Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Wed, 07 Dec 2016 13:36:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Wizards Can’t Even Tread Water Against the Magic http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-cant-even-tread-water-against-the-magic.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-cant-even-tread-water-against-the-magic.html#comments Wed, 07 Dec 2016 08:16:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52114 2014-john-wall-nba-sad-faces

What on earth is going on with these Washington Wizards? The team is 7-13, tied for sixth fewest wins in the NBA, and just gave up a season-high 124 points to the second worst offense in the league. The Verizon Center is dead as a doornail, players are ducking the media, the coach is questioning their ability to execute the basics, and a career-high 52 points from their star was wasted on Tuesday night.

Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s time to evoke the Curse o’ Les Boulez. OK, not really. But it’s bad, almost astoundingly so. And something’s gotta give. This is a business we’re talking about. The Wizards are struggling with every chance to keep their head above water.

“I think we just didn’t come out with defensive intensity, kind of like the last game in Brooklyn,” said John Wall after losing to the now 10-12 Orlando Magic, 116-124. Wall was the only Wizards player who faced the media after the game. “We didn’t play to engage or [with] chippiness, and they were the more aggressive team.”

Wall displayed an amazing will to keep going, to try to jump-start his squad. Unfortunately that—scoring 50-plus points for the 11th time in franchise history and being the first to do so since Gilbert Arenas in January 2007—can’t be the focus right now. Especially when Wall has things like this to say:

“Not even just defense, just playing hard. Our job is to wake up and just play hard. Before you made it to the NBA or got any college scholarships, you played hard everyday to get to where you wanted to. To still be talking about playing hard, that’s something that you should be able to just do waking up.” —John Wall

As the evening transpired…

First quarter: A missed Markieff Morris bunny turned into a Marcin Gortat offensive rebound and immediate hook shot miss while teammates formed a standstill perimeter and just watched.

Did you see Wall push the rock in transition? His pass just sailed out of bounds and Morris didn’t make much of an attempt to secure it. Later Morris jutted down the lane, weaved his way toward the hoop … and just kind of lost the ball against defender verticality. Whoops.

Bradley Beal: he’ll attack! Instead: odd footwork and a settled-for, sailing pull-up that banged off the glass. Andrew Nicholson was first off the bench and, darn, couldn’t handle a John Wall pass. It’s OK, Wall skipped his frustration away before slapping Nicholson a courtesy five. Patience is a virtue.

But then an ill-timed and uncoordinated Beal-Gortat pick-and-roll flopped like toast on the floor, butter side down. Oh, and then there was this, the new, new Washington Wizards season summary:

If you think the start was bad enough, the Wizards allowed 40 points in the second quarter. Forty! In advanced stat news: the Magic did that with an Offensive Rating of 152.2. That’s like the Golden State Warriors, owners of a league-high 115.4 OffRtg, on a whole bunch of steroids.

Again, Orlando entered the night with the league’s second worst offense. Thanks to the Wizards, they are now third worst (after Philly and Dallas). Elfrid Payton, now accepting a role off the bench, scored 14 of his career-high 25 points in that second quarter. Not even Wall’s talk of better defense or his actual defense could stop Payton.

No one played well for the Wizards in the second. The starters saw 4.5 minutes of action, minus-4. The Lineup That Causes Death: Burke, Thornton, Oubre, Nicholson, and Smith played 3 minutes, minus-5. Burke, Beal, Oubre, Morris, and Smith scrambled for 1.9 minutes, minus-7.

And to quantify how valuable the dosages of these minutes are: the game was played at a Pace of 106.57, meaning that’s the number of possessions, meaning there were around 4.5 critical possessions taking place every 2 minutes. Incremental four-, five-, and seven-point confidence building swings in Orlando’s favor against a variety of talented Wizards who just couldn’t get their act together added up to a significant variable in the calculus of losing basketball.

A lazy pass by Beal to Morris sent the Magic in the other direction, except, after a Morris deflection to disrupt the break, no other Wizard bothered to get back on defense.

Warriors? The Magic looked like the Spurs with ball movement to get Evan Fournier a corner 3 later in the second period, except Beal didn’t bother to jump and contest the shot; didn’t even put a hand up. Scott Brooks called this quarter “unacceptable,” but most of the Wizards seemed perfectly fine accepting it in later stages of the game.

Out of halftime and apparently out of java, Washington didn’t really wake up till midway through the third quarter, when John Wall bombed some 3s to lead a 9-0 Wizards run. Wall scored 15 of his 52 points in the third (and 18 in the fourth) but the Magic didn’t back down. Or rather, the Wizards’ defense did. Brooks seemed especially pissed after Kelly Oubre tried to chase Aaron Gordon over a screen—points—and when Markieff Morris was once again a step behind with help-side defense—points.

Very first play of the fourth quarter, I promise you: Jodie Meeks left Marcus Thornton in his dust and Morris’ awareness of what was going on behind him was dusted.

It was quite striking to observe the Wizards get a defensive rebound and pop it to a streaking Beal with only Payton in his way and two Magic players in hot pursuit. All other Wizards froze and watched, didn’t chase. Maybe one player barely made it past half court as the whistle blew: Gordon had goaltended Beal’s layup attempt.

Later, Beal would miss a gargantuan transition dunk after the fun of a Marcus Thornton-Jeff Green jump ball. Wall was there running with Beal but others not so much. Forty seconds later, an Elfrid Payton drive and miss but easy putback by Bismack Biyombo, followed closely by a drive-and-kick Jeff Green 3-pointer, served as the daggers into the evening’s belly. Not so much a cliché “mass exodus” from the Verizon Center; just several handfuls of the dozens of handfuls of people in attendance simply left.

There’s something stained into the current culture of this ball club. If they are not edging perilously close to a major shakeup, then someone’s not truly paying attention to these results and the inability of the players to work together. Twenty games in an 82-game season are gone and the coach is questioning his team’s ability to adhere to basic principles of Naismith’s game.

“Our guys need to come out better with the defensive disposition, of just being solid with understanding the principles of guarding your man, understanding the principles of contesting the shot, and also understanding the principles of blocking out,” exclaimed Scott Brooks. “We’ve all learned that from the day we started playing, but we have to be able to do that consistently throughout the game to give us the best chance to win, and tonight that was not the case.”

Sixty-two chances to right the ship remain, or at least however many it would take to get eliminated from the playoffs.

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Opening Statements 20: Wizards vs Magic — Are Washington’s Starters Playing Too Much? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/opening-statements-20-wizards-vs-magic-are-washingtons-starters-playing-too-much.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/opening-statements-20-wizards-vs-magic-are-washingtons-starters-playing-too-much.html#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 23:56:43 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52110 Washington Wizards vs Orlando Magic

Washington’s starting lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat averages 20.3 minutes on the court together per game, which ranks second most in the NBA (15 games, +4.8 per game).

The others (at least 18 minutes and 10 games — plus-minus per game also noted):

  • T’Wolves: Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, Towns, and Dieng — 20.7 (14 gms): -3.4
  • Clippers: Paul, Redick, Mbah a Moute, Griffin, and Jordan — 19.9 (20 gms): +8.1
  • Pacers: Teague, Ellis, George, Turner, and Young — 18.8 (14 gms): -1.4

So, certainly high … but an outlandish amount? Before we attempt to dig into reasons why, let’s take a look at past NBA season (five-man units averaging at least 18 minutes per game and at least 20 games):

2015-16

  • Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Ilyasova, and Drummond — 19.1 (48 gms): +1.5
  • Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Harris, Morris, and Drummond — 18.5 (25 gms): +1.6
  • Pacers: Hill, Ellis, George, Turner, and Mahinmi — 18.1 (25 gms): +1.3

2014-15

  • Clippers: Paul, Redick, Barnes, Griffin, and Jordan — 20.3 (60 gms): +7.5
  • Blazers: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Lopez — 19.7 (32 gms): +4.2

2013-14

  • T’Wolves: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic — 20.6 (51 gms): +5.3
  • Pacers: Hill, Stephenson, George, West, and Hibbert — 20.1 (73 gms): +3.8
  • Blazers: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Lopez — 19.9 (69 gms): +3.1
  • Warriors: Curry, Thompson, Igoudala, Lee, and Bogut — 18.6 (44 gms): +5.8

2012-13

  • Pacers: Hill, Stephenson, George, West, and Hibbert — 19.0 (64 gms): +4.4
  • Blazers: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Hickson — 18.9 (57 gms): -0.5
  • Grizzlies: Conley, Allen, Gay, Randolph, and Gasol — 18.0 (35 gms): +3.3
  • Grizzlies: Conley, Allen, Prince, Randolph, and Gasol — 18.0 (31 gms): +3.7

2011-12

[lockout shortened season, qualifier lowered to 10 games]

  • Clippers: Paul, Billups, Butler, Griffin, and Jordan — 19.4 (14 gms): +6.1

2010-11

  • Jazz: Williams, Bell, Millsap, Kirilenko, and Jefferson — 18.7 (40 gms): -1.3
  • Rockets: Lowry, Martin, Battier, Hayes, and Scola — 18.1 (44 gms): +3.5

And that’s as far back as we’ll go right now with this exercise—the John Wall Era.

What does this tell us? Well, over the last seven seasons, this season’s starters represent just one of five NBA lineups that have averaged over 20 minutes a game. Not overly concerning—you can’t spell starter without “star” and some teams (and there are some patterns here) heavily rely on what works.

Is it right for these Wizards? To be determined. Considering the injury history of this team, especially its star guards, it’s understandable that some might be concerned.

The No. 1 problem this season has obviously been Washington’s bench, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to playing the starters heavy minutes. Brooks could simply be working to continue to build rhythm and familiarity amongst his main crew. That said, other coaches might have the luxury—because of better bench options—of mixing and matching lineups while not strictly relying on their starting five.

Worth noting: over 51 fourth quarter minutes this season, Washington’s starters field a Net Rating of minus-9.4 (per stats.nba.com), while their Net Rating over all quarters is plus-10.9, tied with the starters of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, as I tweeted earlier on Tuesday (below), don’t blame all the losing on Washington’s bad bench; the starters need to close out games better. Sure, there could be something to the starters being worn out late in games due to the bad bench, but that’s closer to making an excuse than not.

Before tonight’s game against Orlando, Scott Brooks was asked about the number of minutes his starters are playing (top 3 in the league), if that’s a high number in his experience, and if that’s something he tries to manage:

“I never really looked at it that way. I mean, there’s so much other there. Everyday there’s something new to look at, and I try to keep everything manageable with both units. But really, like I said, I try to put both of them together, mix-match them a little bit so we can have a good combination of defenders and offensive players … shooters, drivers, screeners, rollers, poppers. It’s just the way it works out right now. Ian’s going to be a different factor when he comes back, and hopefully that can be soon. But I thought our starters have done a good job on this road trip. We played a couple of tough places to play, and I thought they did a good job of putting us in position to win those first two games of the trip.”

Earlier in his pre-game presser, Brooks was also asked if his second unit was starting to turn the proverbial corner:

“It’s still fluid, it’s a work in progress. We still want to keep tweaking and finding ways to get better, it’s going to continue. Ian, as I’ve said all along — I’m not making an excuse — but Ian is a big part of our team, not only for our bench but he gives us some great experience if I do put him with the starting lineup. But I think they’re starting to get a nice little rhythm. I’m still searching on giving guys minutes … But it’s a team thing, I’m just still focusing on how we can improve our defense as a team.”

Your Ian Mahinmi Update:

There is no real update … he’s out again versus the Magic, he apparently had an MRI on his sore right knee a week or so ago (everything was fine), he practiced on Sunday, he’s “feeling better” according to Scott Brooks, and will go through another workout this evening … the famous, literal, day-to-day.

Brooks on Tomas Satoransky:

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Wizards Avoid Bad Loss in Comeback Win Over Nets http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-avoid-bad-loss-in-comeback-win-over-nets.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-avoid-bad-loss-in-comeback-win-over-nets.html#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 21:24:40 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52097 The Nets are a bad basketball team. Bad enough that they’ve lost 9 of their last 10 games by an average margin of 18, as illustrated by TAI’s Kyle Weidie. Of course, that same team built a double-digit lead on the Wizards Monday night, and Washington had to work too damn hard too eek out their second road victory of the season.

At least the Wizards are consistent in playing down (or up) to their competition. This is the same team that had Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook against the ropes and went toe-to-toe with perennial power San Antonio till the final bell.

While Washington was able to edge the Nets, 118-113, they proved once again that they have every intention on making life as difficult as possible for themselves over the course of an 82 game season.

Once again, the Wizards got off to a slow start defensively and allowed the Nets to have free reign on the perimeter, to the tune of 8-for-16 shooting from 3-point range in the first half. It is completely unacceptable to allow 66 first-half points to a bad basketball team. It is even more appalling to somehow let Anthony Bennett and Joe Harris look like competent NBA players. The talent discrepancy between these two teams appeared to be a wide margin from a distance, but a neutral observer wouldn’t have noticed.

Nothing went right for the Wizards in the first half. Bradley Beal started off hot, hitting his first two shots and then missing his next eight. Beal’s cold shooting streak was a big reason as to why the Wizards were not able to keep up the pace with the Nets early on. It is prudent that Beal be able to finish well-executed plays which create open looks for him—especially if he is being challenged by the likes of Sean Kilpatrick and Joe Harris, matchups that Big Panda should be dominating. Beal showed a tendency to drive hard to the basket, but was neither able to finish the majority of those acrobatic lay-ups nor draw many shooting fouls.

Former Wizard Trevor Booker was active on the offensive end to start the game, using his quickness to be able to dribble drive around the Washington big men. Booker finished the game with 14 points and 14 rebounds, and in the process made himself desirable as a much better power forward option than Washington’s two backup bigs (Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith) who couldn’t really crack the Orlando Magic rotation last season but somehow warranted long-term deals from Ernie Grunfeld.

John Wall started the game in facilitator mode and was able to create a few bunnies in the lane for Marcin Gortat, but by the time he came back into the game from after his initial first half rest, Wall had to ditch dishing the rock and commit to taking over the game with his scoring. Wall was comfortable attacking the top of the key/foul-line extended area and was pretty much able to dribble to all his hot spots and convert jumpers. When the Nets tried to take that away by showing hard on the pick-and-roll action, Wall was able to drive around defenders to reach the rim or penetrate enough to draw the defense and kick it out to 3-point shooters on the wing. Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre were the biggest benefactors of said offense, as they were able to convert 6 of 10 tries from behind the arc.

Porter looked as polished as he has since his explosion last month against the Celtics, and hopefully the Wizards finally figure out different ways to make sure that a player shooting better than 40 percent from 3 on the season stays involved in the game plan.

Oubre continues to show bright spots coming off the bench. He consistently displays confidence in his shooting stroke by being ultra-assertive when the ball comes his way in catch-and-shoot situations. Oubre has also avoided his usual mistakes recently by limiting dribbles and simplifying his offensive game. And when they are both being terrors on defense, and the duo of Oubre and Porter is about as athletic and long a pairing as you can have in the league.

Defensive intensity is what got the Wizards back into the game, and it all started by jumping into the passing lanes and forcing some turnovers in the third quarter. Ten of the Nets’ 21 turnovers came in the period, and Washington used those to jump start their offense. Brooklyn’s hot 3-point shooting ultimately cooled off, and the Wizards were able to dig away at that 16-point halftime deficit.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Wizards had established dominance over an inferior team, but were never able to go on a definitive game-closing run. So the Nets hung around all the way till the final possession where they had an opportunity to tie the game but instead committed their final turnover when Beal was able to steal Booker’s pass attempt to Harris.

The Wizards will take a much needed road-victory and hopefully use that as a springboard to build some momentum with a string of winnable games coming up. They’ll face the Magic tonight in Washington as they seek their second two-game winning streak of the year. That is something, after all.

 

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A Wizards Win is Still a Win, Even in Brooklyn http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/a-wizards-win-is-still-a-win-even-in-brooklyn.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/a-wizards-win-is-still-a-win-even-in-brooklyn.html#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:45:19 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52089

Oh My God: Shaqtin a Couple Lottery Teams, #Wizards: pic.twitter.com/GyJhD6LTly

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 6, 2016

The Wizards escaped Brooklyn with a five-point win on Monday night after giving up 66 points in the first half, while scoring 51. It was a contest that teetered on disaster, knowing Brooklyn had lost 9 of 10 by an average margin of 18 points and especially considering how out of it (now rather par for the course) the Wizards looked during the first half (evidenced by the two “Shaqtin-a-Fool”-worthy videos above).

If you must know, Washington’s starting five finished plus-24 in 21.1 minutes (+3 in 6.8 first quarter minutes, +18 in 9.2 third quarter minutes, and +3 in 5.2 fourth quarter minutes). That means:

  • Marcus Thornton: minus-13 (17.5 mins.)
  • Kelly Oubre: minus-11 (18 mins.)
  • Tomas Satoransky: minus-5 (3.5 mins.)
  • Jason Smith: minus-3 (8 mins.)
  • Andrew Nicholson: minus-2 (7 mins.)
  • Trey Burke: minus-1 (12 mins.)

It could be worse!

You must also know that in the fourth quarter, the second unit left the starters with a 93-93 tie (the bench having inherited a 79-77 advantage late in the third quarter)—what more could you want? Washington battled one of the worst teams in the NBA and backed into another win, taking it 25-20 over the game’s final eight or so minutes.

John Wall played a decent game—25 points, 19 shots, 13 assists, 4 turnovers. When he wanted to, he controlled the floor—four assists came with teammates on the move, three led to 3-pointers. When he wanted to play defense, he did. Very early in the game Wall twice let rookie Isaiah Whitehead blow right by him on attacks of the basket. In the third quarter, the tunes changed with Wall and his teammates ramping up defensive pressure and causing turnovers, which led to a 32-15 advantage in the period for the comeback Wizards.

Although, at the end of the third period, Wall, more than capable of executing fancy passes, got a little too fancy for his teammates, turning the ball over twice in a row (the Nets missed a layup off one and dunked on the other). Wall upped his own offense in the fourth quarter, jawing with whatever inexperienced player stood in front of him and firing a no-pass, heat-check jumper after two makes in a row. He missed but later made a big 3—we know Wall is willing to take big shots.

And with that, the lackluster Wizards with two stars who might not be as starry as they think they are, scurried from the Brooklyn borough with victory.

Much to Steve Buckhantz’s seeming chagrin, Wall’s reach-around, matador defense worked … “this time”:

In the beginning of the third quarter  Markeiff Morris became more attuned to help-side defense and pursuing defensive rebounds. It is, however, becoming more and more apparent that his talents aren’t necessarily made for the starting lineup (or primetime). He cannot be counted on to not miss a rotation or a boxing out assignment. Like earlier this season, Morris also picked up early fouls, leading to emotions and a drawn technical foul. Wizards brass and staff sorely wish they could count on Morris; nonetheless, they’ll keep trying.

Marcin Gortat had a fair if not serviceable night—10 points, 9 shots, 12 boards (3 offensive), 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Don’t try to tell him that Brook Lopez is slow-footed, however, as the 7-footer, now a 3-point shooter burned Gortat twice late in the game as the Polish big man scrambled and failed to close out on Lopez beyond the arc. Of course, Lopez also got Gortat with an up-and-under move early in the game that took the same amount of time as filling a pint glass with molasses through a strainer.

Bradley Beal was solid but not spectacular, scoring 18 points on 18 shots and going 3-for-8 from deep (but just 1-4 on free throws). His scoring was spread pretty evenly over the game’s quarters and, unlike his last pro performance, he also contributed in other areas (4 rebounds, 4 assists, including a nice setup to Gortat off the roll late in the fourth quarter). This outing marked the 33rd time in 263 career games that Beal attempted eight or more 3-pointers. When shooting at that volume, the career 39.8% 3-point shooter overall is at 38.9%. But eight of those 33 games have come this season, where Beal is shooting 41%. So, improvement.

Tremendous up-and-down game from Kelly Oubre. Little big League. During key developmental time (18 minutes) he drilled a couple 3-pointers (2-5, 3-8 on FGs) and even got a chance to handle the ball on the break a couple times. He has no clue what he’s doing during those times, but that’s OK. At least this one time Oubre patiently, if not uncertainly, held up a break, moved the ball, recognized that Lopez switched onto him, and ran to the corner to clear the floor. End result: Kelly hit a corner 3. In general, I’ve rarely had an issue with a jumper taken by Kelly Oubre, at least when it’s just catch-and-shoot or using one dribble gather. The eye test proof is in the statistical pudding via stats.nba.com:

  • 59.2% of Oubre’s shots are taken with 0 dribbles — 58.9% eFG
  • 13.2% shots off 1 dribble — 60% eFG
  • 10.5% shots off 2 dribbles — 25% eFG
  • 11.8% shots off 3-6 dribbles — 22.2% eFG
  • 5.3% shots off 7+ dribbles — 25% eFG

Oubre paired with Trevor Booker to earn a double technical from the ref. Kelly immediately followed that up with a travel. Gotta roll with the punches, kiddo. Also consider this: Oubre has a Net Rating (NetRtg) of minus-9.6 this season. But when Oubre and Otto Porter are on the court at the same time—a dangerous combination Brooks should find ways to play more—the Wizards are plus-3.7 in NetRtg (115.5 offensive,111.8 defensive). For context, NetRtg for all two-man units among the Wizards starters.

  1. Beal – Morris: +7.2
  2. Porter – Morris: +6.9
  3. Beal – Gortat: +6.5
  4. Morris – Gortat: +6.3
  5. Wall – Beal: +5.6
  6. Beal – Porter: +5.1
  7. Wall – Morris: +4.2
  8. Porter – Gortat: +3.8
  9. Wall – Porter: +2.8
  10. Wall – Gortat: +1.7

Speaking of Otto Porter, yet another solid, above average game for the former puppy. Porter scored an efficient 18 points on 10 shots (4-5 on 3s) and did more than his share to disrupt the Nets otherwise, running the court, intelligently playing passing lanes, and picking up six personal fouls. He’s also improving at a long-time key to the success of his career: hitting open shots. He hit 5-of-6 uncontested shots versus Brooklyn and on the season, per stats.nba.com, he’s shooting 43.3% (26-60) on 3-pointers when open or wide open, a hair above his impressive 41.4% from deep overall.

Oh no … Jason Smith got blocked, by Trevor Booker no less, off a nice John Wall pass immediately after checking in. Smith has had a poor first 20% of the season, no question, but he also is involved in some extra boneheaded actions that diminish all the other things he brings to the table, including being the happy-go-lucky bro who’s excited to do anything on or off the court. In eight minutes versus Brooklyn, he made a shot, missed a shot, snagged a board, dropped a dime, stole one candy, rejected one bucket, and committed two ‘get yer money’s worths’ fouls.

Marcus Thornton canned a 3. In fact, he canned two of them. Furthermore, I think “canned” is the most proper verb to use when Thornton makes a 3-pointer. On the evening he launched five 3s and 10 total launches (4 total cans) and finished minus-13 in “whews-oh shits,” which is plus-minus. “Launch” is also, henceforth, the technical term for a Marcus Thornton shot attempt. In conclusion, Thornton on defense is appropriately called “skating.”

Trey Burke scored eight points in 12 minutes, sinking two 3-pointers. He also gathered two assists and zero turnovers. He spent most of this time in the backcourt with Thornton (they were minus-1) and a hiccup playing next to Beal (plus-5). Scott Brooks seemed to limit the amount of times that Burke was tasked to create offense and it seemed to work. We’ll call it a very minor victory.

Brook Lopez was Brooklyn’s best player, scoring 25 points on 15 shots (2-4 3s, 7-9 FTs) with six boards, five assists, three blocks, and plus-3 in his 31 minutes (only positive amongst the Brooklyn starters). I think it’s smart of the Nets to have Lopez shoot a shit-ton of 3-pointers this season (even if he was two attempts below his average versus the Wiz), because they’ve just gotta end up trading him at some point and this is a great way to improve his trade value. It’s like pre-developing for a chance to get a draft pick. Do what you gotta do in Brooklyn’s situation.

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The Wiz Were Comeback Kids In Brooklyn (Plus Two Young Fans Chime In) http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/the-wiz-were-comeback-kids-in-brooklyn-plus-two-young-fans-chime-in.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/the-wiz-were-comeback-kids-in-brooklyn-plus-two-young-fans-chime-in.html#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:19:15 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52082 20161205_213913

 [Basketball things were closer than they appear here.]

The Wizards did it. They doggone did it: back to .500, in their last 10 games. No thanks to their bench, however.

Per NBA.com/stats, the second unit was minus-7 on the night, scoring 31 points on .393 shooting from the field (fourth worst eFG% among teams that played Monday). Their NetRtg? Minus-23.3, second worst, behind Philly.

The starters, to compare, scored 87 points on .523 shooting (the second best eFG%), as well as 42.1 percent from 3. There was plenty of opportunity to get out and run, which saw the starters up the pace a handful of points above their season average to 103.58. The NetRtg: 17.2.

This game was the season, summarized. Coming in, the Wizards stood at 6-12 (and just 2-8 against teams .500 or better), despite having the 10th most expensive roster in the NBA. The lousy product won them more games than only three teams: Philly, who they lost to, the Mavericks, and the Nets, who they played and beat last night—the fifth time in six matchups.

Looking at the data pre-game, the on/off court numbers for the Wiz starting five are ridiculous. A banner year. And it’s not because the players, including first-round pick Markieff Morris, aren’t magically improved; the bench just sucks.

To wit: The #Wizards bench not only sported the third worst plus/minus overall (-3.6), but also the absolute worst NetRtg (-7) and TS% in the entire Association.

Despite this not-fake-news wake-up call, the Wizards overcame adversity and stole a W from the Nets, who dominated the game from final minutes of the opening quarter till midway through the third, leading by as many as 16 points. Washington ended up outscoring Brooklyn by 20 in the second half overall, and winning the fourth quarter 35-32.

“I like the way they play,” said Stanley Gonzalez, a Brooklynite in his early teens, who’s been a Wizards fan for the past three years. “My favorite player is John Wall.”

I watched the game at the Barclays Center last night, from section 222 with beer in hand as a fan. It wasn’t until the second half that I noticed the #WizardsTalk a few rows behind me.

Yeah, that was Stanley, along with his older brother Ismal, and their friend Barley Corloff, a Nets fan from Bed-Stuy (who has a lot of love for Isaiah Whitehead). I asked to chat after the game, and they entertained my request. For the culture.

Ismal wasn’t wearing a John Wall jersey like his younger brother, but he’s a big fan of No. 2, too. See, the Gonzalez brothers found themselves drinking the Wiz Kid Kool-Aid during those back-to-back Randy Wittman era postseason spectaculars—”Paul Pierce, man, that playoff run was amazing”—and have never looked back.

For Ismal, the keyword when it comes to Wall is “playmaking.” The older Gonzalez gets it—they both do, really—when it comes to Washington’s best player, even if they were surprised by Wall’s 23 and 13 night. That’s just another 48 minutes in the life of the three-time All-Star, who’s averaging 9.9 dimes per game on the season and has 10 or more assists in four straight games.

(In fairness, it was their first time seeing Wall and the Wizards play live.)

Wall’s play was key in this one, racking up 26 more touches than any other Wizards player, pushing the pace (see stats above), creating space for teammates, and turning no-look passes into scores. More than half of the Wizards’ 93 field goal attempts were uncontested, and they converted on 52.7% of those attempts. Those easy-scoring opportunities, in combination with his fourth-quarter scoring punch, in which Wall scored nine points in just over two minutes, helped put away the Brooklyn Nets.

John Wall’s last basket from the field in that run was a 3-pointer, upping the lead to six points with about two and half to play. Brook Lopez and Sean Kilpatrick would answer with layups, but a late rally by Brooklyn was cut short as Bradley Beal ripped the ball away from Joe Harris (on a pass from Trevor Booker).

Not long after, a pair of free throws from Wall put the proverbial nail in the coffin and sealed a win for Washington.

“The rumor is DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall’s teammate at Kentucky, wants him in Sacramento,” Stanley said. “But they haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years, and he should come to the Wizards.”

Who says no?

“Gortat for picks,” says Ismal (again, who says no?). “And I feel like they should give Otto Porter more time with the ball, because I feel he’s better than what he’s showing right now.”

Porter had 18 points on 10 shots (4-5 from 3), spending most of the night catching and shooting, and running with Wall on the break, who’d set him up for right-handed slams.

I asked Ismal if he thinks Otto Porter is a max player.

“Not yet. He has to prove himself. What he’s doing right now, you can’t get that money. But I feel that . . . he can improve. Once he becomes a free agent, by that time, he could be a max money guy.”

Conversation turned to The Plan. I asked the brothers if they were familiar with Team President Ernie Grunfeld. That he’d been around 14 years as the longest-tenured general manager to not once make it out of the second round.

“I didn’t know,” said Stanley. “They are taking this slow, I think. Yeah. We’ll be good, once our players improve. We’ll have an opportunity to get a championship.”

“I feel like once you get Bradley Beal and John Wall and Otto Porter to reach their potential, they’ll be great,” said Ismal, chiming in. “You stay together, you play better. And Scott Brooks is adjusting to what he has on the roster right now. Once they get comfortable with each other, they’ll get better, and that’ll happen as the season goes on.”

While the Gonzalez Bros. would like to see another 3-point-shooting big on the roster, another vet on the bench, and more youth all around, their outlook on the season is positive, overall.

“I feel we might reach 40 wins, like last year, but maybe we’ll get to .500,” said Stanley. “That would probably make 8-seed.”

“Hoping 45,” said Ismal. “Hoping 48.”

#PositivePixels, like $8 tickets, they outchea.

 

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Opening Statements 19: Wizards at Nets — Trap Game? No Such Thing for Washington http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/opening-statements-19-wizards-at-nets-trap-game-no-such-thing-for-washington.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/opening-statements-19-wizards-at-nets-trap-game-no-such-thing-for-washington.html#comments Mon, 05 Dec 2016 19:24:43 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52077 Washington Wizards vs Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets can be as bad as they want to be and it doesn’t matter. Because of the bridge-to-nowhere to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in July 2013, the Boston Celtics have the option to switch first round draft picks with the Nets this summer. Brooklyn can’t even rebuild, really. Not through the draft—their 2018 first rounder is also going to Boston, straight up. So first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson and first-year GM Sean Marks are trying to create a culture from scratch. Brooklyn’s most veteran player (10 years): Randy Foye, once acquired by the Wizards with Mike Miller for a fifth overall draft pick.

The Nets otherwise are anchored by gold medalist Luis Scola (9-year vet), one-time All-Star Brook Lopez (8-year vet), and known Wizards-killer Jeremy Lin and ex-Wizard Trevor Booker (each 6-year vets). After that, the Nets’ so-called most experienced player is 2013’s No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Bennett, with Bojan Bogdanovic close behind and followed a collection of eight other players with no more than two years of NBA experience. Brooklyn has nothing to lose against any team but especially against a team like the Wizards. On top of it, Lin will be out (hamstring injury, he’s missed the last 13 games) and Booker will be questionable (illness, missed the last game) for Monday’s matchup.

The Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Phoenix Suns, whom Washington beat in an ugly affair at in D.C. (while they had no alibi in Philly), were expected to be the worst teams in the NBA coming into 2016-17. At least according to Las Vegas oddsmakers—the folks at Bovada LV gave each team 350/1 odds to win the title just prior to the start of the season; the Wizards were given 100/1 odds, tied for 18th with Milwaukee, Utah, Dallas, and Portland. In odds updated on Dec. 1, each the Nets, Suns, and Sixers are at 1000/1, while the Wizards are tied at 19th at 200/1 with Miami, Milwaukee, and Minnesota.

This isn’t a trap game for the Wizards because at 6-12, they’re already in a trap. The Nets scrapped their way to a 4-5 record to start the season but since they’ve lost 9 of 10 games, and seven in a row before somehow beating the Clippers in Brooklyn last Tuesday (in double-OT; L.A. was without Blake Griffin).

Like Phoenix, Brooklyn likes to get out and run—their 103.9 pace is ranked second in the NBA to the Suns; Washington’s 98.8 pace ranks 17th. Like both Phoenix (39.2%, 2nd-most) and Washington (37.9%, 3rd-most), Brooklyn has trouble defending the 3-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 37% from there (ranked 4th-worst). The Wizards, at least, have gotten better at making 3-pointers lately, currently ranked 17th-best at 35%. Since Nov. 17, when Bradley Beal returned from a hamstring injury, appearing in the last eight games, Washington’s 3-point percentage ranks 8th in the league at 38.5, while their 3-point defense (37.3%) is now ranked 17th-lowest.

Most recently, since Nov. 20, Kenny Atkinson has found success in Brooklyn featuring a three-guard lineup of rookie Isaiah Whitehead (6-4 PG), Sean Kilpatrick (6-4 SG), Joe Harris (6-6 SG), Booker, and Lopez. This crew is plus-18 over 30 total minutes during the past two weeks, while most other Brooklyn lineups are minus when on the court. Otherwise, the Nets like to feature 6-foot-8 distance shooter Bogdanovic at the 3, or even Bogdanovic and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as a tall 3-4 combo alongside Whitehead, Booker, and Lopez.

Speaking of Lopez, he’s averaging six 3-point attempts per game this season and is a 37.3 percent shooter from deep. His 3-point totals over eight NBA seasons prior: 3-for-31. So yet another big man Marcin Gortat will have to worry about pulling him away from the basket. Lopez has even fired 11 3s during one game versus the Lakers this season (making four) and over Brooklyn’s last four games Lopez has attempted 33 3-pointers, making 13. Talk about volume. According to Basketball-Reference.com, here are the center-type players who have attempted 11 or more 3s during a single game in NBA history: Lopez, Manute Bol, Meyers Leonard, and Byron Mullens.

The Wizards will likely have their hands full this evening, come hell or high water. Or they could blow Brooklyn out—the Nets’ average margin of loss in losing 9 of 10 has been 18 points (giving up 119.9 and scoring 101.9). As usual, there will be interesting insight to glean from a team coming off two heartbreaking (gut-wrenching?) losses in Oklahoma City and San Antonio and still desperate to not completely waste the current campaign.

Stats to Chew.

  • Brooklyn is second in the NBA in contested shots per game at 69.6; the Warriors are first at 72.3 while the Wizards ranked 20th at 60.3. Of course, this does not factor pace and opponent attempts allowed, much less the overall affect that contested shots have on opposing shooting percentages.
  • Spot-up shot attempts represent 25% of Brooklyn’s play types, per stats.NBA.com, a frequency which leads the league. Of course, they score on those plays just 34.4% of the time, second-lowest after the Heat. Washington gets spot-up shots on 16.6% of their plays, tied for third-fewest with Indiana and Phoenix, while scoring 39% of the time, ranked 13th-most.
  • One obvious key: the Wizards should attack, attack, attack. Brooklyn allows opponents to shoot 64.2% within six feet of the basket, second-highest after the 68.4% of the Lakers. The Wizards are no crown jewel, however, allowing 61.2% in that range, ranked 10th-most in the league.
    While John Wall and Bradley Beal have increased their free throw attempts per game to 5.9 from 4.5 and to 4.5 from 3.2, respectively, the Wizards as a team are down to 21.6 free throw attempts (16.6 makes) per game this year from 22.5 attempts and 16.5 makes per games last season.
  • Of course, Brooklyn will attack as well, which is a general formula to give a team like Washington trouble. The Nets average 34.2 drives per game, ranked second-most after Miami’s 38.2; the Suns rank third at 33.4. The Wizards are tied with the Lakers at 26.7 drives per game, ranked 17th.
  • Finally, according to InPredictable.com, Washington’s defense gives up an average 1.03 points after they make shot, tied with the Rockets for 8th-most; Brooklyn gives 1.09 points, ranked third. So there are major issues with the Wizards’ defense even with a chance to get set. After they missed a shot (and defensive rebound), the Wizards give up 1.10 points (tied for 5th-most) and after a turnover, the Wizards give up 1.28 points (11th-most). So there are mid-major issues, Washington’s defense still isn’t that great—and likely something only solved by personnel maneuverings.
  • Oh yeah, prized free agent acquisition, backup center Ian Mahinmi, will miss his fourth straight game this evening, per the Post’s Candace Buckner, with what I guess is soreness in his right knee, the one he didn’t have surgery on prior to the season. He’s played 14 total minutes over 18 games to date.

Things That Happened Last Year.

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Wizards Fade Themselves Into 17 Straight Losses in San Antonio http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-fade-themselves-into-17-straight-losses-in-san-antonio.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-fade-themselves-into-17-straight-losses-in-san-antonio.html#comments Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:54:12 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52070

Nice navigation of the paint defense by John Wall to Marcin Gortat, #Wizards pic.twitter.com/jJhLEtPDh4

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 3, 2016

Without context, the Washington Wizards, coming off a tough overtime road loss in Oklahoma City two nights earlier, fought one of the best teams in the NBA—perhaps the best franchise that we’ll know in our lifetime—in a game that came down to one possession.

Over the last 60 seconds, the Wiz exchanged a total of 10 points with the San Antonio Spurs. A Wizards star, Bradley Beal, hit a 3 to put his team up 103-102. A Spurs sharpshooter, Danny Green, answered with his own 3. Washington’s franchise player, John Wall, sliced down the lane for a layup to tie the game. San Antonio’s star, Kawhi Leonard, answered in seemingly his favorite scenario: an isolation long 2 near the top-of-the-key with the defender back-peddling.

With six seconds left, down two and the ball side out, Washington ran action against a stifling Spurs defense, which perhaps gets more credit than it deserves on this one play considering how disorganized the Wizards looked. Still, 2013’s third overall draft pick, the homegrown Otto Porter, found himself with a lane and a decent look. Porter’s right-handed runner missed; his team lost, 107-105. And that’s how the NBA goes sometimes. Unfortunately, it’s gone that way a lot for the Wizards in San Antonio—their 17th loss in a row there (but the closest contest thus far). Something to build on, one could say, for the 6-12 team from the East.

Now the context.

The Wizards stink. There’s no getting around it, they just plain stink right now. Sure, sometimes they play well, but more times than not they are playing against themselves and undoing their own good deeds on the court.

Washington’s final chance to tie the game is dubious enough. Porter was the inbounder; the ball was thrown to Markieff Morris in the adjacent corner for some reason, and San Antonio’s defense almost threw a blanket over the scrum right then and there to end it. But as the inbounds scene unfolded, Beal, curling toward the ball from the paint, did not gain enough separation from Green. Wall got caught up in screening action with Gortat on the ballside with Leonard in his pocket. Both star guards just sort of faded from the picture as Morris somehow found Porter with a bail-out pass, and Porter somehow found himself with a paint to attack. Can’t blame Porter for the chance, but that last play was akin to carefully preparing a hearty meal of spaghetti for friends and family only to serve it on flimsy paper plates with no garlic bread and asking them to eat it with a straw.

It all seemed really normal. The Wizards fighting hard only to lose in the waning moments. Predictably, Washington bounded out of the gates, using a 15-2 run to build an early 18-7 lead that generally hovered around 8-to-10 points throughout the first quarter. That was until the pick-and-roll defense of Kelly Oubre and Jason Smith versus Manu Ginobili and David Lee created a corner Patty Mills 3-pointer, and soon after that Ginobili completely buzzed Oubre to receive a long inbounds pass and hit a first quarter buzzer-beater off the glass.

The Wizards led 28-24 after one but they also left a ton of points on the board. Wall missed a two-foot layup. Morris missed a three-foot bunny and then followed that up with a point-blank layup miss on the break. Gortat missed a one-foot tip. Trey Burke missed a one-foot layup (swatted from behind). The trend continued into the second quarter when Marcus Thornton missed a layup, and Gortat missed both a putback and a layup right at the basket.

It wasn’t all negative. Or rather, Washington’s starters weren’t imperfect, but they also looked pretty, pret-ty good against a Spurs team that, while missing Tony Parker, can’t exactly be considered short-handed.

Over 30.3 minutes (they average 20.2 minutes per game), the Wizards starters were plus-13, shot 50 percent from the field, 7-for-9 from 3, 12-for-13 on free throws, and had 19 assists to 11 turnovers. The Spurs starters of Nicholas Laprovittola, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol played 14.3 minutes, finished minus-7, shot 37.5 percent, 4-for-11 from 3, 3-for-7 on free throws, and had six assists to four turnovers.

That should be enough to win.

But Washington’s bench continued to victimize the season. The downright criminal foursome of Burke, Thornton, Oubre, and Smith (who spent over 10 minutes on the court together!) actually had some decent moments early in the game. Jason Smith even hit two jumpers in a row at one point. They finished a mere minus-1 in 6.8 first half minutes—perhaps as much as you could ask for, really. But they also peppered their play with several head-smacking moments, and finished minus-6 in 3.7 second half minutes.


[Click-to-watch, if you dare, this terrible close-out by Thornton versus a 39-year-old Ginobili. Thornton is as terrible on defense as he’s ever been and is shooting a career-worst 36 percent from the field.]


There was a particularly absurd span late in the third quarter, catalyzed when Burke and Oubre replaced Wall and Porter, joining Thornton, Smith, and Gortat on the floor. The Wizards had just put David Lee on the line, who tied the game at 73 (at that point, the Wizards were actually up 75-73 after Lee’s free throws; more on that soon). Burke bricked a no-pass possession off the back of the rim and soon after gave up a 3 to Patty Mills. Oubre next dribbled it off his foot and then made a lazy pass to Thornton, just to get rid of the ball. It was stolen, Thornton fouled right away, and Ginobili hit two free throws. Oubre immediately followed that with a turnover while dribbling into a crowd—the Wizards stole the ball right back but then missed two panicked shots on the same possession. Smith then fouled Lee, who also scored the bucket; San Antonio got an offensive board off a missed free throw; and the Wizards were a mess as the Spurs closed the third on what would become a 9-1 run.


[Insult to injury: this unfathomable Jason Smith shot clock buzzer-beater at the 3:42 mark of the third quarter, which at the time put the Wizards up 73-71, was negated upon review during the break before the fourth quarter and taken off the board, giving Washington just 14 points over the third period.]


Scott Brooks small-balled the start of the fourth with Burke, Thornton, Oubre, Porter, and Smith, and they battled to an early 4-4 draw with the Spurs before the starters were inserted (Gortat and Morris at 10:34; Wall at 10:10; and Beal, on a 30-minute restriction, at 9:34). But a sloppy tone had been set and the referee whistles were tight, and often not in favor of the Wizards. San Antonio scored 24 points off 20 Washington turnovers; the Wizards scored 20 points off 15 Spurs turnovers.

Then a Thornton and Oubre foul parade, bad pass turnovers from Morris left and right, and a Wizards backcourt violation turnover after fragmented offense—for crying out loud. Washington quickly went down 78-88 only to claw within 85-88 in two-plus minutes . . . only to get back down 85-94 in another couple minutes. What appeared seamless for the Spurs seemed hard for the Wizards, but they had one more push—a 10-2 run made it a game, 95-96 Spurs, with 3:35 left.

Despite all the missed bunnies, the bad bench, and often poor defense by John Wall, who looked quite stiff on defense throughout the night (perhaps he is playing hurt), the Wizards were right where they wanted to be. Their best traded blows with San Antonio’s best. It was good basketball (for select cuts), let’s not forget.

The starters’ own hard work—work both against the Spurs and their own second unit—became unraveled during times of pressure due to their habitual lack of focus and lack of direction when it comes to what the game is truly all about (putting a peach in a basket). And it came down to one, good, tough possession—one bad break against the sum of all their broken parts.

Washington seemed destined not to win.

The Wizards will trudge against their reality with two days off before facing the Nets in Brooklyn on Monday. Then they’ll face a critical, likely season-defining stretch featuring home games against Orlando, Denver, and Milwaukee; a road game in Miami; then home again versus Charlotte and Detroit before culminating with a Verizon Center duel versus Chris Paul and the L.A. Clippers on Sunday, December 18.

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Opening Statements 18: Wizards at Spurs — When Star Power Is Wasted http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/opening-statements-18-wizards-at-spurs-when-star-power-is-wasted.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/opening-statements-18-wizards-at-spurs-when-star-power-is-wasted.html#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 22:31:00 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52062 Washington Wizards vs San Antonio Spurs - Nov. 26, 2012

So, these Washington Wizards have a star power problem. Perhaps that’s somewhat obvious, given every Wiz fan—and their mother—knows that the team has failed to win 50 games since the ’70s. But hear me out. Star power is supposed to make up for glaring weaknesses in roster construction, coaching schemes, and team management otherwise. In the John Wall era, it just hasn’t happened. We’ll get to that.

First things first: Gilbert Arenas. Say what you will about the mercurial star, but when he dropped 30 or more points—which he did 120 times in his career in D.C.—the Wizards won. Well, they won about 60 percent of the time (71-49 record).

Back to John Wall, then. Since he was drafted in 2010, the Wizards have won just 13 of the 28 games (including playoffs) in which Optimus Dime has dropped 30-plus points. Breaking it down even further, the Wiz are 4-5 when he scores 35 or more and 1-1 when he hits 40. That is not good enough.

A similar trend appears when you look at big-time scoring performances by his backcourt mate, Bradley Beal. Big Panda has dropped 30 nine times in his career, including playoffs. In those games, the Wizards are 4-5.

This discussion requires some context, so here’s a dose (of stars and otherwise):

  • Carmelo Anthony‘s New York Knicks are 174-107 when he scores 30. That’s a .619 winning percentage.
  • When C.J. McCollum scores 30 or more, which he’s done four times already this season, the Blazers are 11-2.
  • Jeff Green‘s teams are 9-4 when he’s locked in.
  • Jamal Crawford has a record of 37-21 when he hits the 30-point mark.
  • Tonight’s opposing star, Kawhi Leonard, has a 9-3 record when scoring 30 or more points.
  • His former teammate, Tim Duncan, helped the Spurs to a 102-56 record on highlight reel nights.
  • San Antonio is 2-0 when Patty Mills drops bombs.
  • Even Harrison Barnes has a winning record (3-1) when he drops 30 or more, and three of those four occurrences have taken place this season, as a member of the terrible Dallas Mavericks.

So, you see, the Wizards’ record isn’t the only thing that’s long been sub-.500. Their star power very clearly is, too.

This data, and tough-to-swallow reality, tells us two things: John Wall needs more damn help. Especially when you dive into late-game situations where the go-to “set” has been to put the rock in Wall’s hands and pray for the best. With a chance to tie or take the lead with five seconds or less in fourth quarters, Wall is 2-for-25. In all quarters, John Wall, who is by far the Wizards’ best player, is 9-for-63 . . . he’s shooting 14.3 percent from the field with a chance to save the day.

These numbers, explained by Prof. Drew Gorman: “He’s 0% since Trump won the election. In fact, 0% since he announced his candidacy.”

Now, of course, Wall deserves a fair share of the blame since the responsibility of saving his team’s ass (and bailing out the brass) has been thrust upon him. But also, where is his help? Where is the second star? Where is the productive bench?

You might (and could easily) argue that Bradley Beal should be in charge during those last-second situations, but the fact of the matter is that he’s not good enough, whether as a scorer or creator. Gilbert Arenas had Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. John Wall has . . . a hot-and-cold, so-far underachieving, often injured shooting guard; role player extraordinaire Otto Porter; and some other guys. That’s how it’s been every season since 2010, when he was drafted first overall. And don’t look to the bench, because you’ll find little else but despair and disappointment.

Every year, fans are promised depth and leadership and depth and versatility and wins. But here we are again, for the xth season in a row, chasing a .500 record. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe said earlier this year, when the Wizards were 2-7, something is rotten in D.C. And that rot, I’m convinced, starts at the very top.

I feel sick.

Kyle, what are you thinking about today? Please lift my spoiled spirit.

Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)

1999 is quite a long time ago, right? Remember the unfounded fears over Y2K? Yea, well a 16-year-old doesn’t.

The year 1999 brought us the debuts of many a “things”—Family Guy, the Euro, MSN Messenger, Napster, and something called Sega Dreamcast.

Wayne Gretzky retired that year, Brandi Chastain scored a penalty to give the U.S. women’s soccer team a victory over China in the FIFA World Cup, President Bill Clinton was acquitted in impeachment proceedings, and Big Punisher and DJ Screw were still alive. Also: Dale Earnhardt, Aaliyah, Ted Williams, Barry White, Bob Hope, and Johnny Cash were alive and well in 1999.

Does any of this even mean anything to you? I could go on with this superfluous, out-of-the-can exercise.

Biggest Hit Singles! In 1999! Now this is what I call “music”!

  • Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
  • Mambo No. 5 – Lou Bega
  • Blue – Eiffel 65
  • No Scrubs – TLC
  • I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys

And you just know that these 1999 tracks are also on your life’s playlist (thanks, Wikipedia):

  • Believe – Cher
  • All Star – Smash Mouth
  • Bawitdaba – Kid Rock
  • Bills, Bills, Bills – Destiny’s Child
  • Genie in a Bottle – Christina Aguilera
  • Heartbreaker – Mariah Carey
  • If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time – R. Kelly
  • My Name Is – Eminem
  • Still D.R.E. – Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg

And many more! Man. What. A. Year.

[Editor’s note: I’m feeling a bit better now.]

Furthermore, Kelly Oubre turned 4 at the very end of 1999; Bradley Beal and Otto Porter were 6; and John Wall was 9 years old. Wizards coach Scott Brooks was just one season removed from playing in the NBA. And San Antonio’s Charles Bassey, by way of Nigeria, currently ranked No. 2 in ESPN’s 2019 basketball recruiting class, wasn’t even born in 1999.

Let’s see, what else happened that year? Oh yeah, that was the last time—Dec. 11, ‘99, to be exact—that the Wizards beat the Spurs in San Antonio. Mitch Richmond—yeah, him—led Washington with 31 points. Otherwise, it has been 16 straight losses for the Wizards at the Alamo.

  • Average loss margin: 16 points
  • Number of single-digit losses: 2
  • Number of 20+ point losses: 5

Best Loss: 99-106, Spurs, Apr. 1, 2006 – the Wizards outscored the Spurs 39-27 in the third quarter to take a five-point lead heading into the fourth … where San Antonio returned the favor and outscored Washington 39-27 to win the game.

Worst Loss: 28 points, Jan. 17, 2005 – only one Wizards starter broke double-digits (Juan Dixon, 10 points); Jarvis Hayes led the team with 27 points off the bench.

So, in conclusion, good luck.

[Editor’s note 2: It’s me again, JCT.]

Better to be lucky than good, right, Kyle?

Shame the Wizards are rarely lucky. Oh, god, I feel sick again.

So, from here, I’ll kick it to long-time Spurs fan and X’s and O’s master Jesse Blanchard of Basketball Breakdown. Read his San Antonio hot takes below, then follow him on Twitter: @blanchardJRB.

#1) The Spurs got off to the third best starting road record (10-0) in NBA history. Besides the evolution of Kawhi Leonard from Finals MVP to MVP candidate, what makes this Spurs team (15-4) so good?

@blanchardJRBIt’s a combination of better offensive pieces and an infusion of youth. By the second half of last season, Tim Duncan was a complete non-threat. And while it didn’t affect Kawhi Leonard or LaMarcus Aldrdige’s individual numbers much, having one less spot that defenses had to track and rotate to stifled some of the Spurs’ system stuff.

This year, Leonard is a little more forceful on offense, which is forcing rotations. Pau Gasol can make a defense pay for doubling off him directly, or by keeping the offense flowing once the ball is kicked out.

There’s been an injection of youth on the roster, which provides more energy, and the Spurs’ veterans help balance out any corresponding inconsistencies new players provide. A lot of this is manifested in the second unit, which I’ll touch on later.

#2) The Spurs are human after all. What’s gone wrong—besides scoring fewer points—in the four games they’ve dropped?

@blanchardJRB: The Spurs obviously aren’t going to be as good defensively as they were in the past with Duncan gone. It’s hard to sustain a top five defense with Tony Parker and Pau Gasol in the lineup. It’ll be interesting to see what takes hold with Danny Green back after missing some time with injuries early.

Other than that, their greatest vulnerability remains its lack of creativity off the bounce. In my opinion, the pick-and-roll remains the best vehicle to drive a modern offense, but the Spurs use it more as a means to get into other things like post-ups or isolations—which suit Leonard and Aldridge.

They’re no longer a machine, but they’re still damn good.

#3) Pop has underplayed the team’s punch off the bench, and perhaps that’s to be expected from the boss. But the second unit has outscored or matched opposing benches in 11 of 19 games so far. That’s not just The System, right?

@blanchardJRBIt’s an infusion of new talent into a similar system. The individual skill sets and talents are important, but the system makes all of them greater than the sum of their parts.The most important thing for the bench is they now have some punch going towards the rim. Jonathon Simmons is the first guard with some pull toward the rim since Manu Ginobili lost a few steps. But, perhaps more importantly, the Spurs have added diving big men to pair with Ginobili.Ginobili can’t really get to the rim on his own anymore, but he’s still a wonderful de facto point guard running the pick-and-roll. Last year, the Spurs’ spacing was stifled with Boris Diaw and David West preferring to work at the elbows than diving hard to the rim. The Spurs really had nothing to force defenses to collapse.

David Lee has done enough defensively to justify taking advantage of his ability to work on dives and passing out of short rolls. The Spurs haven’t had a big man who can dive and get above the rim like Dewayne Dedmon in some time. When he comes off setting his screens toward the basket, he forces weak side defenders to rotate over—which the Spurs really missed without Tiago Splitter.

Davis Bertans has been a nice surprise working as a stretch big. He’s long and more mobile than expected defensively, and his ability to move and shoot combines with Lee or Dedmon to allow the Spurs to play defenses like an accordion, collapsing the defenses and then expanding them on closeouts.

These diversity of skills have helped recreate the movement Patty Mills thrived off of as a scoring ace off the bench, since he’s not much of a playmaker as a lead guard.


 

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Bad Habits Prevent Wizards From Celebrating Growth in OKC http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/bad-habits-prevent-wizards-from-celebrating-growth-in-okc.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/bad-habits-prevent-wizards-from-celebrating-growth-in-okc.html#comments Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:13:28 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52052 Russell Westbrook Moutian Dew Kickstart

It’s a rare situation to seemingly “blow” a lead in the final minutes of a game after trailing by double digits in the second half. The rarity of the situation has no bearing on the surprise factor (or lack thereof) that the Wizards could not finish a game with a seven-point lead with under five minutes left. But here we are, in a world where #SoWizards is synonymous with Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

After taking a 13-10 lead at the 5:53 mark in the first quarter, the Wizards somehow found themselves down 32-19 by the end of the period thanks to five turnovers. And while Washington did a much better job of protecting the ball going forward (6 turnovers the rest of the game), the first quarter lull put them in a position where they were playing catch up. It only took one more lull stretch after the team was able to take control of the game to lose control over a game that should have been theirs for the taking.

Not Clutch.

The Wizards contained Russell Westbrook for the majority of the game, but like a shark smelling blood in the water, Westbrook took full advantage of a team that has not yet figured out how to close games. Westbrook was a one-man wrecking crew in the closing minutes of regulation and overtime. From that 97-90 Washington lead until the end of overtime, Westbrook outscored the Wizards himself, 21-18, and also had 15 points of help from his teammates.

It’s not as if John Wall and Bradley Beal weren’t trying in crunch time, but they were less exacting and less determined than Westbrook. Wall struggled from the field all night, finishing 6-for-20 from the field, yet he took the majority of clutch time shots. There’s no doubt Wall is still the best player on this team, and he has consistently proven to be the most reliable Wizard with the ball in his hands. And maybe Beal will grow into a suitable option to run late-game offense on a more consistent basis, but as illustrated by his costly, unforced turnover at the two minute mark of the fourth quarter, he’s still not totally there. Turnovers happen at the end of games, but the aforementioned Beal play was egregious. First he tried to create on a dribble drive, then he fell down losing the ball in the process and gifting the opposing team free points (in this case, three of them). That play was more critical than the five-point swing it caused, as it seemed to deem Beal untrustworthy for future possessions in the game where he could have made an impact.

Winning Lineups.

The Wizards were actually able to get back into the game thanks to a boost from Kelly Oubre and the bench unit. Oubre finished with a game-high plus-minus of plus-5, and he did it by doing more with less. What Kelly is figuring out in his second season is that he does not have to be relied on as a driver or slasher; his job is very simple: finish and rebound. Oubre, more so than in the past, was in the right position on the court; with the ball, he was assertive and patient. Not to mention the type of effort that Oubre brings on defense, a versatility that unlocks different lineups that Scott Brooks can use.

Brooks definitely deserves some credit. So far this season he’s been adept at understanding opponents and adjusting his lineup accordingly. In Oklahoma, he played small with the Oubre/Porter 3-4 combo and forced the Thunder to adjust. The Wizards also attacked Domantas Sabonis and Jerami Grant with a nice dosage of Kieff Morris post-ups, and with Porter at the 4, the Wizards made the young OKC bigs work by chasing him around pin-down screens.

Brooks had to improvise on the spot since he was once again without Ian Mahinmi, who missed his second consecutive game after making his season debut against the Spurs last Saturday. The result of Brooks’ improv skills was Washington’s very own version of the “Death Lineup”—Wall, Beal, Oubre, Porter, and Morris; they finished minus-12, a disastrous minus-8 in the overtime alone. (Now exactly how much that was skewed by the prowess of Westbrook, we’ll never really know.) When it was Marcin Gortat instead of Morris, that lineup was plus-18 during a similar in-game small sample size. Gortat is by far the best rebounder on this team and he can finish so beautifully on those pick-and-roll rim runs with Wall that it more than makes up for whatever deficiencies he gives up by not being as fleet of foot.

Brooks presumably will continue to put optimal lineups on the floor while still tinkering with his rotation, and the more information he gathers, the better off his decision making will be. One takeaway from the Thunder game is that Oubre is quietly increasing his dependability, and which gives Brooks the opportunity to develop him throughout the season. Oubre’s presence will be key because his strong play allows Brooks more opportunities to play Otto Porter at the “4” and flip some of the matchups against teams who are weak at the power forward position. Another key cog in this whole process is Tomas Satoransky, who initially subbed in for Porter instead of Beal. Satoransky is versatile with his 6-foot-7 frame which allows him play all three wing positions. Once he figures out how to consistently defend, finish plays (and more importantly, hit 3s), this team will become even more dangerous with its lineup versatility.

The Wizards lost but likely still learned about themselves against the Thunder. They displayed some fight in coming back from a double digit deficit, but also displayed some of the same bad-habits that nearly cost them the game against the Kings. An almost habitual lack of focus allowed Westbrook to catch fire and show why he is one of the most dominant players in the NBA. There are no such thing as moral victories in professional sports, but in a heartbreaking loss, the Wizards may have gotten a little better.

https://twitter.com/Truth_About_It/status/804145833063153665

 

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Let’s Visualize Washington’s Bad Beats and Blown Games Thru 20% of the Season http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/lets-visualize-washingtons-bad-beats-and-blown-games-thru-20-of-the-season.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/lets-visualize-washingtons-bad-beats-and-blown-games-thru-20-of-the-season.html#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2016 18:52:41 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52030 The woulda, couldas of the 2016-17 Washington Wizards are already being trotted out like proud poodles at the Westminster Kennel Dog Show. A defense of a 3-pointer here, a defense of a 3-pointer there, a made 3-pointer anywhere. It’s catch as catch can to find a way to lose for these lovable losers, who could very well be the Chicago Cubs of the NBA … if it were ever fashionable in a yuppie sense to root for the Wizards.

In a bizarro scenario, this team seems to make people love to hate them. At least those fans who actually stick around and express their exasperated fandom regarding Washington’s NBA team on Twitter. Unfortunately, team owner Ted Leonsis considers those from this set as static, mere blips on the radar, and insignificant to however he gauges the temperature of those he wants buying his product. Those he seems to care more about attracting, the casual to semi-non-casual fan located in the DMVA region, have … well, just stopped caring. It’s true. Many good, once-upon-a-time loyal fans of the Wizards have just stopped caring. One result: the Wizards are ranked 25th in the NBA in average “announced” home attendance (15,542) and 27th in average capacity per game (76.6%). Fans are selling off plummeting shares while the organization’s holding company keeps the management responsible for all of this in place.

We digress—just a tad. The point of this blog post: 20 percent of the season is over and done with, so we are compiling all game “lead trackers” from NBA.com in one place to better visualize all the all-too-familiar ways in which a 6-11 Washington team has lost (and won) this season. Let’s proceed…

OCT. 27: New season! Opening night in Atlanta! The gang’s almost all here (except Ian, pronounced “Jan”), and the Wizards want revenge for that playoff series loss back in the day. Here we go, NBA! …

Oh, oh my. That’s a lot of red at the end. It’s like the artery of a relatively competitive game was severed, spilling first blood all over the 2016-17 Wizards season as the professionalism of the team’s two stars was questioned.

20161027-wizards-at-hawks

OCT. 30: Game No. 2. Memphis, Beale Street, BBQ, the Blues, etc. The Blues! The Grizzlies generally dominated once Markieff Morris got into early foul trouble, throwing the whole team into a tailspin. The Wizards fought back after halftime and even took a lead late … before letting Marc Gasol bomb from deep and dance his way to victory.

20161030-wizards-at-grizzlies

NOV. 2: Hey, lookit! … the Wizards came out in their home opener (Marcin Gortat’s “must-win”) and dominated the beginnings versus the Raptors (no thanks to a less-than-capacity, sort-of-juiced crowd). What’s that you say? They play two halves in basketball?

And it’s NOT ideal that DeMar DeRozan outscored the Wizards by himself down the stretch? OK, well then.

20161102-wizards-vs-raptorsNOV. 4: Win No. 1: Washington dominated a weary Atlanta team at home, save for two little fangs surrounding the break between the first and second quarters. Those fangs represent the Wizards’ vampire bench that has been sucking the blood out of the season.
20161104-wizards-vs-hawks

NOV. 5: So that first game in Orlando—little bit of a sleepy start, it being Washington’s first back-to-back of the season with John Wall being held out. Still with the talent advantage, the Wizards countered with a series of speed bumps … until they obliviously, and damn near belligerently, ran ramshackle into two potholes at the very end. Down two points, a Markieff Morris 3 at the buzzer would have won it.

20161105-wizards-at-magic

NOV. 7: No other Wizards game this season to date has had more lead changes than that Rockets game (25). It was fun, it was competitive, both teams built double-digit leads at some point, and then James Harden won while John Wall, amidst an odd closing scene, was ejected for bumping (seemingly on purpose) into a referee.

20161107-wizards-vs-rockets

NOV. 9: The Wizards, thanks to a career night from Otto Porter,  just thoroughly dominated an Al Horford-less Celtics team at home for their second win of the season. This pattern is what scientists call an anomaly.

20161109-wizards-vs-celtics

NOV. 11: Talk about a tale of two halves—it’s like LeBron made a slash right through this thing with a breakaway dunk and/or chase-down block. Only one other game on the season’s charts trumps this discrepancy. At least this game was against the world champs.

20161111-wizards-vs-cavs

NOV. 12: You could say that the Bulls game in Chicago—night after the Cavs game—out-#SoWizards‘d the tale above, but you see this is more of a late-third quarter (when the Wizards missed about eight layups in a span of 90 seconds) into the fourth quarter collapse. Totally different category. There are levels to this shit.

20161112-wizards-at-bulls

NOV. 16: Avert your eyes. The worst loss of the season. Don’t listen to what John Wall said about the recent Thunder game being the worst loss. That belittles Russell Westbrook, sorta. No, this was to an Embiid-less, Ben Simmons-less, Nerlens Noel-less, Sam Hinke-less, Jerryd Bayless-less Philadelphia 76ers team. It was quite embarrassing.

20161116-wizards-at-76ers

NOV. 17: So then the Wizards dominated the Knicks (after that embarrassment in Philly) because the Knicks are also pretty terrible at defending the 3-ball, and terrible away from The Garden, and the Wizards were at home, and for the first time in his career Otto Porter got the best of Carmelo Anthony.

20161117-wizards-vs-knicks

NOV. 19: Now, this—against LeBron’s former team—is what truly leads the Tale of Two Halves, #SoWizards category … a game where Washington sounded like “old records.” I mean, come on. If you squint real hard and use your imagination, Miami’s second half looks like Scott Brooks throwing his hands up, one higher than the other (for some reason).

20161119-wizards-vs-heat

NOV. 21: Well look at this lil’ competitive thing here—second-most lead changes on the season, yes you are! It’s like the Wizards and Suns got into dinghies and paddled in a race against the current. Washington just happened to win.

20161121-wizards-vs-suns

NOV. 25: Now this lead tracker is pretty unique compared to the rest. The Wizards jumped out to an amazingly dominant first quarter, even against the Magic. And Washington generally held steadfast onto their lead into the second and third quarters … until they just let up and sputtered. Orlando even took the lead, but ultimately the Wizards walked backwards and salvaged win No. 5 in 14 games on the season.

20161125-wizards-at-magic

NOV. 26: If you were looking at the audio levels as Spurs fans of Big Brother San Antonio in the Verizon Center chanted “Go, Spurs, Go,” then I’m pretty sure it would look like what’s below. If Washington were lucky, this would be spilt ink on all the bench contracts Ernie Grunfeld signed this summer, thus voiding them. Guess what: Washington is not lucky.

20161126-wizards-vs-spurs

NOV. 28: John Wall and the Wizards jumped out on Boogie Cousins and the Kings, who had a game the night before in Brooklyn. In the process of the pendulum swinging back in Sacramento’s direction, it just became an ugly, foul-prone game. Eyes were averted, children were put to bed, and anyone caught still wearing a turtleneck unrolled the fabric so they could take the form of a headless, nameless, faceless fan of a team amidst the 5,000 or so who looked to be in attendance for this dreary Monday night affair. There were turnovers, missed free throws, and that empty space jutting upward into Washington’s tracked lead toward the end of the fourth quarter is like a hole stabbed in the empty heart of G-Wiz. Where were we again?

20161128-wizards-vs-kings

NOV. 30: And so on the last day of the first official month of the NBA season, the Wizards choke after leading 97-90 with nearly five minutes left in regulation. From there and into the overtime period (the game’s last 10 minutes), Washington was outscored 36-18 by all Thunder players and 21-18 by one individual named Russell Westbrook. Judging from the second and third quarters, when the prerequisite grim faces and dire straits infiltrated #WizardsTwitter with great familiarity, perhaps Washington never had much business being in the game during the fourth quarter, anyway. But there the Wizards were, with a chance to win in sight, to no avail. The end, for now.

20161130-wizards-at-thunder

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Opening Statements 17: Wizards at Thunder — Remains of the Gambit http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/opening-statements-17-wizards-at-thunder-remains-of-the-gambit.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/opening-statements-17-wizards-at-thunder-remains-of-the-gambit.html#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2016 22:27:44 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52024 Washington Wizards vs Oklahoma City Thunder - Jan. 7, 2013

Prior to the disappointing 2015-16 season, the Wizards hired David Adkins, an assistant for the University of Maryland women’s basketball team, as a player development assistant. On the surface, it was (as former Washington Post beat writer Jorge Castillo wrote) an “unusual” hire, as coaches do not typically follow a straight line from college women’s ball to the NBA. But one notable aspect of Adkins’ history immediately found its way to the headlines: he was an assistant coach at Montrose Christian, a K-12 private school in Rockville, Maryland, and was coaching during the tenure of one of the school’s most successful athletes: Kevin Durant.

This was before the Wizards fired Randy Wittman, fully committing to building a time capsule of Durant’s past by hiring Scott Brooks. Of course, they did retain one member of Wittman’s staff: Adkins. This was also before Durant refused to meet with the Wizards, and instead met with a select few teams before signing with the Golden State Warriors. The gambit, never given voice, was nevertheless a massive failure. Whatever pitch the Wizards made, or call they placed, or text they sent . . . it couldn’t as much as secure a meeting. It’s tempting to chalk it up as bad luck, as subject to the recondite whim of a reclusive NBA star. But even during the middle of the 2015-16 NBA season, reports came in that some executives anticipated Golden State as a landing place for Durant. And bad luck can be mitigated.

When the Durant gambit failed, and the backup plan (Horford) fell through, the Wizards struck quickly to secure—through overconfident overpayment—several non-factor players on multi-year deals. The entirely predictable result is a 6-10 team with a frustrated star (John Wall), second-tier players that are improving (Bradley Beal and Otto Porter), a decent starting center with defensive liabilities (Marcin Gortat), a below-average starting 4 with a penchant for taking himself out of games (Markieff Morris), and a bench unit that resembles the frantic nature of Ernie Grunfeld’s summer shopping spree. Each player looks good on the cardboard packaging, but man, you should know better!

It’s too early to know whether Adkins is responsible for Beal and Porter’s improvement, but one shouldn’t fault the Wizards for keeping him on after Durant went to the Bay. By all reports, Adkins is a quality hire. But it’s impossible to look at today’s Washington team and not see the fragments of an alternative history that never happened. In that sense, Washington (6-10) and Oklahoma City (11-8) have similar scars. But one can see the machinations of preparedness in the Thunder roster. A daring trade that sent long-time starter Serge Ibaka to Orlando for Victor Oladipo, for one example. A young center, Steven Adams, drafted in the late lottery (No. 12, in 2013) several years ago, brought along slowly and carefully. Mistakes were made along the way, like the trade for Enes Kanter, but the Thunder tried, and it wasn’t a gimmick.

Still, both teams were ultimately spurned by one of the NBA’s most talented and unique players. Some teams, like the Warriors, have all the luck. At least in this history cycle.

And so it is that Scott Brooks returns to Oklahoma City for the first time as a coach of another, non-Thunder team. Brooks put on a good face in front of D.C. media, and displayed some of the genuine good-guy sentiment that made him a popular figure in OKC—name-checking arena staff and expressing gratitude for experiences, relationships, and opportunities alike. From Brooks:

“I’m actually looking forward to it. I’m not going to stand here and just say it’s one of 82 games but it is one of 82 games.”

Coach-speak for: “Ionno, man. Let’s just get through this.”

The Thunder have dominated the Wizards in the John Wall era, and have won the last four meetings between the teams.

Last season, Wizards fans seemed confused when Durant came to town, respecting his pre-game wishes not to be cheered by those in D.C. desperate to see him switch sides over the summer. Instead, some half-hearted boos emerged when Durant touched the ball, and some odd courtside inducements were offered.

Now, maybe, the relationship between these two teams is less complicated, tinged with fraternal loss and suddenly free of soap opera drama. Despite the farrago of Durant lures still lining the Wizards sideline, detritus from a silent campaign, Washington is no longer a hostage of its own making. And the Thunder have a new identity, too. It’s Russell Westbrook, and like John Wall, he’s pretty fucking good.

 

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We Did It. We Built the ‘Best’ Wizards Bench We Could Build http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/we-did-it-we-built-the-best-wizards-bench-we-could-build.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/we-did-it-we-built-the-best-wizards-bench-we-could-build.html#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:31:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52019 SE-SW-freeway-dc-basketball-court-truthaboutit

Waaaaay back in mid-November, when Washington’s bench was just as bad as it still is, we attempted to rank, or at least list, the best Wizards bench players from the John Wall era. It was a little bit sad, but we did it! (We used data—how fun.)

As part of that exercise, we also asked contributors to TAI and other willing participants (including you, the readers) to “build” their best bench by selecting two players each from pools of guards, wings, and bigs, plus one write-in candidate from the Wall era. The assumption was that the constructed bench would play behind this season’s starters of Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat.

You can still access the bench-building form here, but further submissions won’t count for this web log.

Without further ado: the results!

Bench Guards.

  • Tomas Satoransky, off to a smart beginning of an NBA career, secured a spot in being selected by an overwhelming 70% of voters.
  • Next: Garrett Temple and Ramon Sessions each captured 33% of voters. Editor’s choice would be Temple—to boost that maligned defense.
  • Also receiving votes: Shaun Livingston (9), Andre Miller (5), Roger Mason (4), and Shelvin Mack (1).
  • Not receiving votes: Trey Burke, Will Bynum, Eric Maynor, Gary Neal, Jannero Pargo, and A.J. Price.

Bench Wings.

  • Martell Webster, perhaps a sentimental favorite for non-basketball reasons, received a larger percent of the vote (76.7%) than Satoransky (and tied for the most with the leading big man below).
  • Rasual Butler, who was a well-respected flash-in-the-pan 3-point shooter during his one season with the team took second with 26.7% of the vote.
  • Kelly Oubre, Alan Anderson, and Alonzo Gee each received 20% of the vote. If I’m making an editorial veto (and thinking about the future), I’m taking Oubre over Butler.
  • Also receiving votes: Othyus Jeffers (4), Cartier Martin (3), Al Thornton (2), Glen Rice Jr. (1), and Gary Neal (1) — note: Neal was erroneously included in both the guard and wing category, which I guess is pretty good for someone who, in addition to being injured, bitched and moaned his way off the team.
  • Not receiving votes: Jarell Eddie, Mo Evans, Toure’ Murry, and Chris Singleton.

Also note: Jared Dudley did not qualify for this exercise because he started 41 of 81 games as a Wizard and probably would have started more games at the beginning of the 2015-16 season (instead of Kris Humphries) had Dudley not been hurt. So, for all intents and purposes, he was a starter in Washington.

Bench Bigs.

  • Trevor Booker—his toughness is still missed by this team and with that he ties Webster in receiving the most votes (23). Booker is now a full-time starter in Brooklyn and is putting up career numbers.
  • Ian Mahinmi had not played an official game for the Wizards as of this vote (now he has one under his belt), but still rightly places second (53%) in this bench-building exercise. No other option even comes close to being able to bring what Mahinmi can on defense.
  • Also receiving votes: Kevin Seraphin (6), Kris Humphries (4), James Singleton (4), Al Harrington (3), Drew Gooden (2), Jan Vesely (1), Andrew Nicholson (1).
  • Not receiving votes: Hilton Armstrong, DeJuan Blair, Jason Collins, Brian Cook, J.J. Hickson, Yi Jianlian, Hamady N’Diaye, and Jason Smith.

Write-In.

There were several creative write-ins — Alan Anderson (“for the chemistry”), Jared Dudley (who wasn’t totally a bench player, as mentioned above), Mustafa Shakur, even Peter (“Party”) John Ramos, and someone who wanted to give Jan Vesely another chance (it’s not a terrible idea!).

Considering both general votes and write-ins, Oubre would get the nod with Sessions, Livingston, and Professor Miller coming closest to making Washington’s rebuilt bench.

FINAL RESULTS.

The Starters:

  1. John Wall
  2. Bradley Beal
  3. Otto Porter
  4. Markieff Morris
  5. Marcin Gortat

The Re-Built Bench:

  1. Tomas Satoransky
  2. Garrett Temple
  3. Martell Webster
  4. Rasual Butler
  5. Kelly Oubre
  6. Trevor Booker
  7. Ian Mahinmi

Plus undrafted rookies from this year: Sheldon McClellan, Danuel House, and Daniel Ochefu.


POLL.

Would this re-built bench (assuming each player is playing in the ‘Wizards prime’) make you feel better about this year’s team?

 

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When a Win Isn’t a Win, But Still Better Than a Loss http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/when-a-win-isnt-a-win-but-still-better-than-a-loss.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/when-a-win-isnt-a-win-but-still-better-than-a-loss.html#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 21:06:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52003 In the athletic realm, the best medicine for melancholy has to be the thrill of victory—unless you’re Gregg Popovich, who you might confuse with the Grinch who stole Christmas, even after a win. The thing that makes San Antonio’s leading man one of the all-time great coaches is the fact that his satisfaction is not driven by wins or losses on any given game day, but by a process in pursuit of a long-term result.

Against the Kings, the Wizards found themselves victorious at the end of what can be described as a “non-aesthetically pleasing” display of Dr. Naismith’s game, and it would greatly behoove them to focus a hell of a lot more on aforementioned process rather than the box score result.

The time stamps on this Twitter thread begin at 7:43 p.m., which is smack dab in the middle of what was one of the worst quarters of Wizards basketball I’ve ever witnessed: ugly, sloppy, start-and-stop stuff. The Wizards’ second quarter from hell allowed the Sacramento Kings a real opportunity to defy the basketball schedule gods (they played the previous night) and overcome a talent deficiency to win. By the time Marcin Gortat picked up his third personal foul (add on a technical foul after his expression of genuine, sink-to-your-knees-and-ask-why disbelief) at the six-minute mark of the second quarter, his team was in a full tailspin.

When DeMarcus Cousins was asked about the game flow of the contest, “choppy” is the word he used to describe it:

“The game was real choppy. Seemed like it was a lot of calls on both ends. Kind of messed up the whole rhythm of the game. Lot of turnovers early. I don’t really think either team found their rhythm. You have nights like this.”

And when asked about there being so many fouls called on both sides:

“You just said it. Fouls on each side. It just went like that.”

The Kings were more than happy to take full advantage of the Wizards’ gluttony of errors and weakened front-line (the Wizards were without Ian Mahinmi, again). Cousins eyes must have lit up when he realized that he would have a six-minute stretch of one-on-one basketball with Jason Smith due to Gortat’s foul trouble. Cousins proceeded to display the type of athleticism and agility for a 6-foot-11, 270-pound player that makes every GM in the NBA salivate. Cousins has it all, including a triple-threat dribble drive and post-moves resembling Orlando era Shaq.

The constant barrage of whistles in that second quarter made time seemingly slow down to half speed inside the Verizon Center, as another sub-13,000 group of attendees (and bloggers) grew restless from the lack of game flow. The Wizards committed 12 personal fouls in the quarter and that resulted in the Kings shooting an astronomical 19 free throw attempts (they made 11).

Turnovers also played a major part in how Sacramento was able to outscore Washington 34-25 in the quarter. The Wizards committed nine second-quarter turnovers, and the Kings took advantage of those miscues to the tune of 13 points off turnovers. Those live ball turnovers are a straight up detriment to any form of winning-style basketball, and a large part of the responsibility falls on the shoulders of John Wall. Optimus Dime must have been going through some kind of mechanical malfunction on this night, because he committed a season-high 11 turnovers and did not score his first points until the 1:15 mark of the second quarter.

When Wall was asked about getting into a flow during the game, he also lamented the constant foul calls and took responsibility for his turnovers:

“Turnovers were just over-dribbling, trying to make passes to certain people but those guys are pretty athletic and they deflected some of my passes. It was probably like eight, 10 minutes straight where it was just fouls, fouls, fouls or turnovers. It’s hard to get in a rhythm but we did a great job of trying to find Brad [Beal]. He had a rhythm going for us most of the past couple games he’s been pretty hot and keeping us into games. Then guys find a way to do the little things to help us win.”

They key cog that was able to see the light through the forest was once again Bradley Beal. He scored 31 points on a career-high seven 3s, which bumped his season percentage from behind the arc up to .382 (on 6.8 attempts per game). It is undeniable through the 16 games played this season that this Bradley Beal is assertive and willing to fire away from deep. Scott Brooks knows it. John Wall knows it. And, most importantly, Beal knows it.

The fact that Beal is launching more 3-point attempts, and more shots in general, is one of the more pleasant surprises for the Wizards this season. He’s always been capable of cementing himself as a foundational block for the franchise. (Those were always the expectations.) But it’s disheartening to watch this team play lazily for extended periods, which leads to mad dashes to the finish line where they have to eke out should-have-been-routine victories. The process is all jacked up, and the win is just a Band-Aid on an open sore; this Wizards team lacks depth and focus.

Again, Wall deserves some culpability for not getting his team into a rhythm early on in games—that “choppiness” makes it hard to appreciate Wall’s 11 assists. There were too many possessions when Wall shot, and where no one else touched the ball. The ability to take games over is what makes Wall a dynamic player, but on a night when he lacked a shooting stroke, he should have focused on being more of a facilitator.

The Wizards were not able to get a ton of production out of their bench, but second-year player Kelly Oubre contributed to the win. Oubre was able to grab a career-high 10 rebounds, and finished with his first career double-double. Young Spider Kelly was able to take advantage of the Kings’ small-ball lineup of Matt Barnes at the 4 and pretty much whooped Barnes’ tail on the glass all night.

No one likes losing, and the Wizards will most certainly take this win—their third in four games. But Monday night’s game showcased a lot of this team’s flaws. While the end result is important, it is even more prudent to build good habits around the foundation. That’s winning basketball. And there’s season enough left to develop it.

 

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Wizards Overcome Boogie and Dance to Victory in OT, 101-95 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/wizards-overcome-boogie-and-dance-to-victory-in-ot-101-95.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/wizards-overcome-boogie-and-dance-to-victory-in-ot-101-95.html#comments Tue, 29 Nov 2016 15:49:24 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51997

Beal gets 2nd chance, nails big OT 3, board-assist by Markieff. (Kings wanted call on Gortat but SAC locked & held screeners all night). pic.twitter.com/3fiiXmuMKi

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) November 29, 2016

The long five minutes of overtime had all of the dreaded ingredients of an unsavory, malodorous, #SoWizards, late-game choke job. 

But this story starts in the fourth quarter. Both of Sacramento’s top two players, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, were on the bench for nearly five minutes midway through the final period. The Wizards scored 12 points and amassed an eight-point lead, thanks to consecutive 3-point shots by Bradley Beal, while the Kings scored just two during that same stretch. Then the shenanigans began.

Cousins scored 10 of the Kings’ final 12 points on a dazzling array of jumpers after behind-the-back dribbles, open shots from the top of the key, and drives to the basket at the expense of both Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Beal, who had been the main offensive threat the entire game (28 points), barely touched the ball down the stretch save for two missed free throws and a shot that was blocked by Cousins. And at the end of regulation, instead of getting to the basket where he could possibly draw a foul or find Beal open on the wing, John Wall drove halfway in the lane, then shot a high degree of difficulty 19-footer over Darren Collison, which fell short.

When Scott Brooks was asked why he called the final play of regulation for Wall, who had shot just 5-for-13 with 13 points and 10 turnovers up to that point, instead of Beal, who had shot a robust 11-for-21 for 28 points, he had this to say:

“We wanted to make sure that they didn’t have time on the clock, and that’s the risk you take when you run a pin down action. I wanted to just make sure that was the last shot. He could have attacked I thought, but I trust John to make good decisions. Tonight he had a tough night with his turnovers but he didn’t let that get him down.”

Despite their late fourth quarter collapse, the Wizards were able to re-focus on defense and find just enough offense to win the game in overtime. They held the Kings to three points on a contested 3-pointer by Rudy Gay and peppered in nine points of their own. Three of those nine points came with 1:57 left in overtime when Beal used a Gortat screen to free himself from the ample defensive pressure of former Wizard Garrett Temple. Beal missed the open shot but got another chance when Morris rebounded and threw the ball back to him; he nailed the second chance to put the Wizards up 97-92.

When asked about that play after the game, Jedi DeMarcus Cousins was thoroughly disgusted: “He definitely had a big game, he had some big shots. One possession where he missed the first one, got it back, then made it. Man . . .” and then he trailed off and shook his head.

John Wall hit all four of his free throws after Beal’s basket, and the Kings, who had played and won the night before in Brooklyn against the Nets, simply ran out of gas. The Wizards won their sixth game of the season, and their third in four games, 101-95. Despite the victory, this was a nasty game to watch, as Cousins opined in his post game comments. Both teams combined for 43 turnovers (Wall had a game-high 11), and there were 47 total fouls called. Aside from Beal and Cousins, no player on either team was able to develop any semblance of offensive flow.

Still, there were plenty of proverbial game balls to be given out, but Beal deserves the bulk of the praise for this Wizards victory. He hit a career-high seven 3-pointers, and he scored over 30 points (31) for the third time in the last five games. He only got to the free throw line twice (he missed both of them), but his 50 percent shooting from the field (including 53 percent from the 3-point line) more than made up for that. And when Beal wasn’t shooting the lights out, leading the bench players, or trying to wrestle a rebound away from the bigger, stronger Cousins, he was chasing down blocks and then putting exclamation points on possessions.

Like this one:

Marcin Gortat.

Gortat didn’t have the best game offensively (10 points and seven rebounds), and on paper he was thoroughly abused by Cousins, who had 36 points, 20 rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 40 minutes of play (one night after amassing 37 points, 11 rebounds, and four steals in 36 minutes). Despite Beal’s assertion that Gortat would need help, he was often on an island against Cousins and more than held his own by forcing Cousins to shoot more than 30 times to get that point total.

“It’s hard for me to say this because [DeMarcus] Cousins had 36 [points] and 20 [rebounds], but Marcin did a great job on him,” Brooks said after the game. “It took 34 shots to get those 36 points, and probably four or five was just like ‘Are you kidding me?’ – couldn’t do anything better than what he did, but he made them.

“He’s a great player, he’s an All-Star, he’s an all NBA player, but I thought Marcin battled him throughout the game, made his catches and shots tough and made him miss I think, 18 shots.”

Otto Porter.

The Wizards leaned heavily on Beal in the first half (18 points), but in the third quarter when they were trying to tread water and stay in the game, it was Porter who came to the rescue. Before leaving the floor with four fouls with 2:37 left in the third quarter, Porter had nine points, three rebounds, and two steals. He also ran the court, deflected balls, and provided the Wizards with energy and scoring to offset Cousin’s 11 third-quarter points. It wasn’t his most impressive effort from a scoring standpoint, but on a night when only one of the Wizards’ two best players was on, he did an admirable job of holding it down until Beal regained his shooting touch.

Kelly Oubre.

Against the San Antonio Spurs, Oubre played just 2:36 in the second quarter thanks to a sizable defensive gaffe where his man scored an easy layup. Scott Brooks promptly subbed Oubre out of the game for Porter, and he spent the remainder of the game as a spectator.

Prior to Monday night’s game against the Kings, Brooks was quite clear about what he expected to see from Oubre off the bench:

“He has to focus and lock in on playing right away. And you don’t have five or six minutes to get into the rhythm of the game. When you’re coming off the bench and when you’re watching the game, that’s your time to get ready. You have the ability to see the game from the bench, and that’s an advantage. You can’t to see how the defense is going, you get to see the hot hand and that’s an advantage, so when you get in the game you gotta lock in. You can’t get beat back door, you can’t get beat in transition, you can’t get beat off of pin downs. It’s one thing if a guy makes a tough shot over you but you can’t give up easy points.”

Oubre checked into the game with 2:01 left in the first quarter and shortly thereafter grabbed an offensive rebound and put-back off a missed 3-pointer by Tomas Satoransky, giving the Wizards a 25-19 lead after one period. Oubre continued to play aggressively in the second quarter when he had six points and six rebounds. In the fourth quarter, both of his offensive rebounds led to Wizards baskets. His first rebound turned into an assist to Beal, who gave the Wizards a 79-78 lead, and his second offensive rebound of the period led to two made free throws after Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein fouled him. Oubre even mixed it up with Cousins a bit after the two got tangled fighting for a rebound.

He was aggressive on both ends of the floor and earned coach Brooks’ trust back after the game with hustle plays like these:

Noted.

#1) The Wizards picked up three technical fouls on Monday—one from Wall (his fourth this year), one from Brooks, and one from a very demonstrative Gortat, who collapsed to the floor in disbelief with his hands on his head. Morris, whom Brooks implored to keep his cool during games after getting thrown out of Saturday’s Spurs game, did not draw a technical. After the game, Brooks said he and his team had to a better job of staying cool.

#2) John Wall banged his knee early in the first half against the Kings, and he seemed to be shaking his wrist at various points during the game as well. Neither Wall nor Brooks mentioned the wrist after the game, but he is expected to get treatment and miss tomorrow’s practice. No word on whether Wall will miss Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

#3) Ian Mahinmi missed the Kings game with soreness in his non-surgically repaired right knee. Brooks said this was a precautionary measure and his status for Wednesday’s game is not yet known.

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Satoransky Interview: LeBron Is Another Challenge For Me, I Gotta Get Stronger http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/satoransky-interview-lebron-is-another-challenge-for-me-i-gotta-get-stronger.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/satoransky-interview-lebron-is-another-challenge-for-me-i-gotta-get-stronger.html#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 20:17:04 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51991 Just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday in America, Wizards rookie Tomas Satoransky did an interview with BasketMag, an outlet from his home country, the Czech Republic. A translation of that interview via TAI’s Czech correspondent, Lukas Kuba (@Luke_Mellow), can be found below.

20161004-tomas-satoransky

Satoransky on his first month in the NBA:

“We don’t exactly have the best record we could wish for. We started out badly in away games and that dragged out with us for almost the whole month. We failed to win even two games in a row, which cost us a better record. Now we’ll try to fix it. We won our recent game with Phoenix and showed a little better play, both on defense and offense. For us, the most important thing is to defend well—that should be the foundation of our team—but so far we have failed to catch the right rhythm.”

On his play and role on the Wizards:

“I can only be satisfied with my playing time. I have a pretty big role, alternating between several positions and I was in the starting five for two games [when John Wall sat out], which is very positive for me. I’m glad that the coach believes in me, although certainly the team results can always be better. Every game I try to play with more confidence. I’m already starting to get used to my role, and when I go out there on the floor I’m not that surprised anymore.”

On if there is a growing trust from his teammates:

“Yes, definitely—especially in the last few games, you could see that my teammates’ trust in me is much bigger. They believe in me when I get the ball, [because] they know that I will look for them and create [scoring] situations for them. It gets better every game. With the starting center, Marcin Gortat, we have begun to find chemistry together—the chemistry was already there in some games. Since the beginning, I got enough playing time from the coach and I’d only evaluate that positively. When I go into a game, I always try to do my job on defense, which was the reason why I got on the floor in the first couple of games. And this is precisely what I should continue to do.”

On why the Wizards’ defense doesn’t work:

“It’s because we have a new team, with a lot of new players. Another thing: the coach is new, too. In the NBA, the incorporation of a playing style takes a bit longer, because the preseason isn’t as long as in Europe. And very often the teams deal with it during regular season games and they improve gradually. We are already starting to get used to the defensive system of coach (Scott) Brooks. Much of the problem is our transition defense. That cost us the game with Miami, but [in the next game] with Phoenix it worked better. You could see some progress there.”

On his individual play and scoring:

“I’m still working on my long-range shooting in order to make the defense come out and guard me tight, instead of backing off of me. I score most of my points off what such-and-such defense gives me. I’m starting to be more confident shooting along the perimeter. I’m working on that with our coaching staff in order to make defenses respect me more. Then I’ll be able to get into better positions and will thus create better situations for my teammates. So far, I’ve been scoring baskets mainly by being very aggressive. I’m continuing to try to build up more respect from opponents.”

On if he recognized that the media and fans liked him from the start, and wanted him to play more:

“In truth, I didn’t notice it that much, nor did I seek attention, even though I was aware of it. A good deal of it was because a lot of people haven’t known me until now, because they haven’t followed European hoops. They were surprised by my game, that I don’t play like a complete rookie and that I play with a composure—which obviously delights me—but I’ve played this way the last five years. I’ve built a level of play in which I have confidence in, and I’m glad that I can keep convincing people that I can play.”

On what stuck in his mind the most from his first 13 games in the NBA:

“It wasn’t an individual play. Rather I found it unreal—when I thought about those games—that, in every game, I’m in situations where I guard the best players in the world. Perhaps during just one week, I got into one-on-one situations against Kyrie Irving, LeBron, then in the next game against (Dwyane) Wade, and after that against Carmelo (Anthony). Those are the situations which mean a lot to you. Of course, you don’t think about them during game, but afterward I was saying to myself that it’s unreal. I watched these players when I was little and now I can guard them.”

On which NBA star he enjoyed playing against the most:

“Well, I can’t say just one. In those situations I was 100 percent focused on the defense, and I did the best I could. But in some cases, their talent is so huge that they score a basket despite good defense. Dwyane Wade is an awfully strong player, and LeBron James, well, didn’t score on me on a drive just because he missed an easy bunny. He outweighs me so much that it’s almost impossible to defend him. It’s another challenge for me, I still gotta get stronger and work on myself individually even more, because these players belong among the best in the world.”

On if facing the best players gives him energy for future games:

“Yes, of course. I don’t play so many minutes, so I’m rarely exhausted. I always find the energy to play and my appetite is so big that it trumps any fatigue. I look forward to each new opponent.”

On what life is like in Washington, D.C.:

“It is one of the most beautiful American cities which I’ve visited. Of course, I haven’t had much time to explore it, because the pace in the NBA is murderous. One doesn’t realize it until he begins to play here. Two games in two days is very time-consuming and we play practically four times a week. During a game day, I usually don’t get home [until very late] and I only have the time to go out somewhere in the city during very rare days off.”

On if the Wizards players discussed the recent presidential election:

“Yeah, that’s logical. The whole of America dealt with it, so my teammates and the people around the team dealt with it. We are in the capital—the team is located five minutes from the White House. The elections were talked about around the whole NBA. Let’s just say it’s a very big change. As for who my teammates voted for? I’d say that most of them didn’t go to vote…”


 

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Big Brother San Antonio Puts the Wizards in Their Place, 112-100 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/big-brother-san-antonio-puts-the-wizards-in-their-place-112-100.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/big-brother-san-antonio-puts-the-wizards-in-their-place-112-100.html#comments Sun, 27 Nov 2016 15:12:54 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51961 The Wizards had to play a near-perfect game to maybe, almost have a chance. And even then, you’re never going to out-Spurs the Spurs in cultivated talent, strategy, or methodical patience.

As any game between any two teams on any given night in the NBA, it started hotly contested as each franchise, fresh off winning the day before (1), was geared to keep momentum while feeling the opponent out. The Wizards timidly fronted two wins in a row for the first time all season, while San Antonio sported a 9-0 road record.

After winning the tip Washington ran a choreographed play and Bradley Beal found himself getting the ball while on the move and an angle into the lane. The San Antonio defense collapsed and Beal found Marcin Gortat for a bucket at the rim. The Wizards, I’m afraid, played to their maximum potential in keeping it close, 22-23, with the Spurs after one quarter. John Wall pushed the pace and took smart shots; Beal scored 8 points on 7 shots; Otto Porter scrapped; Gortat was present; and Markieff Morris at least offered a stiff challenge to the opposing 4, LaMarcus Aldridge. The teams scored in flurries over the first five minutes—a 12-12 draw with each squad 5-for-9 from the floor.

But Washington’s defense, particularly from that 4 position, quickly rolled down the hill on the path of being a step behind. Thanks to the snappy Spurs ball movement, Morris could not even get a contest up versus an Aldridge 19-footer—buckets. Then Morris seemed to be targeted for a switch onto Kawhi Leonard, who hit a 3 in Morris’ face. According to NBA.com player tracking, opponents are hitting 47.1 percent from 3-point land on Morris this season. That’s bad. With little choice, although Scott Brooks often varies his first player off the bench, Andrew Nicholson was inserted at nearly the six-minute mark of the first (similar as in Orlando). Nicholson missed two wide open 3-point shots (red carpet rolled out by David Lee) and struggled in similar manners on defense. Pick your poison, one could presume.

Morris would later get ejected after losing his cool early in the third quarter (2), but not before dunking very hard on one Daniel Green—damn. But some consequences of the ejection: Ian Mahinmi, making his season debut (3), and Jason Smith were minus-6 in nine minutes together, and Mahinmi and Nicholson were minus-3 in just under five minutes. Later on, when the Wizards were desperate to make it respectable, Porter saw time at the 4. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich just patted Washington on the head and checked Porter with Aldridge. The spirt of the Wizards was crushed, who knows exactly when.

“Also, they made a lot of shots late in the shot clock, some tough shots. But they do it all the time. It’s not like it just happened, that’s how they play,” said coach Scott Brooks afterward. “They’re so disciplined and [have] so much experience, and a lot of guys can make shots. They have a lot of shooters on the floor. But we put them on the free throw line 29 times and we couldn’t get there. That’s definitely a big part of their win.”

What also didn’t bode well: cheers were much louder for Pau Gasol hitting a jumper for San Antonio’s first points—including from a contingent of Spanish media seated above section 104 (4)—than for Beal popping a 3 to put the Wizards up 7-4. Wall and Beal each played more than their starting counterparts in the opening period, so it was a significant blow when Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons battled harder when it was presumed the Wizards would have an advantage. Appearing fresher than Wall in the second quarter, Tony Parker (11 points in the period) found his way into the paint several times, and even had Jason Smith stumbling backwards into the lane while fouling Parker. When asked before the game who has assumed the main leadership role with Tim Duncan’s retirement, Gregg Popovich didn’t hesitate to say Parker. The Spurs lightly put pressure on their opponent’s neck, turning a one-point first quarter advantage into a halftime lead.

Washington’s starters actually finished plus-2 in just over 16 minutes of action on the night, but so many hats have been hung on that peg that it’s about to crack. The bench was bad as usual. After the opening five, only one of the next eight most-used lineups finished in the positive—the desperado crew of Trey Burke, Beal, Marcus Thornton, Porter, and Gortat that actually outscored the Spurs 10-9 in nearly three minutes on the court. It just felt like the Wizards were star-struck kids playing in front of their NBA idols, so it was especially un-plucky to hear them after the game bothered by a free throw discrepancy of 15 (14-29, Spurs); San Antonio made 13 more.

They were a more aggressive team. They got a lot of easy shots and I think we missed some easy shots,” opined John Wall when it was over. “There was a stretch in the second quarter where we were missing and they were coming down and executing all the plays they wanted and getting the easy basket.” What perhaps the Wizards don’t fully get it that the Spurs work very hard at making it look easy. An overwhelming presence of black and silver in the crowd and spurts of a “Go, Spurs, Go” chants also makes it kind of hard to be a Wizard.

Every team in the league probably wishes they can do what they do, but not every team is built the way they are. I think their system is made for their caliber players, and the guys that they have,” expressed Beal. “We have a different system, we have a way that we play and we’ve shown that we can be successful. San Antonio is not an invincible team, they can be beat, just like everybody else. At the end of the day it’s about defense, and we didn’t play it at the end of the day.” According to the hustle stats, the Spurs certainly did contest 5 percent more field goal attempts than their opponents.

San Antonio’s offense started the third quarter by dropping Kawhi Leonard into the paint like a weight into water; he created a 3-pointer for Danny Green. It didn’t take long for lead Wizards to become nihilists on defense. Gortat halfway bothered to contest a long Gasol 2-pointer. A visibly fatigued Wall didn’t have much fight over a screen to chase Parker. But Washington went hard on offense, scoring 32 points in the third (compared to 22, 22, and 24 in other quarters). Wall scored 11, Beal scored 7, Morris scored 7 (before his ejection), and Gortat scored 4 in the third period—it seemed like they had to work so hard for those points. San Antonio meanwhile ground down their weary opponent with 306 passes to 423 touches per NBA.com tracking data; the Wizards passed the ball 16 percent less and allotted 12 percent fewer touches.

The fourth quarter was more of a formality, even though Brooks held on for hope. He left his starters in, sans the ejected Morris, until 67 seconds and a 15-point deficit were left. Of course Popovich didn’t risk it from his end, either, leaving some of his main horses in to gallop over Washington until the same time-stamp.

“I’m not disappointed in the way we competed,” explained Brooks. “A couple breaks here and there we could have made it even a closer game.”

It wasn’t a totally fruitless loss for Washington. It was the San Antonio Spurs. But the long faces around Washington’s locker room, players looking for ways to duck the media, and a general sense of exasperation say it’s no longer early in the season. Fifteen games, nearly one-fifth of the schedule, are in the book for this 5-10 team that seems to be losing belief that it can avoid the brink. Washington still seems to have the right coach for culture-building—Brooks is locked in for the next four seasons at guaranteed money—but he and his players, those who can actually play, must also overcome factors outside of their control.

Next on Washington’s radar: Sacramento visits on Monday (after playing the Nets in Brooklyn on Sunday), they fly to Oklahoma City on Tuesday to play the Thunder on Wednesday, and then they’ll head to San Antonio for a Friday rematch with the Spurs. The Wizards haven’t won in Alamo City since 1999.

Noted.

#1) Scott Brooks, after his initial mention above, further expanded on San Antonio’s cool under pressure:

“They don’t panic when the shot clock is down to 5 or 6 seconds, it’s kind of like they thrive in that, and they understand that they have another pass, or two, and they make it.”

Indeed, the facts check out. The Spurs field an eFG% of 47.3 percent with 4 or less seconds on the shot clock. The Wizards’ eFG% in that span is 28.9 percent.

#2) Tomas Satoransky has struggled the past two games: 24 minutes, 0-7 FGs, 0-5 3Ps, 0-0 FTs, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 fouls, and minus-16. Brooks on Sato:

#3) Ian Mahinmi played 14 minutes in his debut: 0-1 FGs, 1-2 FTs, 1 rebound, 1 block, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, and minus-11. His post-game feelings:

#4) Insult to injury: Bradley Beal got mic-checked after the game.


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From The Other Side: A Good Bench is a Terrible Thing to Waste http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/from-the-other-side-a-good-bench-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/from-the-other-side-a-good-bench-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste.html#comments Sun, 27 Nov 2016 14:46:14 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51957 Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use our access to explore what is going on with the opposing team the Wizards are facing. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the role of the San Antonio Spurs bench in their 112-100 victory over the Wizards.

To criticize the paltry production of this year’s Washington Wizards bench is the lowest of low hanging fruit. It has been done ad nauseam by my colleagues, as well as national writers like ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Trey Burke has lost his confidence, Jason Smith and Andrew Nicholson cannot be counted on, Kelly Oubre has yet to find the confidence he had in summer league, and Tomas Satoransky has balanced positive flashes with expected rookie struggles.

The good news for the Wizards, at least in the long term, is that Ian Mahinmi (and his $64 million contract) finally made his season debut after missing the first 14 games recovering from knee surgery in mid-October. Mahinmi played just 14 minutes and scored a point with three fouls and two turnovers during that span, but the rustiness he showed was perfectly understandable. Once he gets into basketball shape and gets consistent minutes, he’ll be a physical presence inside, and he’ll be able to set good screens, as Scott Brooks mentioned in his pregame presser.

Conversely, San Antonio’s bench continues to be one of the many strengths of the team. Last year, the Spurs bench ranked third in the NBA in points scored with 38.5 per game, and through the first 16 games of this season, they are 12th in the league with an average of 34.1 points. The Wizards bench, meanwhile, is second to last in the NBA with 24.4 points per game.

Before the contest Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked about this year’s bench and if it’s the best he’s ever had. First, he said he hadn’t thought about it, then he said his best bench ever was the one he had when Manu Ginobili was young, spry, and not at all fazed by not starting. After the game, with his bench producing 38 points, Popovich was a little more forthcoming with the praise—he said he was impressed with their ability to come together so soon and play effectively.

Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge was more blunt and generous with shout-outs. The day before beating the Wizards, San Antonio defeated the Celtics, 109-103, in a hard-fought victory. Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points, but Tony Parker, Pau Gasol (scoreless), Danny Green, and Aldridge (4-for-12) combined to score just 28 points. The bench, however, led by Patty Mills (19 points), David Lee (15 points), and Davis Bertans (15 points), scored 56 points in total to carry the Spurs. When asked about the importance of his team’s bench after the Wizards game, Aldridge referred back to the Celtics game as a point of reference:

“Last game was priceless. I mean, we [the starters] basically shit the bed to be blunt about it to start the game, and they came in and they brought the energy. They made shots, they moved the ball, and they basically showed us how to play. So I think that’s a major luxury in this league, and I thought last game it was priceless for us.”

In Washington, the Spurs bench didn’t have the dramatic impact they had the previous night, but they were effective in quelling the Wizards at various points during the game.

David Lee.

In 20 minutes of play, David Lee had four points, seven rebounds, and three fouls, which is a far cry from his career averages of 14 points and 9.1 rebounds. But with eight minutes left in the game, Lee blocked not one but two shots by Wizards in a singular possession, which led to a Jonathon Simmons dunk that extended the Spurs lead from 14 to 16 points and energized the entire team.

Patty Mills.

Before the game, Popovich praised Mills for making the transition from being known solely as the energy guy to being a cerebral point guard who can put his teammates in productive spots on the floor. Mills used both his cerebral and physical gifts to score on John Wall at various points. In the first half, he hit scored five points on consecutive possessions, one when Wall went under the screen, leaving Mills wide open. In the second half, Mills just flat out used his quickness to get past Wall and get a desirable shot. He finished with 13 points and four assists in just 19 minutes of play.

Jonathon Simmons.

Simmons was the high scorer off the Spurs bench with 15 points to go with four assists, two steals, a blocked shot, and five fouls in 23 minutes of play. Yes, he spent a good deal of his time airborne as the clip above aptly demonstrates, but he also provided the energy and efficiency (he shot 5-for-6 from the field) that a bench player should provide—especially on the second night of back-to-back games. He hit pull-up shots; he drove the lane; he guarded Wall, Beal, Porter, Oubre, and Satoransky; he hit 3-pointers; he dunked on fast breaks; and he even had a LeBron-like block on Marcus Thornton.

Speaking of that blocked shot, here was Simmons on why it was so important to go after it:

 

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Opening Statements 15: Wizards vs Spurs — Brooks on Mahinmi’s Debut & Pre-Game Pops http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/opening-statements-15-wizards-vs-spurs-brooks-on-mahinmis-debut-pre-game-pops.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/opening-statements-15-wizards-vs-spurs-brooks-on-mahinmis-debut-pre-game-pops.html#comments Sat, 26 Nov 2016 23:45:53 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51952

The Wizards still have not beaten the Spurs in San Antonio since 1999, but tonight they have a chance to make it three wins in a row at home versus the five-time NBA champions.

Last season’s win represented so much promise … that was eventually broken. On Nov. 4 2015, Bradley Beal scored a game-high 25 points and hit a sweet step-back jumper at the buzzer to win the game. It boosted the Wizards to a 3-1 record, and then things just sort of went downhill from there. During the CSN television broadcast of Friday night’s game in Orlando, analyst Phil Chenier could not immediately recall whether that shot took place last season or the season prior. It does seem like ages ago.

But there are positives, even as the 5-9 Wizards continue to stumble in the early going. Beal is healthy and seemingly finding his rhythm. And John Wall is healthy, hoping to further build on his rhythm and stamina. Tonight Wall will be playing in his second back-to-back of the season, and many will be observing how he looks after playing almost 39 minutes and carrying his team to victory in Orlando.

Another positive: Ian Mahinmi is set to make his Wizards debut tonight, per Scott Brooks before the game. Here’s the Wizards coach talking about the plan for Mahinmi’s minutes, what he brings to the table, and his role on the offense (particularly in replacing the more offensively inclined Marcin Gortat):

Finally, Gregg Popovich. The Spurs coach didn’t wax too poetic prior the game, but here’s video of his extended pre-game media session where Pops touched on a variety of topics, including:

  • When Scott Brooks visited San Antonio’s training camp during his season out of coaching.
  • Patty Mills and San Antonio’s productive bench.
  • Whether Popovich has ever had to deal with two players with a “tendency to dislike each other on the court,” as Wall said about his relationship with Beal this summer.
  • If he’s received any blowback from his comments regarding President-elect Donald Trump.
  • Who has stepped up as ‘the’ leader for the Spurs in Tim Duncan’s retirement.

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Weekend Recap: John Wall Leads Point of Attack in Washington’s First Road Victory http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/weekend-recap-john-wall-leads-point-of-attack-in-washingtons-first-road-victory.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/weekend-recap-john-wall-leads-point-of-attack-in-washingtons-first-road-victory.html#comments Sat, 26 Nov 2016 23:12:37 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51940
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[photo via the inimitable @recordsANDradio]

The Wizards were finally able to get their first road victory of the season on Friday against an Orlando Magic team that can best be described as little brother—Washington has won 13 of the last 14 versus the Magic. Despite that dominance, the contest still came down to the wire (as it often has for the Wizards).

Playing what appeared to be their best basketball of the season, the Wizards built a 19-point lead in the first quarter, just to watch it all crumble as the team was barely able to reach the finish line. But as the old adage goes, a win is a win.

Washington got their double-digit lead by wreaking havoc on the defensive end against Orlando, not to be mistaken for an offensive juggernaut with their measly 91.9 points per game average (29th in the NBA). That defensive intensity started at the point of attack with John Wall leading the way with his three steals. The most beautiful of those was when Wall used a freakish burst of speed to pick the pocket of an oblivious Elfrid Payton as he tried to advance the ball. Wall circled all the way back to finish with a slam at the rim (pick courtesy Bradley Beal).

“Defense won this game for us, John set the tone defensively for us in the first quarter. His pressure on the ball and keeping (Elfrid) Payton out of the paint. He just did a good job of orchestrating our team.” —Scott Brooks on Wall’s defensive effort and leadership

Wizards television announcers Phil Chenier and Steve Buckhantz told Wall, as he casually at on the scorer’s table after the victory, of his accomplishment in passing Elvin Hayes for No. 2 on the franchise’s all-time steals list. Wall responded by saying that he wants to be first at everything. In due time, he may actually lead the Wizards in every statistical category. We already watched him pass Wes Unseld to become the franchise’s all-time leader in assists earlier this season; Wall added 10 more assists to that total with his performance on Friday night. Wall currently averages 8.7 assists per game, over 40 percent of his team’s total 20.7 assists per game (ranked 22nd in the league). Ball movement is one of Washington’s weaknesses, and that very lack of offensive fluidity caused the stagnation which let the Magic back into the game.

Another glaring weakness the Wizards weren’t able to hide: opposing dominance in the rebounding department. Washington was out-rebounded by the Magic, 55-46, marking the fourth straight game they were thoroughly beat on the glass. Despite that, the Wizards maintained an offensive advantage in the paint, outscoring the Magic 46-40 near the basket. Wall deserves much of the credit for that, because he was attacking the rim like a man possessed. When the Wizards needed to close out the game, it was Wall who converted on two driving layup attempts, including an and-one finish with one minute left that gave the Wizards a 91-87 lead, the final cushion they needed to win.

Continued Bench Struggles.

Washington’s bench was outscored 22-12 and all five second unit players finished with a negative in plus-minus. Scott Brooks went back to an all bench lineup in the second quarter, just as he did against the Suns earlier in the week. It’s hardly a coincidence that Washington’s massive lead subsequently evaporated, and many are finding it hard to imagine how Brooks can go extended stretches with neither Wall nor Beal on the court.

Staggering Wall and Beal’s minutes is a theme that Wizards critics have been wanting to see for the past few seasons, as it allows for both to have spurts where they can keep the offensive flow. Too many times it seems as if Washington’s second unit is aimlessly running around the court instead of trying to execute. While Tomas Satoransky has proven to be a legitimate NBA rotation player, his defensive versatility is further along than his offensive play-making skills. There’s no doubt going to be a learning curve—playing point in the NBA is the hardest position to learn. But Satoransky needs to be more assertive and less timid with the ball in his hands.

The rest of the bench is a cast full of misfits who either can’t create their own shot, or in the case of Marcus Thornton, are not trustworthy enough to take enough “good” shots within the offense. It is becoming more and more apparent that the second unit desperately needs help. Until then, Wall and Beal will have to continue taking turns putting this team on their respective backs to maintain some sort of semblance of respectability, and even that might not be enough.


STAT CHECK.

  • The Wizards as a team are minus-45 in 725 minutes on the season (15 games).
  • With both Wall and Beal on the court, they are plus-21 in 316 minutes.
  • With only Wall, the Wizards are minus-15 in 129 minutes.
  • With only Beal, they are minus-6 in 89 minutes.

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Wizards Salvage Win in Orlando, Still Searching Through the Season’s Fog http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/wizards-salvage-win-in-orlando-still-searching-through-the-seasons-fog.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/11/wizards-salvage-win-in-orlando-still-searching-through-the-seasons-fog.html#comments Sat, 26 Nov 2016 16:02:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=51941

Pretty cold move by John Wall vs Elfrid Payton here. #Wizards-#Magic pic.twitter.com/caAWNAldzs

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) November 26, 2016

The Wizards escaped Orlando with a 94-91 win on Friday night, despite being outscored by the Magic in each the second, third, and fourth quarters. In total, Orlando won that stretch 77-68, but what was built in the first quarter ultimately sealed Washington’s race to the top. That and being carried atop the back of John Wall.

The Wizards zoomed out to a game-high 19-point lead, 26-7, nine minutes into the contest—an opening stretch we’ll initially concentrate on. The catalyst was an unseen (thus far this season) team aggression on defense. Wall was all over the court as he often is capable of, but just a little more. At one point midway through the period Wall quite noticeably darted into the lane on helpside defense to dissuade a drive (perhaps too far), but then used his otherworldly athleticism to contest a 3-pointer in the corner, taking him way off the court. But as soon as the Wizards rebounded the miss, Wall flashed back into the picture to lead the charge for transition points.

Bradley Beal was more holistically locked in than ever this season, skying for rebounds and for at least once this season using his threat to score to create for others. (Orlando’s defense also loaded up on Beal, which only encouraged ball movement for the Wizards; he finished with eight assists.) Beal secured five points, three assists, and two rebounds in the first nine minutes. And Scott Brooks went early to the only player on the roster who is truly a handful in the post, Markieff Morris, and that pounding versus Serge Ibaka paved lanes on which other Wizards could move. Six different Wizards scored in the front nine and four starters each scored at least five points.

The sloppy Magic committed several unforced errors (six turnovers in that initial nine-minute stretch), but Washington created the environment for them to wilt. Even Morris was anticipating when he’d be needed on defense, poking away a pass from the helpside, the steal leading to an Otto Porter 3 (assist by Wall). Switching assignments in defending Orlando were executed with more precision (and of course, aided by the fact that opposing defenses can always go under screens set for Magic point guard Elfrid Payton). The point: the Wizards were very much the team they needed to be.

Wall was removed from the game with that 19-point lead, which coincided with a timeout request from Magic coach Frank Vogel. Orlando immediately ran off seven straight points to end the first quarter. Porter missed a pull-up 3, Andrew Nicholson missed an open 3, Marcin Gortat couldn’t handle a pass from Beal (turnover), and then Gortat and Marcus Thornton botched a screen. It continued into the second quarter—bricks, bad ball movement, and it just wasn’t Tomas Satoransky’s night. Ain’t bench life a bitch? From when Wall sat with three minutes left in the first until he returned at the eight-minute mark of the second, the Wizards shot 2-for-13 (0-6 on 3s) and were outrebounded 11-3 (5-2 on the offensive glass). But because of Orlando’s own sloppiness, the Wizards were only outscored 13-6 over that secondary stretch of eight minutes.

Washington was generally able to maintain an 8-10-point cushion from that point until midway through the third quarter when that dwindled and the game became tight. After halftime Elfrid Payton attacked the basket more aggressively, and that cracked the shell for his teammates. Payton scored nine in the third and Ibaka, after getting muscled by Morris early, scored 12. The Wizards didn’t especially need free throw attempts in the beginning with the way their offense was flowing, but it became especially noticeable when they were just 4-for-6 from the line by the end of the third—Porter 1-for-2, Thornton 2-for-2, and Wall 1-for-2. A flurry of offense (eight points in 82 seconds, including a buzzer-beating Nicholson 3) kept Washington ahead and afloat entering the fourth quarter, 72-68.

But by that point it was anyone’s game. The Magic tied the game within 90 seconds of the fourth and then took a 77-76 lead within four minutes. The Wizards did not score for over a three-minute stretch until consecutive Otto Porter 3-pointers became a saving grace at 82-83, Orlando. Then John Wall took the night back over.

Over the game’s final five minutes the Wizards outscored the Magic 12-8, with eight points coming from Wall (two amazing layups and 4-for-4 on free throws) and four points from Gortat. The Polish Machine could suddenly be seen slicing down the lane, found by intelligent passers in Porter and Wall. Orlando no longer had as much will to make shots, and that’s just how the post-Thanksgiving butter-ball kind of rolled in Washington’s direction.

Aside from an amazing opening nine minutes, Orlando outscored Washington 84-68 over the remaining 39 minutes. Similar to the win on Monday against Phoenix, the eye test (as well as the analytics) revealed a neck-and-neck contest between two middling teams, and for the Wizards, continued themes. All Washington starters finished positive in plus-minus; together they played 27 minutes (about five more than their average) and finished plus-17. All Wizards bench players finished in the negative.

Still, confidence can be a funny thing. In their 14th game of the season the Wizards picked up their first road win (in six tries) and collected their first win “streak” of the year—no, two wins in a row is not really considered a streak. The now 5-9 Wizards face an appropriate test at home this evening against the 13-3 San Antonio Spurs, who beat the Celtics in Boston last night, have won eight in a row, and are an undefeated 9-0 on the road so far this season.

Washington is certainly closer to finding comfort zones for its two stars, although it will be interesting to see how much fortitude Wall and Beal have in this back-to-back set (Beal’s body spilled onto the floor several times in Orlando). But no matter what type of challenge (or revelation) this matchup against the Spurs turns out to be (and regardless of two wins in a row), the Wizards continue to inch closer toward having to do something drastic to salvage this season.

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