin Gortat – 5.2 (screen assists per game)

Marcin Gortat leads the league in screen assists per game. He led the league in screen assists last season too. Screen assists is the perfect stat for Gortat. It measures a tangible skill that directly leads to a teammate’s success, yet it is consistently overlooked by casual observers. That’s Marcin Gortat in a nut shell. He has played in 350 out of a possible 359 games in 4+ years in Washington and has been a rock in the starting lineup. However, as Gortat himself will tell you, he remains underappreciated.

Kelly Oubre – 36.4% (three-point shooting percentage)

Oubre is enjoying a bit of a breakout season this year. After seeing inconsistent minutes in his first year under Scott Brooks, Kelly has carved out a role as the top reserve and averages a steady 27.7 minutes per game. His ball handling is improved, he cut down his foul rate and he no longer tries to run through players every time he drives to the rim.

But the biggest improvement has been his three-point shot. Oubre is hitting a very respectable 36.4% from deep after struggling to make 28.7% last year. When John Wall is your point guard, you can never have too many long-range shooters on the floor.

Tomas Satoransky – 4.9 (assist to turnover ratio)

Tomas Satoransky leads the entire NBA in assist to turnover ratio. After taking a back seat to lesser point guards for more than a season, Satoransky finally got a shot to be Wall’s primary back up and he made the most of it. Tomas runs the offense well, pushes the ball up court whenever possible and has improved his shooting across the board (50% FG, 40% 3FG). But, as his league-leading assist to turnover ratio suggests, his most impressive attribute is ball security.

Mike Scott – 66.4% (two-point field goal percentage)

Mike Scott is second in the league in two-point field goal percentage – a ranking that is usually reserved for centers who score most of their baskets on dunks and put-backs. Case-in-point: the first, third and fourth ranked players are:

1. Clint Capela (69.7%)

3. DeAndre Jordan (65.4%)

4. Steven Adams (63.8%).

Just to emphasize how incredible it is that Scott, a jump shooter, is hitting shots at the same rate as those three big men, here is the percentage of each player’s overall shot attempts that come from within 0 to 3 feet from the basket:

Capela (83.3%)

Scott (26.7%)

Jordan (85.8%)

Adams (71.7%)

Ian Mahinmi – 7.8 (fouls per 36 minutes)

Ian Mahinmi commits a foul every 4.6 minutes. That means even if Scott Brooks wanted to play him as a starting center, Mahinmi would foul out, on average, after 27.6 minutes every game.

Jodie Meeks – 30.4% (three-point shooting percentage)

Jodie Meeks was brought here to do one thing – and one thing only – make three-pointers. So far, he is not living up to his end of the deal. Meeks has the worst long-distance shooting percentage of his entire career so far in D.C. On the bright side, maybe a regression to the mean is on the way.

Tim Frazier – 14 (minutes)

14. That is how many combined minutes Tim Frazier has played in the last four games since John Wall returned from injury (5:20, 3:18, DNP, 5:22). After averaging 18 minutes per game in his first 27 contests, it looks like Frazier may be getting the Trey Burke treatment. It took Scott Brooks 57 games to remove Burke from the rotation. He is moving much quicker this season.

Jason Smith – 16 (DNPs or inactives)

If 2016-17 was the rise of Jason Smith, then 2017-18 is his demise. Smith has been benched in over half the games and has exceeded 10 minutes of playing time in only five of them. It’s going to take an injury or two for Jason to find his way back into Brooks’ good graces.

Chris McCullough – October 31, 2017 (deadline to pick up fourth-year option)

October 31 was the day the Washington Wizards declined to pick up Chris McCullough’s fourth-year option. The decision was expected and it reinforced the notion that McCullough’s tenure with the Wizards will end after this season. He will be an unrestricted free agent in the off-season and after failing to impress in the summer league and failing to find any minutes in the regular season, there simply is no reason to believe the Wizards’ front office has any interest in continuing its relationship with the bouncy big man.

Sheldon Mac – $1.3M (annual salary)

Unfortunately, Mac tore his Achilles during a pre-season game and will miss most, if not all, of the season. However, because his salary is guaranteed and the Wizards are over the luxury tax, the team would not have saved any money by releasing Mac after his injury. Instead, they released Daniel Ochefu, whose contract was non-guaranteed, and left the final roster spot open.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Wizards 116 – Pelicans 106: Washington Wins the Game of Runs http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-116-pelicans-106-washington-wins-the-game-of-runs.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizards-116-pelicans-106-washington-wins-the-game-of-runs.html#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 07:28:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54630

[Photo via the Washington Wizards Official Twitter Account.]

Coach Scott Brooks seemed to have on his prognostication hat prior to last night’s Wizards/Pelicans game, because he seemed quite confident that John Wall–who had been averaging just 14.3 points and 5.0 assists while under a minutes restriction–would start to resemble his old self:

“John is at his best playing with speed down the court, coast-to-coast basketball, finding the open shooters, getting to the rim himself. He didn’t play for almost three weeks so this is his fourth game back I think he’s ready. The minutes are going to be ramped up, he’s feeling good–you know its always tough when one of your better players is on a minutes restriction, not only for the team but for himself too.  But I think he’s ready to really break out with his speed and that’s when we’re at our best.”

Wall was scoreless the first five minutes of the first quarter but he still had two assists and it was apparent that he was feeling quite spry. He pushed the ball up court aggressively, he found Gortat for two cutting layups, and no amount of resistance from Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday seemed sufficient enough to slow Wall down. But he was just getting started.

The last seven minutes of the  first quarter, Wall had 14 points, four assists and zero turnovers and his speed, combined with his adept decision-making in the open court, helped the Wizards jump out to a sizable 36-19 lead. Wall said after the game that he attributed his strong start to Coach Brooks telling him to be aggressive and not worry about his minutes.

The bench took the scoring baton from Wall and the rest of the starters and they proceeded to widen the lead–thanks mostly to the sharpshooting of Mike Scott.

Scott, who Bradley Beal called “Mr. Efficient” after the game, made his first five shots, and ended up shooting 6-of-7 in the second quarter for 14 points. He hit two 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers and even scored on two pull-up jumpers at closer range. He shouldered most of the scoring load in the quarter, but the rest of the bench also had a hand in extending the lead to 23 points halfway through the second quarter. Satoransky had four points and two assists, Jodie Meeks hit an open 3-pointer and Ian Mahinmi had three assists of his own. It looked like the entire team was feeding off Wall’s energetic start, and the result was going to be a Wizards blowout.

Then the Pelicans decided they could make a run of their own. It all started with a technical foul on Pelicans’ Coach Alvin Gentry with 6:36 left in the second quarter. It was unclear if Gentry was frustrated with a missed foul call on Jrue Holiday or if he was simply trying to motivate his team, but the combination of that technical and the listless play of the Wizards’ starters, who Coach Brooks had slowly substituted back into the game, led to a 22-5 Pelicans’ run.

The Wizards were scoreless stretch during the Pelicans’ run with five turnovers and they started fouling incessantly on defense The Pelicans capitalized on each of those mistakes. Sixteen of their 22 points during that run came via free throws and four other points came as a direct result of a Wizards turnover. The only points the Wizards starters scored during that span was a Wall free throw and even then he missed the first one.

Surely at halftime, Coach Brooks would be able to summon an inspirational speech to motivate his team–which still led by five points despite their second quarter collapse–to return to their first quarter dominance. Not so much.

The Pelicans came out of halftime and went on a quick 6-0 run to tie the game at 61, and Coach Brooks abruptly called a timeout. After the game, Coach Brooks claimed to not remember what he said to his team during the timeout, but whatever that magical elixir of words was, it was quite effective.

Markieff Morris drew a foul on Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham and hit two free throws to stop the 6-0 streak, and then the Wizards proceeded to go on a 32-9 run of their own. Wall could not serve as the catalyst this time, but luckily for him, Bradley Beal (14 points on 5-of-8 shooting) and Kelly Oubre, who was starting in place of Otto Porter (hip), contributed 8 points.

Beal admitted after the game that he couldn’t quite get a handle on how the Pelicans were defending him the first half:

“I was trying to figure out how they were guarding me because it was a little bit all over the place. Sometimes they would blitz, sometimes they wouldn’t. Sometimes they would be in the paint. I just said forget it. I’m just going to be aggressive and get the shot that I want.”

Beal played aggressively until the 4:19 mark of the third quarter when he inadvertently stepped on E’Twaun Moore’s foot and rolled his ankle. He stayed down for a few minutes, and all of his teammates ran to his side out of concern. But Beal gingerly walked to the bench and then back on the court without missing a minute of game action. Two minutes later, he drove the lane, dunked with authority, landed gingerly but refused to come out of the game.

The Pelicans trailed by 23 points at the end of the third quarter and they made a half-hearted run in the fourth (outscoring Washington 36-23) but it was not enough. The closest they got to the Wizards was 10 points, but that was at the buzzer. DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points and 13 rebounds while Anthony Davis had 37 points and nine rebounds, but that duo was no match for the Wizards’ balance.

Wall had 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, Beal had 26, Mike “Mr. Efficient” Scott had 24, and three other Wizards’ players (Gortat, Morris and Oubre) were also in double figures. That balance allowed the Wizards to win the game of runs, defeat the Pelicans, and win their third game in this four-game homestand. The Wizards have not played as well as they would have liked, but they are still 17-14 and sixth in the Eastern Conference. Baby steps.

 

Addenda

Mike Scott received standing ovations towards the end of the second quarter and again late in the game, for his 24-point night on 11-of-15 shooting–a much needed performance given the absence of Otto Porter. After the game Scott admitted that he stays relatively stoic on the court, but that didn’t mean he didn’t recognize the gesture of the Capital One Arena crowd:

It felt great. I don’t really show a lot of emotion on the court, but it did feel great. I’m very grateful for that. It may seem like nothing to other players, but stuff like that feels great to a player. It’s very encouraging, especially from past years I had, so, it feels great

Scott also allowed himself to show emotion at least once during the game, when the loquacious Boogie Cousins question the voracity of his isolation game by telling Scott that his “iso game was weak” after Jrue Holiday initially stripped the ball from him.  The Wizards then ran the very next play for Scott, and he responded by hitting an unconventional runner of one knee while smiling at Cousins.

When Washington Times beat writer Todd Dybas asked him about it, Scott smiled again and said,  “I wanted that shot real bad. I just laughed at him when I made it,”

 

 

 

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Forget the Stars, the Wizards Just Don’t Have Enough Pieces http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/forget-the-stars-the-wizards-just-dont-have-enough-pieces.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/forget-the-stars-the-wizards-just-dont-have-enough-pieces.html#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 06:14:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54619 It’s fair to wonder if the Wizards have enough starpower to win a title. John Wall is a four-time All-Star and Bradley Beal, per the great LeBron James, has recently emerged as one. Otto Porter might get there one day, but he might never make it beyond the level of being a quality supporting piece.

But forget about whether those three players are good enough to compete with the Curry-Durant-Thompson-Green group in Oakland, the James-Love-Thomas group in Cleveland or the Harden-Paul pairing in Houston. Washington will never reach contender status until it adds more reliable pieces alongside that trio.

Kelly Oubre is developing into a potential game-changer; he’s the team’s best perimeter defender and perhaps the most athletic player on the roster, and his ceiling might very well be higher than Porter’s at this point. But he also has games like last Saturday against the Clippers, where he went 0-for-5 with a rebounds and three fouls but no other significant stats.

That was by far Oubre’s worst game of the season, but in three other instances he’s scored fewer than five points, and he’s failed to reach double figures in 12 of 30 games this season. He’s also only surpassed three assists in a game once in his career, which was when he recorded four assists a few weeks ago against Philadelphia.

Oubre has the potential to be a star, and even if he doesn’t reach that potential, he’s on the path to being a very good No. 4 player for Washington.

What else do the Wizards have to count on? Mike Scott has had an outstanding season, and Sunday night against the Cavaliers was another notch on his belt, as he finished with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. He’s been incredibly useful this season, and, as an under-the-radar free agent signing, he’s singlehandedly boosting Ernie Grunfeld’s job security.

Who else carries the load for Washington? Tim Frazier was the backup point guard entering the season, but he’s already fallen out of the rotation and earned his first DNP-CD of the season on Sunday.

Frazier’s diminished playing time has largely been due to Tomas Satoransky’s rise (shoutout to Adam Rubin!), and he might very well emerge as a consistent role player for the Wizards. But he was also a DNP-CD as recently as Nov. 22, and while he’s played well since becoming a regular part of the rotation, he’ll need to keep that up for another month or two before he can be counted on as a go-to player in big situations.

Markieff Morris has been abysmal this season, and most of his numbers are the lowest they’ve been in at least four years, including points (9.8 per game), rebounds (4.0—the lowest of his career), assists (1.3), and steals (0.7). He still flashes the occasional spark, like when he had 23 and 7 against the Pistons on Dec. 1, or when he had 21 and 6 against the Suns six days later. But he’s failed to reach double digits in 12 out of 22 games he’s played this season, he’s had four or fewer rebounds 14 times, and he’s blocked even one shot in just eight games. In fairness to Morris, he had to recover from hernia surgery in the offseason, and during this season he’s battled a sore hip, knee, foot, and tonight he was hit in the neck. (X-rays turned out negative).

Despite the injuries, that’s not enough production from your starting 4, especially when the starting 5 has just 9.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game, and his backup 5 is producing *computer explodes*.

Jodie Meeks opened the season with four double-digit outings in the first six games, but he’s managed just two in the 24 games since; he’s shooting just 36-percent from the field and 30-percent from beyond the arc. That’s unacceptable for a guy being paid to provide sharpshooting and scoring off the bench.

So what do the Wizards do on nights like Sunday, when Porter is out, Beal is gassed after 43 minutes of action, and Wall is still recovering from a knee injury and has played 32 minutes? They rely on Mike Scott, who went 3-for-4 with a steal in the fourth quarter, though he did commit three fouls. Cool!

Everyone else was pretty much worthless for Washington in the fourth quarter, but at least they got seven points and a steal from Mike Scott. The rest of the team went just 4-for-18 with 9 points.

Part of that putrid performance performance was Wall and Beal playing too much hero ball late in the game, as they’ve done all season, and for several seasons prior. When it works, it’s exciting and amazing to watch. When that brand of basketball is not successful, it leads scenarios like last night when Wall and Beal missed eight of nine shots while the Cavaliers turned a tie game through three quarters into a seven-point win.

On the other side of things, LeBron had seven points in the fourth, Kevin Love had five, Jeff Green had five, and Kyle Korver had four. The Cavs, for the game, went 10 players deep to Washington’s nine, and each Cleveland player scored at least four points.

So that’s what it really comes down to. It’s not just the difference in starpower, though there is an undeniable gap there. But when the stars sit, Washington can’t take advantage. The Wizards have players like Gortat, Morris, Oubre, Scott, Satoransky, Meeks, Frazier, and Mahinmi to supplement their stars.

The Cavs have one of the league’s greatest shooters in Kyle Korver, one of the league’s premier bench scorers in Jeff Green (Green has had at least five points in every game this season, and he’s scored in double digits in 15 of 31 games), a strong defensive wing in Jae Crowder, a walking microwave in J.R. Smith (who is also averaging one steal per game), and Tristan Thompson, Jose Calderon, and Channing Frye.

And that’s all without mentioning Dwyane Wade, who was out on Sunday, Isaiah Thomas, and Derrick Rose (joke all you want, but he’s scored at least 10 points in every game he played and the Wizards haven’t had a decent point guard outside of John Wall since Gilbert Arenas).

The Warriors have players like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Jordan Bell, Zaza Pachulia, Omri Casspi, and a pair of former Wizards.

The Rockets are more based around their system than their overall talent, but their talent fits their system perfectly, and Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Ryan Anderson, P.J. Tucker, Nene, and Luc Mbah a Moute are all solid pieces.

The Celtics thrive around Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum, but Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, and Aron Baynes have all been instrumental to their success.

That’s 30 players I just mentioned, each supporting players on the league’s top four teams. Of those, only Nick Young (a former Wizard) and J.R. Smith are really hot-or-not players. Most of them are  regularly counted on to play meaningful minutes.

Compare that to Meeks, who has done little besides take up space in most of his games in a Wizards jersey, or Mahinmi, who is averaging almost as many fouls as rebounds or points,  or Frazier, who started the game on Tuesday and was a DNP-CD on Sunday. Then there’s Morris, who has games where he looks genuinely angry about having to be there, and Gortat, who is once again finding himself on the bench in the fourth quarter.

If Wall, Beal, and Porter were LeBron, Love, and Thomas, maybe this wouldn’t be such a big problem, but they’re not. Wall isn’t as good as LeBron,Curry or Harden or (this season, at least) Irving. And the combination of Beal and Porter is not all that much better than the second and third options on those other teams, and in some cases (hey, Golden State), considerably worse.

But more than anything, the other eight guys don’t match up to the eight or nine players those other teams rely upon night after night to pick up the slack. When LeBron has a down night, as he claimed he did in Washington, despite putting up a 15-assist triple-double, he can rely on Smith (7 points, 9 rebounds, clutch late-game steal) and Korver (11 points) and Green (15 points, 5 rebounds) and Calderon (7 points on 3-for-4 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal).

Stars matter, and stars win championships. But stars need support, and the Wizards’ stars aren’t getting nearly enough of it.

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Wizards/Cavs: The Evil Empire Wins Again http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizardscavs-the-evil-empire-wins-again.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/12/wizardscavs-the-evil-empire-wins-again.html#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 05:45:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=54618

Welp, never enough.

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 18, 2017

It feels clichéd and slightly redundant to use the “close, but no cigar” expression to describe a sporting event–let alone the traditionally-close Cavaliers/Wizards series.  But the Wizards 106-99 loss to the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last night was yet another example of a close, winnable game that simply got away.

Advantages turned to disadvantages, positive defensive plays went unrewarded thanks to negative finishes on offense, and in the end the Wizards were left with compartmentalized moral victories, lots of praise for King James and those dreaded postgame platitudes.

Through three quarters of basketball, the Wizards were tied at 83 with the Cavaliers and all signs pointed towards a Wizards victory.  Bradley Beal, despite playing 33 of the games’s first 36 minutes, scored 25 points and despite just shooting 9-of-21 (including 4-of-10 from the 3-point line), he got to the basket at will, and if the lane was closed and he needed to rely on his jumper, that too was working.

But when Beal re-entered the game with 6:30 left in the fourth quarter  and the Wizards needed his offense to offset the surging Cavaliers, he had nothing left to give.  He went 0-for-5 from the field during that span, and at several points during that fourth quarter, Beal could be seen taking deep, deliberate breaths.  To his credit, after the game, Beal made no excuses and said that he was more mentally, than physically tired and he knew that he had to play extra minutes due to Otto Porter’s (bruised right thigh) and John Wall’s minutes restriction due to injury.  Still, it was clear that Beal, like the rest of his teammates, fell just short of sealing the deal.

Beal’s backcourt mate John Wall played the most minutes (30) that he’s played since returning from injury against the Grizzlies last week and at times he looked like his former All-Star self.  In the last six minutes of the second quarter when the Wizards were trailing by five points, he scored or assisted on 11 of the Wizards’ last 18 points, and the scored was tied at halftime.

But in the second half, Wall shot just 2-for-8 and he did not discriminate when it came the misses. He missed layups, 3-pointers, free throws and at times–as Wall is wont to do when he is frustrated–he seemed more focused on getting foul calls than he did on running the offense. Wall also had a crucial turnover with 3:39 left in the game when the Wizards were down three and had a chance to tie the game.  Kevin Love stole Wall’s pass, then went down on offense and hit a 3-pointer.   The Wizards got no closer than six points the remainder of the game. Oh and by the way, LeBron did this to him:

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/942564304699740160

The sequence which best encapsulated the Wizards ability to get close but not close enough to overtake the Cavs, came with 8:12 left in the game.  Cavs guard Kyle Korver hit a 3-pointer to put his team up 92-89, and the Wizards had a chance to tie the game on the ensuing possession. First Satoransky had a wide-open corner 3-pointer and missed. The long rebound went right to John Wall, and he immediately launched a three-pointer, but he too fell short.  Satoransky procured the rebound and passed the ball to the sharp shooting Jodie Meeks, but he too missed a wide open 3-pointer.  The rebound went to the Cavaliers and eventually they pushed the lead to five points.  Again, close, but no cigar and definitely no tie.

Despite the close loss, there was plenty of fodder for the moral victory crew. Mike Scott picked up the slack for Otto Porter’s absence and Kelly Oubre’s foul trouble and scored 19 points (11 in the second half).  Not only did he contribute offensively, but he got his hands on loose balls, he stole the ball from LeBron, and he played excellent post defense against Kevin Love.

And LeBron James, who has plenty of influence both on and off the court, basically joined Beal-for-the-All-Star game marketing campaign:

https://twitter.com/NBCSWizards/status/942579812195020800

 

But in the end the Wizards lost to the Cavaliers again.   At the conclusion of last season, the Wizards thought the Cavaliers purposely avoided them in the playoffs and in the offseason the chesty Wizards–mainly Wall and Beal–claimed that they were every bit of good as the three-time Eastern Conference finalists.

On November 3rd, LeBron dropped a cool 57 points to lead the Cavs to victory, and last night, all James did is get his third triple-double in the last three games (20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds) and he did so without Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and a good performance from Tristan Thompson who had just four points in just his third game back after missing 18 due to injury.

Yes the Wizards were missing the services of Otto Porter but Mike Scott (19 points) and the foul-plagued Oubre (11 points and 8 rebounds) did more than enough to offset that loss.  The bottom line is that once again, in what has seemingly become a depressing recurring theme in the last two seasons, the Wizards did not do enough to defeat LeBron and his evil empire.

 

 

 

 

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