Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Sun, 29 Nov 2015 23:17:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.8 Late Defensive Lapse Leads to Holiday Hangover — Wizards vs Raptors, DC Council 14 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/late-defensive-lapse-leads-to-holiday-hangover-wizards-vs-raptors-dc-council-14.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/late-defensive-lapse-leads-to-holiday-hangover-wizards-vs-raptors-dc-council-14.html#comments Sun, 29 Nov 2015 23:15:42 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48752

The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs Raptors, Game 14, Nov. 28, 2015 via Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur) from the Phone Booth. Photo: @jackhaveitall.


Bradley Beal. On a night that seems to have to tipped the scale from Innocent Early-Season Slump to Full-Blown Concern, Big Panda was the one bright spot in the Verizon Center Saturday night. Beal led the Wizards in both scoring (20 points on 5-for-9 shooting) and assists (6).

Going 2-4 from the 3-point line is an average day at the hardwood office for Beal, but what was particularly impressive about Beal’s performance was his aggressiveness in attacking the rim, which leading to free throw attempts. Eight total attempts, eight free points. For the season, Brad is averaging 3.2 FTA’s per game which ranks 72nd in the NBA. The hopeful progression for Beal would have him develop into a deadly threat from behind the arc who can also win trips to the free throw line on nights when the long ball is not falling. Against the Raptors, Beal attacked the basket with great intent, leading all players with an 8-for-8 line from the the charity stripe, and thrived as a secondary ball handler next to a struggling John Wall, who has not been his usual floor general self to start this season.

Just because Beal appears in this space as team M.V.P. of the night does not mean he played a perfect game. Almost all of Beal’s productivity came in the first three quarters, and he had opportunities to make an impact on the outcome of this game in the last few minutes and failed to do so. After John Wall’s comments earlier in the week lamenting head coach Randy Wittman for having both he and Beal sitting at the same time, Wittman made a concerted effort to stagger the young stars’ minutes, as to make sure that one of them was always on the court. When Beal entered the game at the 8:51 mark of the fourth quarter, well-rested, he sputtered to the finish line going 0-for-2 from the field and committing a costly turnover with one minute left.

Beal is still on the cusp of turning the corner from great future prospect to actual NBA star, but he has already elevated his game by playing a smarter brand of basketball. Now, if he could learn how become a closer….


The X-factor for that heart breaker of a finish has to be the man who hit the game-winning reverse dagger, Corey Joseph. The Raptors were able to poach this young player from the back-end of the San Antonio Spurs roster by going out on the limb and offering him a “good faith” contract of $30 million over four years, despite limited playing opportunity. Joseph has responded by becoming a solid contributor backing up All-Star Kyle Lowry, averaging career highs in points per game (9.4), assists per game (3.2), and PER (16.7).

In a game where Lowry and DeRozan scored more than half of Toronto’s points, it was imperative for them to have that third threat, and Joseph was that, finishing with 12 points and six assists. There was nothing extremely special about what Joseph did on that last play, but give credit to the pro for being a calm and collected and capitalizing on the opportunity.


The least valuable player (L.V.P.) is a three-way tie among Ramon Sessions, Randy Wittman and John Wall.

Sessions’ negative impact is a direct correlation to his counter-part Cory Joseph outplaying him on both ends of the court. He finished 0-for-7 from the field, and from the bird’s-eye view in Section 104, most of those misses seemed like every layup attempt were a cruel joke for every fan in attendance rooting for the home team.

Sessions was one of the weak links in a defensive effort that allowed an open buzzer-beating shot. He ended up being switched onto DeRozan after a screen above the break and was beat off the dribble. Garrett Temple slide across the lane, over-helping, which left Joseph wide-open for the 3.

Sessions talked about the fatal play in the locker room after the game:

Part of me wants to blame sessions for his defensive lapse, but logic says anytime Ramon Sessions is being used on an end-of-game defensive possession, blame ought to be put on the man who made that decision. Randy Wittman has made a few questionable lineup decisions, leaving a lot of #WizardsTwitter wondering if there was any rhyme or reason to his method. Wittman made the decision to insert Jared Dudley into the starting lineup, and it mostly paid off. Dudley finished with only seven points but had a team-high plus/minus of plus-7 on the game. Dudley made one appearance in the fourth quarter of a highly contested game, and that was with five seconds left … as an inbounder (the final box showed he played two seconds in the fourth quarter). Give Wittman credit for playing the starting five so many people have advocated for, but he deserves some criticism for keeping one of his better players this season on the bench in crunch time.

After the game Wittman sarcastically remarked that if the Wizards hadn’t shot 33 percent from the field they would have won.

That Game Was … Some Real Holiday Blues.

This time of year, people are supposed to be happy. But days off mixed with family time can be extremely stressful when affairs aren’t in order. The Wizards know all about that, and if you believe Marcin Gortat, there isn’t a lot of holiday cheer in Verizon Center nowadays. In the locker room after the game, Gortat raised a few eyebrows when he called out the players, coaches, and media for being too negative.

“Everybody has to do more now,” Gortat said. “Everybody, including me. It’s not easy, but we got to cut the negativity we have coming from players, coaches, staff, media. We just got to cut that. It’s not even fun coming here anymore. There’s so much negativity. I understand we’re losing games but, damn, we just got to cut that right now, man. It’s not fun at all.”


John Wall was aggressive in his approach to finding his shots, and I’m sure that this style of play will eventually give him a boost in confidence this season, but on Saturday the Wizards needed someone to carry the team across the finish line, not a believable 2015 Kobe Bryant impersonation. Wall’s play has been sub-par this season, but no one is more upset about that then Wall himself, who continues to show maturity by taking responsibility.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 82 vs Raptors 84 — New Lineup, Familiar Result http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/key-legislature-wizards-82-vs-raptors-84-new-lineup-familiar-result.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/key-legislature-wizards-82-vs-raptors-84-new-lineup-familiar-result.html#comments Sun, 29 Nov 2015 22:38:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48755 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Raptors, Regular Season Game 14, Nov. 28, 2015, by Rashad Mobley (@rashad20).


Prior to last night’s game, Randy Wittman pushed all the buttons he knew how to push to “make his own luck,” as he called it, in an effort to shake the Wizards out of a three-game losing doldrums. Wittman was unusually playful in the pregame presser, saying the Wizards needed to play like “crazed animals,” and he joked with Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post about not wearing a tie the other night. And even though Nene and Gary Neal were unavailable due to calf and groin injuries, respectively, Wittman made a bit of a roster power move by benching Kris Humphries. Jared Dudley was placed in the lineup to man the stretch 4 position. This was not on par with Steve Kerr’s benching of Andrew Bogut in favor of Andre Iguodala in the NBA Finals, but Wittman’s hand was forced given how well Dudley had been playing on both ends of the floor. It was a necessary move.

The first nine minutes of the game made Coach Wittman look like a a successful, if mad, scientist. Dudley wasn’t particularly prolific on the scoring end, but the Raptors’ respect for his outside shot improved the offensive spacing—something that was lacking during the Wizards’ three-game losing streak. This newfound space worked to the advantage of both Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. Beal was able to both get to the rim and find his outside shot, while Gortat now had space to roll to the basket, get off hook shots in the post, and grab rebounds on both ends of the floor. It was 17-9 with 3:56 left in the first quarter, but the Raptors climbed right back into the game.

Kyle Lowry took advantage of Wall being on the bench, scoring five quick points, then found Cory Joseph for a wide open 3-pointer. Beal came back with two free throws and Otto Porter hit a 3 of his own to put the Wizards back up by seven, but in basketball that’s well within striking distance. That was a recurring theme throughout the night: The Wizards would play well enough to get a slight lead, and then Lowry, Joseph and DeRozan would claw their way back into the game. Neither team looked fluid on offense, forced to take difficult shots, which was clearly reflected on the scoreboard at halftime: 45-39, Wizards.(1)

It could be argued that a horrible shooting night for John Wall was the reason the Wizards were unable to pull away from the Raptors. He stayed aggressive on offense but returns were minimal. Wall forced outside shots, he could not finish consistently once he got to the basket, and the few times he was able to lead a fast break he turned the ball over, or failed to convert. Wall finished with 18, but the quietest 18 points he’s even scored. But that was not the reason the Wizards struggled.

The Wizards struggled due to their putrid bench. Neal, Nene and Gooden (calf, back) were injured, Dudley was in the starting lineup, and the remaining cast of bench characters (Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Kris Humphries, and Kelly Oubre) shot just 2-for-17 and scored a total of eight points. Conversely, the Raptors bench, which also played just four players, shot 10-for-18 and scored 27—12 of them coming from Cory Joseph, who had 12 points and six assists. Joseph found his fellow teammate when necessary, he hit the few open shots he had, and he even broke up a John Wall fastbreak by poking the ball out of his hands just as he went up for a layup. More on him later.

Meanwhile, the Wizards maintained their lead by the slimmest of margins, but the fluidity of the first nine minutes dried up. Dudley, who played 30 minutes the previous night in Boston, looked tired and ineffective on the offensive end of the floor. Gortat was no longer getting the precious offensive touches he so desperately wants and craves (and probably deserves), and only Beal (7 third quarter points) and Wall (8 fourth quarter points) were scoring with any consistency. With 4:24 left in the fourth quarter, the Wizards finally unraveled.

Washington went scoreless for nearly four and a half minutes, as DeMar DeRozan and Lowry scored seven unanswered points to cut the Wizards lead to one point. Wall, Beal, Gortat, and Sessions missed missed shots—there were also turnovers and a 24-second violation. A pair of free throws from Wall ended the dry spell, but DeRozan earned two shots from the stripe at the other end to bring the Raptors back within one.

After a timeout, Toronto intentionally fouled Wall. He missed both shots with 3.8 seconds to play (Wall would say after the game that his free throw misses, not his shooting, cost the Wizards the game), which set up the game-winning shot for the Raptors.

ESPN TrueHoop blog Raptors Republic broke down the shot beautifully:

DeMar DeRozan, who’d given the Wizards problems all night, drove to the basket, winning the angle on Sessions. Garrett Temple left Joseph to cut off the baseline, and DeRozan found Joseph open for the wide-open 3. The last play ended up being a microcosm of the entire game: Wall was out of the picture, completely, DeRozan made a play when he needed to, and driving past two members of the Wizards’ bench (Sessions and Temple) to find Cory Joseph, who had been the spark off the bench for the Raptors.

After the game, the Raptors Head Coach Duane Casey, Lowry and DeRozan discussed the importance of playing together, staying resilient and getting the win, despite not playing their best. The Wizards, as to be expected, were not as optimistic.

Coach Wittman was impressed with the defensive effort, but was disappointed that his team seemed hesitant to take open shots. Wall was impressed that he stayed aggressive while finding his teammates, despite shooting 6-for-25 and leading the Wizards to just five fastbreak points. Gortat, who was clearly frustrated by his diminished role in the second half, Washington’s missing personnel and the team’s fourth straight loss vented about the team overall:

“We got to cut the negativity that we have coming from players, coaches, staff, media. We just got to cut that It’s not even fun coming here anymore. It’s so much negativity. I understand we’re losing games but damn, we just got to cut that right now. It’s not fun at al I think it starts with big expectations before the season. Everybody though we’re going to go to conference finals and stuff like that. We didn’t make any spectacular trades or signings in the offseason. It’s not like we’re supposed to be three times a much better team this year. We lost Paul Pierce, a guy who’s a great leader, experienced player. We signed three players that they deliver good stuff to the table for us but at the end of the day they’re not All-Stars. Expectations are high and we are not up there yet.”

Despite Wittman’s pregame optimism, a lineup switch, a yeoman defensive effort, and owning the lead for 45 of the game’s 48 minutes, the Wizards lost their fourth game in five nights, and fell to 6-8. Next up? LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

[Ed. note: About the tweet at the top, Joseph did shake Beal but Big Panda fell over after stepping on Gortat’s foot.]

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Opening Statements: Wizards vs Raptors, Game 14 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-vs-raptors-game-14.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-vs-raptors-game-14.html#comments Sat, 28 Nov 2015 20:47:59 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48746 dc-over-raptors-logo

There is more than one way to skin a cat. One way, of course, is to lift the skin from the legs over the beast’s head on the way to folding it inside out, leaving two distinct, gruesome, hope-you-never-see-such-a-thing items of organic matter on the concrete floor, accumulating dust and dirt.

You should never do this. Cats are a calmer proclamation of life’s duality (swinging between viciousness and comfort) than some sports teams, and otherwise are our friends. Adopt one! But the old saying about skinning cats, which I’ve seen in text form as far back as Twain (but certainly goes back farther than that if it made it into “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”) applies to losing as well.

You can lose by a lot, or a little. You can turn the ball over or you can miss shots. You can let Gary Neal do his thing in tap dance shoes or you can stick a cigarette in DeJuan Blair’s mouth and have him audition for a role in “Blade 12.” You can revert in magnificent panic to taking what the defense gives you, or you can become overwhelmed by a style of play the rest of the league has mastered in less time than you. Indiana and Charlotte, teams that beat the Wizards this week, are 16th and 6th respectively this season in 3-point attempts after being 18th and 24th respectively last season. Both of these teams are in the middle of the pack in pace, while the Wizards are 4th overall. Pace, it turns out, is the most significant, and least useful (so far), “change” in Washington’s style of play.

The double-edged sword aspect of pace: The other team inevitably, and obviously, gets almost exactly the same amount of increased possessions (barring stray end-of-quarter stuff). What’s killing the Wizards is that other teams are simply better at executing their offense so far. And Washington’s defense, expert last season at keeping teams out of the paint, is an accumulation of Otto Porter ball swipes rather than an orchestrated defensive effort.

Wall, previously the head of a poisonous snake as the team’s best on-ball defender, is still defending well from midrange out to the 3-point line, but opposing players are shooting 11.2 percent above their average within six feet of the basket against Wall. There’s a lot of noise in that statistic, and the sample size is small, but you need not rely on numbers to know that Wall, too often, has been trying to catch up to an offensive player turning the corner for a layup. Some of the decline can be attributed to the absence of defensive shepherd, Nene, from both the starting lineup and, often (as will be the case tonight vs. Toronto) from the list of players healthy enough to play. But more still has to do with awareness, and adjusting to other teams running the very kind of offense Washington purports to fancy.

On offense, the Wizards have all but abandoned the pick-and-roll. It is perhaps unfair to say, but it strikes me as uniquely Wittmanesque to take away this aspects of the offense to feed the need for more 3-pointers, while still ranking 10th in the NBA in shots attempted from 15-19 feet. And then, of course, there’s the drive-and-kick, a simple play that should be featured with Wall at the helm.

It’s a loaded positive, in this writer’s opinion, that over 19 percent of Washington’s points come on the fast break (only the Warriors, who also lead the NBA in percentage of total points from 3-pointers, get a higher percentage of their total points from the fast break), considering the team ranks 25th in points in the paint. Where we see the drive-and-kick manifest is in fast break situations, rather than being manufactured out of half-court offense. Watch the Spurs (I know, unfair), and you’ll see a whirlpool of bodies in half-court sets, each player catching the ball, making penetrative progress, passing the ball, inching the opposing team ever more off balance, passing the ball, finally luring a defender off his man to help, and kicking it to the now-open man.

In any event, everything could change, but maybe it won’t! This is code I live by, and why I scam myself into purchasing lottery tickets and winning a half hour of daydreams followed by a mousy-hearted toss of crumpled paper into a trash bin without a trash bag.

Here come the Raptors, a team the Wizards thoroughly embarrassed in the halcyon days of Wizards fandom during last season’s first round playoff series. Joining me to discuss these 2015-16 dinosaur enemies is William Lou (@william_lou), of Raptors Republic fame. Let’s get it.

Teams: Wizards vs Raptors
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Raptors fav’d by 3.5 points.

Q #1: With all due respect to John Wall, who is beloved in D.C. (and rightfully so), Kyle Lowry has been the best point guard in the East so far in this young season.

What has changed between his no-show in the Wizards-Raptors playoff series last season and today, other than his weight?

@william_lou: Don’t overlook the weight. “Svelte” Lowry, as he’s called now, has greatly improved on account of his improved conditioning. The rotund, full-bellied Lowry that no-showed during last year’s playoffs was but a fraction of himself (metaphorically; physically… you get it). Now that his back is healed, and he’s reshaped his body into a discernible shape with sharp edges and all, Lowry is back to performing like an All-Star. His quickness is much improved, his legs look fresh, and he’s taking and finishing through contact better than ever.

It also helps that Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri brought in some defenders to surround him. The addition of Cory Joseph has given Lowry more leeway to save energy by having the lightning-quick Joseph guard the opposing team’s best guard, while Lowry chills on a shooting guard. That wasn’t tenable when Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez—two of the worst defenders in the league—shared the backcourt with Lowry.

Q #2: Mood: under-utilized.

I know that James Johnson has long been a favorite of Raptors bloggers, but not so much of Raptors coach Dwane Casey. I assumed, as Johnson did, that when Valanciunas went down with a hand injury, he’d benefit with some additional minutes. It hasn’t happened. Is this a case of Johnson’s ability being oversold by those outside the team, or does Johnson deserve more minutes?

@william_lou: There’s no beef with Casey as some have suggested. It’s just a case of Johnson being an awkward fit. He’s something like a Swiss Army Knife in a fully-stocked household. There’s a sharper knife, a tougher file, and an actual screwdriver with a handle. Johnson is multi-talented player, but his limitations (inattentiveness on defense, lack of shooting) makes him an awkward fit in most lineups. That being said, it’s also on Casey to have a bit more imagination; Johnson’s too talented to go unused, but you can see where he’s coming from. It’s hard for a coach to play someone that he doesn’t trust.

As for the fanbase, Johnson became a cult hero after he posterized Andre Drummond. He also gave the team some good minutes last season, but that was when his lack of shooting wasn’t such a problem around Vasquez and Williams. Now that Joseph is running the backcourt, Johnson’s lack of floor-stretch really makes him a bad fit with both the starting and bench units.

Q #3: The Raptors got a big win over the Cavs this week, but like the Wizards have been incredibly inconsistent this season.

Toronto, also like the Wizards, started out incredibly strong last season before fading after the All-Star Break. New personnel (Junkyard Dog DeMarre Carroll), injuries (Valanciunas), coaching (Dwane!)… What’s keeping the Raptors from racing out to a great early-season record this time around?

@william_lou: Late-game execution. The combination of Casey’s strict adherence to isolations, and DeMar DeRozan’s ineffectiveness as a 1-on-1 player has made watching close games a thoroughly masochistic and utterly predictable practice. The Raptors squandered fourth-quarter leads in their losses to Orlando, New York, Golden State, Utah, and Sacramento. Casey lets a consistently inconsistent player in DeRozan to decide games for the team, and they’ve lost more times than they’ve won with that strategy.


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Boston’s 3 Party Bags Wittman & Co. — Wizards at Celtics, DC Council 13 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/bostons-3-party-bags-wittman-co-wizards-at-celtics-dc-council-13.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/bostons-3-party-bags-wittman-co-wizards-at-celtics-dc-council-13.html#comments Sat, 28 Nov 2015 19:01:16 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48735 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Celtics, Game 13, Nov. 27, 2015 at TD Garden in Boston, Mass., via John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend).


Jared Dudley. See, because John Wall let players waltz past him like a New York City subway turnstile, and Bradley Beal dulled fast after a razor-sharp start, Dudley’s nomination as the Most Valuable Player comes without contest from any other Wizard.

That does not mean, however, that this accolade, mostly meaningless in a 33-point blowout, was not earned or justified. Dudley was shouting defensive orders to his teammates, including “ICE,” in which the strategy is to pressure the pick-and-roll ball handler away from the center of the floor. He may not have been the only one communicating on defense, but he was certainly the loudest, clearly heard on the broadcast. This is standard operating procedure for the vet, a great team defender who prides himself on verbal synchronization. Dudley, in man-to-man matchups, pressured the ball effectively, even against much taller opponents like Kelly Olynyk, and came up with two blocks.

On the other side of the ball, Dudley was aggressive as a ball handler, attacking the paint, drawing fouls and even keeping his head up for the extra pass (did have four turnovers). And he was always willing to initiate early screen contact, even on the slow break, to free John Wall from the ball-and-chain that is Avery Bradley. And he was eager to screen again, before flaring out to the wing or popping into space above the key. Dudley had 19 points off the bench (6-for-7 from the free throw line, 3-for-4 from 3) with about two minutes left in the third, but by then Washington was down 20 points.


Whatever Celtics Coach Brad Stevens DID NOT tell Randy Wittman last December. Remember, after the Wizards wrapped up their 2014-15 series against Boston, fishing 2-1, Wittman asked Stevens for advice, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. This was, perhaps, the precise moment of enlightenment for a coach loathe to innovate. Now, the Wizards, committed to the spread offense adopted by every NBA team except for the Los Angeles Lakers, look like a Conestoga wagon bumping along a dirt road with a splintered wheel. They’re a televised basketball tragedy, or dark comedy about dysentery, depending on your perspective. This season has been a disaster. The Celtics look like a cast steel locomotive, intimidating, loud and powerful with a powdered soot finish.

Stevens’ sons like Jae Crowder are taking three dribbles to start a fast break, heaving the ball 50 feet up-court to a big man like David Lee, who knows to push-pass the ball to the corner, where a stretch 4 like Olynyk will be ready to make an open 3. Boston arguably looks even better in the half-court: they ran Washington’s defense ragged, five players scrambling to close-out, switching out of necessity rather than researched design to prevent open dunks or 3-pointers. The C’s made 12 of their 33 attempts from 3, good for 36 points, Washington’s first-half point total. That works.

What doesn’t is the Wizards’ tendency to rely far too much on a soft pick-and-pop between John Wall and Kris Humphries, which creates no space, an action which eventually funnels the basketball to limited playmaker Gary Neal. And, somehow, Marcin Gortat continues to be as imposing as a garden gnome on defense and a complete afterthought in this offense, a part of just 27 roll-man possessions this season.


Marcin Gortat. 

“I think Gortat is going to end up in a James Bond movie, y’know, before his career is done,” Boston play-by-play man Mike Gorman said.

“He’s got that villainous look,” color analyst Tommy Heinsohn added.

But seeing Gortat’s start to this season, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t scare Miss Moneypenny. Gortat got dominated in the paint by Jared Sullinger, who posted a double-double in the first half. He lost tip-ins to Sully, tapped out rebounds to Celtics players, committed offensive fouls, even let David Lee finish an alley-oop layup over him, and missed just about every shot he took. He was 1-for-8 from the field and 1-for-7 on contested field goal attempts. And while he did lead the Wizards in total rebounds, he only grabbed nine in 24 chances. Sullinger picked up 15 boards in 19 chances and Washington lost the rebound battle by 12 (58-46).

That Game Was … Over By Halftime.

The Celtics led 54-36 by halftime and led by as many as 38. The Wizards’ largest lead? Well, uh, see … they never had one.

It was also an exercise in obstinacy, or tone deafness, from the head coach.

“I feel like we can’t have me and Brad sitting, that’s just my opinion,” Wall said after the loss in Charlotte. “Coach makes the decision he feels is best for us. I just feel like one of us has to be in in that situation because when you’re on the road, this is the time when you can step on them.”

Two days after franchise’s worst-ever collapse, as soon as he was able, Wittman repeatedly played lineups in which both John Wall and Bradley Beal watched from the sideline. The head coach can’t prevent every turnover, and certainly can’t guarantee that his players will make open shots, I can’t say that he’s done a good enough job tweaking the offense, defense or rotations (foul machine DeJuan Blair played 15 minutes). If he’s trying to teach his star guards a lesson, it’s being lost on them. And the Wizards, as a unit, responded by shooting 32 percent from the field against Boston, collecting only 16 assists on the night, and committing 22 turnovers.

The Celtics have now outscored the Wizards 229-176 in 96 minutes.

After the game, Wittman once again accused the Wizards of hanging their heads and pouting after missed shots. “You can’t play this game solely based on if you’re making or missing shots. We have energy to start the game, but when we miss shots we lose that,” he said.

The losses are piling up and habitual prodding and finger-pointing hasn’t motivated Wittman’s millionaires, nor should we expect it to. The only thing it seems to be inspiring is a lack of faith.




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Key Legislature: Wizards 78 at Celtics 111 — Boston Waves at Wizards in Passing http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-78-celtics-111-key-legislature-game-13.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-78-celtics-111-key-legislature-game-13.html#comments Sat, 28 Nov 2015 15:31:08 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48728 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Celtics, Regular Season Game 13, Nov. 27, 2015, by Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

Alright, recap over.

But actually, these Wizards look broken. John Wall looks disinterested. Marcin Gortat looks like he aged five years in the offseason. Nene has at times been the spark off the bench the Wizards hoped he could be when they booted him from the starting lineup — in favor of a small-ball lineup, or something, if I recall correctly — but he’s mostly been hurt or otherwise missing in all but physical presence. Kris Humphries keeps starting games, only to earn the wrath of Randy by halftime and open the second half on the bench. Garrett Temple has been one of the team’s more productive offensive players! Kelly Oubre plays almost exclusively in blowouts, which, unfortunately, there have been many of already. DeJuan Blair has played 51 minutes already this season; he played just 180 throughout all of last season, and he’s not exactly earning more minutes based on his own merit. Randy Wittman puts on glasses and takes them off at seemingly random intervals, perhaps in an attempt to shake things up.

Bradley Beal and Jared Dudley have been among the few positives so far this season, and we can go ahead and throw Temple into that category, as well. Otto Porter has been hit and miss, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and curve his grade up toward the C-plus range. Screw it, toss in some Ramon Sessions, too. That’s about the extent of the individual positives we can possibly glean from the early portion of this Wizards season.

When the Wizards went 13-20 from Dec. 30 through March 8 a season ago, they had the merit of a 22-8 start to fall back upon. They’re now 16 percent through the regular season and have a losing record. It seems as though a players-only meeting is on the cusp, and one of two things generally follows a players-only meeting: 1) The team figures things out and goes on a run or 2) The coach gets fired. I don’t see Wittman getting fired any time soon. Then again, this ranks among the worst of times in his tenure because not only is the team a flaming bag of dog shit at the moment, but the Wizards were supposed to be pretty damn good this year. Not only did they just get blown out by the Celtics just two days after an historic collapse against the Hornets and three days after allowing an historic performance by the Pacers, but six of their seven losses have come by double digits. They’ve already suffered two separate three-game losing streaks; last year, their first three-game losing streak began on the last game of December via a road trip against the Mavericks, Thunder, and Spurs. Last season’s “rock bottom” came during the grind of a season, when the Wizards were simply slumping.

Now, the Wizards might simply be off to a rocky start. They have a new offense they’re putting in place and clearly lacking the personnel to make it work, but at the same time they look ticked off and aloof, and they’re calling each other out left and right. Already. We might not know what rock bottom is just yet. And this isn’t like a LeBron James-led team that is mediocre for the first fifth of the season or so, then goes .700 the rest of the way and cakewalks into the Finals — Washington hasn’t dramatically overhauled the roster and really has no excuse to be getting blown out in ways like this.

The first time the Wizards played the Celtics this season they lost 118-98. Friday night, they lost 111-78. That’s 229-176 over two games against a team that went 40-42 a year ago and whose most significant addition was probably Amir Johnson. The Wizards lost Paul Pierce, who was in many ways a steadying hand when shit hit the fan, and Kevin Seraphin, but they added Jared Dudley and Gary Neal, who have been among the team’s few offensive sparks.

No, what it really all comes down to is Wall. Ignore the numbers for now; there is plenty of time for analytical breakdowns, and there is plenty of it already available on these fine pages. Just by the eye test, Wall looks worse than he has in years. His body language is horrible, he’s taking plays off with alarming frequency, and his desire, of all things, seems lacking. That’s never been an issue with him, despite what one former ESPN radio host might suggest. Wall’s character has long been one of his most alluring features.

But throughout Friday’s game, Wall seemed totally content bringing the ball upcourt, kicking off an early pass to Beal or Porter, and spending the remainder of the possession lurking on the wing. That’s not his game, like even a little, and it renders the offense totally stagnant (sound familiar?). On defense, he was not the long, disruptive force he has emerged as in recent years, instead opting to casually dwell in the general vicinity of his man while four lesser defenders struggled to contain four mediocre Boston offensive players.

Wall is certainly not the only problem with the Wizards right now, and this 2015-16 season is obviously young and very much alive. But they’ve have been bad plenty of times before, including for the vast majority of Wall’s career, and he’s so often been the one bright light in a tunnel of dark and desolate D.C. sports putridity. We just haven’t seen Wall play poorly like he is now in quite some time, and we’re so used to him being the one saving grace that it’s rather jarring when he doesn’t emerge from the pit of despair to put the team on his back.

This most recent disaster ended (in all but tangible result) almost immediately after the opening tip. Wall started things off with a long 2 that missed, then Beal added a tough midrange banker from the left side that inspired what would later prove to be false hope. That was indicative not only of how the remainder of the quarter would go, but also of how the game would gradually and painfully play out. Beal finished the first quarter with 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting and one turnover; the rest of the Wizards finished with seven points on 1-for-12 shooting and five turnovers, though Wall did add four assists. The remaining three quarters featured much of the same, but Beal could not maintain his 44-point pace and managed just five points the rest of the way. Wall was good for just two assists after the first quarter, and the Wizards, who shot 30 percent from the field in the opening period, improved to just 32.1 percent for the game.

Humphries continued his remarkably ugly start to the season, finishing scoreless, again, to go with four rebounds in just 13 minutes of action. Thanks to Otto Porter picking up two early fouls and a third one shortly after returning to the floor, along with another tweak to Nene’s calf muscle, everybody’s favorite DeJuan made it onto the court in the first quarter — he didn’t embarrass himself, for a change, and actually managed five rebounds in 15 minutes. Jared Dudley was one of the few bright spots, piling up 19 points on just nine shots thanks to 3-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc and 6-for-7 free throw shooting, and he seemed determined to bring the Wizards back into the game in the third quarter. Dudley went 4-for-4 (3-for-3 from deep) with two rebounds for 11 points while playing every second of the period, in which Washington was outscored by just five. It was the only quarter the Wizards shot at least 40 percent (.471), and it was the only period they really had any hope.

The fourth quarter, well, we’re just not going to talk about it. Kelly Oubre played every second. We’ll leave it at that.

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Opening Statements: Wizards at Celtics, Game 13 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-at-celtics-game-13.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-at-celtics-game-13.html#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2015 22:33:54 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48722 Washington Wizards at Boston Celtics - Truth About It.net

Teams: Wizards at Celtics
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Television: CSN+
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Celtics fav’d by 3 points.

The Wizards have an organization full of minds fretting over what’s wrong with the team. They are paid, however, to balance that threat with a practical approach, and be patient. They have to deal with a roster of personalities, a coaching staff full of thought, oodles of analytics, and an overall plan that must keep knee-jerk reactions in a vault. But also, what’s wrong with the Wizards?

Roster constancy was supposed to keep goals in tact, or at least help with the transition to a new style of play that was best suited for John Wall all along. Of course, the team was also inserting two new starters into the lineup: the still very evolving Otto Porter and the new-career-path Kris Humphries.

So the Wizards are fourth in the NBA in Pace (101.83 possessions per 48 minutes, up from 95.96 last season, ranked 16th), but they are also 25th in team Turnover Percentage (16.1%). This does not deviate much from their 23rd ranked 15.5 percent last season. Running and reckless.

The Wizards now are ranked 16th in Offensive Rating (101.2) and 22nd Defensive Rating (103.9). They have improved three spots in OffRtg (19th ranking in 2014-15, even though they are scoring slightly less at 101.8), but they have dropped 17 spots in DeftRtg (5th in 2014-15, 100 points allowed per 100 possessions).

At this point it’s worth at least halfway contemplating on a groggy, day-after-Thanksgiving morning: How much in the territory of wrong are the Wizards? Twelve games is early and .500 ball was once a dream—there are five Eastern Conference teams at .500 or within a game of .500. But should the 6-6 Wizards, with benchmark aspirations set by two consecutive second round playoff appearances, be keeping current company with the Pistons, Magic, Knicks, and Celtics? The answer is no, relatively unequivocally. (They were expected to set a the winning pace in the Eastern Conference.)

And of course we have a lurking problem: both Wall and Bradley Beal needing to grow up more and pout less (and being called out by Randy Wittman for such—not by name, however). This was sprinkled with Wall taking public issue with Wittman, in a crucial moment of their most recent game, had both lead guards on the bench.

Wittman was surprisingly subdued after the Wizards got spanked by the Pacers, 106 to 123—the ‘oh, shucks, they just made shots’ B.S. line that was regurgitated by his players. Game 11 on the season was far from a playoff-style matchup, but would a coach ever say that in the playoffs? Coach and players took solace after that one: At least we get to play tomorrow.

Then they went out and put up the biggest choke-job in franchise history, missing 17 straight shots in the fourth quarter versus the Hornets, not scoring a single point over 9:30 of game action, and going 1-for-20 from the field in the final period. It was the fewest number of points (6) that the franchise has ever scored in the fourth quarter—the Wizards led by nine points with 9:53 left.

The bench actually gave Wall and Beal a five-point lead, 85-80, when they were inserted back into the Hornets game. Yet Wall still found it necessary to publicly opine about Wittman’s decision to leave he and Beal on the bench when the Wizards had a chance to build upon their momentum. Not that there is something off with coaching decisions this season, although we’d be hard-pressed to be an exact finger on it.

The issue isn’t so much with the new style of play as it is with some of the sets they seem to be running. Even as the Hornets held a four-point halftime lead and the Wizards fought back in the third to lead by seven points going into the fourth, the crispness and refinement of Washington’s offense seemed to pale in comparison to Steve Clifford’s Hornets. Yes, even in a close game. But also: Wittman is allowing his players more freedom in on-court decision making than ever. The heart of the issues is somewhere between the lines.

Alas, the sky is not falling. These are the growing pains of a team, even a team led by two relatively young players who aren’t so young anymore. (One could also include veteran Marcin Gortat amongst those capable of pouting; Nene, too.) CSN’s J. Michael has some good insight on the path of both Wall and Beal as it applies to learning leadership, dealing with coaching, and being directed by veterans who’ve seen a lot. Worth the read. Also worth reading is Jorge Castillo’s article in The Washington Post about Wall admitting that he needs to play better. And maybe that’s what it “boils down to,” as goes one of Wittman’s favorite sayings. Castillo also relays something Wittman asked before the season as it pertains to Wall’s leadership (and at some point very soon, Beal): “At what point is he a veteran?”

With that, the Wizards get another high-level chance to redeem themselves. They play a Celtics team in Boston tonight that embarrassed them on the same court by 20 points about three weeks ago. NBA players are great about expressing the need to put bad losses behind them and move on, but in most cases like this, it doesn’t pay to have a short memory.


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The Night That Brazil Imploded — Wizards at Hornets, DC Council 12 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/the-night-that-brazil-imploded-wizards-at-hornets-dc-council-12.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/the-night-that-brazil-imploded-wizards-at-hornets-dc-council-12.html#comments Fri, 27 Nov 2015 18:25:15 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48720 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards at Hornets, Game 12, Nov. 25, 2015 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, via Sean Fagan (@McCarrick).


The Hornets defense. How about that giant swarm of Hornets? Weirdest damn thing I ever did see.

Carrying a seven-point lead into the the fourth quarter it appeared that the Wizards had overcome their beatdown at the hands of the Indiana Pacers on the previous night. If not in the driver’s seat, they at least put themselves somewhere in the vicinity of control. Closing out the surprising Hornets on the road was not going to be the easiest task put forward to the Wizards, who had punted away easily winnable games against ‘lesser’ opponents earlier this season. Charlotte’s dismal offensive performance through three quarters (74 points after a 16-point third quarter) and Washington’s ability to convert baskets with some amount of efficiency could provide some amount of solace to those huddling in front of their TV the night before Thanksgiving.

Then the Wizards promptly went out and scored a grand total of six points in the fourth quarter.

This is record breaking in a number of ways. First, the Hornets set a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a quarter and closed the game with a 25-2 run over the hapless Wizards. The Wizards, for their part, couldn’t hit the ocean, going 0-for-17 from the field during a nearly 10-minute stretch. One night removed from a game in which the team was powerless to stop either Paul George or CJ Miles from converting at will, the Wizards zagged in an entirely opposite direction.

Following the game, the many players on the Hornets spoke to the team’s best defensive performance of the season and how they had shut down and elite offensive team. While the Hornets certainly did ratchet up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter, equal blame can be placed at the feet of Randy Wittman’s substitution pattern and the complete and utter meltdown of several Wizards. In the space of just over five minutes, Nene manage to go 0-for-5 from the field, commit a turnover and three personal fouls, and miss two free throws. By the time the Brazilian was removed from the game, the Hornets had seized an 85-83 advantage.

Yet the misses kept coming. Gary Neal, who’d been on fire through three quarters (6-6 FGs, 14 points), went 1-for-7 in the fourth. John Wall took an ill-considered 3-pointer and went 0-for-3 in the period. Any semblance of offensive was lost as the Wizards began to desperately hurl the ball at the basket in a “chuck and pray” offense. The result: 15-for-52 (28.8%) on all uncontested field goal attempts for the night. When the smoke cleared, the final score stood at 101-87.


Jeremy Lamb was supposed to be a historical footnote, the punchline to the ill-fated James Harden move from OKC to Houston. Instead, Lamb may have finally found a home on the formerly offensively-challenged Hornets. Lamb punished the Wizards from a multitude of angles, putting together an impressive line of 18 points, seven rebounds, and one resurrected career. The Wizards made him look like Paul George.

Lamb is never going to be the superstar Harden supposedly is in Houston (or George in Indiana, for that matter), and he probably is never going to to shoot as sweetly from behind the arc or get the line with as much efficiency. But he a great scoring option off the bench (like a proto-James Harden) and was acquired at a fraction of the cost. Charlotte got him from the Thunder in exchange for Luke Ridnour and a 2016 second round pick last June.


Nene had perhaps the worst five minutes of the season, as he all but but single-handedly blew off the foot of the Wizards. Whether it was offensive stagnation, frustration, or sheer hubris, Nene refused to acknowledge that the basketball Gods were NOT going to let his (flat, tired) shot go through the net. Nene was blocked by Marvin Williams. Nene was blocked by Jeremy Lin. At one point it stopped being terrifying and simply became amusing as one man’s sheer cussedness undid three quarters worth of decent basketball.

That Game was … A pre-Thanksgiving tale of horror with a dollop of gravy.

Road games in Charlotte always turn into shambolic acts of suffering for the Wizards. Whether getting into a rock fight, yielding the floor to Kemba Walker, or just failing to show up—the ascetic art of basketball is lost. Only a psychologist could tell you if it is the failure of the players or Coach Randy Wittman to come prepared for games that are not considered ‘marquee’ to the schedule makers of the League.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 87 at Hornets 101 — Fourth Quarter Buzzkill in Charlotte http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-87-hornets-101-key-legislature-game-11.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-87-hornets-101-key-legislature-game-11.html#comments Thu, 26 Nov 2015 23:37:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48707 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Hornets, Regular Season Game 12, Nov. 25, 2015, by Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur)

When the Wizards led the Hornets 85-76 with 9:53 left in the fourth quarter, it seemed as if they were finally getting over defensive woes that have plagued them over the first few games this season. Instead, this was the point where players mentally checked out, maybe wanting to get an early start to their Thanksgiving. They  literally did nothing else for the rest of the game—didn’t even make a field goal. Charlotte finished the game on a 25-0 run (until Gary Neal got fouled and made two free throws with 23 seconds left and the game in hand). The ‘Zards were left in a catatonic state of shock.

This loss was bad. Historically bad, to be blunt.

If Randy Witman had no problem calling out Marcin Gortat for getting one defensive rebound in a game, saying that even his 56-year-old self could get a rebound in 27 minutes, one can only imagine what the coach thought he could do as he watched his team go 1-for-2o on field goals in the fourth quarter versus Charlotte. The Wizards had a fourth quarter from hell—they missed 17 straight shots, looking absolutely lost in the process.

The worst part is that the display of ineptitude felt like a blind-sided car collision. The Wizards had the Hornets on their heels after finishing the third quarter on a 13-0 run, outscoring the Hornets 27-16 in the period. Charlotte’s offense has improved this year (they are trying a small ball style, too), but they aren’t that damn good.

Washington has to take a brunt of the responsibility—it wasn’t all about Charlotte’s defense. And if we’re going to play the blame game, we must start at the top with floor general John Wall. Wall’s game on Wednesday was pretty much indicative of the lackluster performances he’s provided several times this season. This is not to trash the team’s franchise player, Wall is still one of the best young prospects in the entire Association, but with great power comes great responsibility. Wall is not living up to his obligations as the team’s lone All-Star and, yes, leader from a year ago. Even Comcast’s Phil Chenier noticed.

To the naked eye, the dip in Wall’s game may not be perceptible. He still is able to create highlight-type plays when moving in transition, and his pocket passing looks as crisp as ever. The problem with Wall right now is that his decision making does not seem refined. Wall finished the game with six assists and five turnovers; on the season his assists numbers are down to 7.9 from 10 last season, and his turnovers remain ridiculously high at 4.5 a game.

If you think the regular box score numbers are unkind to Wall, don’t look at his advanced metrics. Wall ranks 41st amongst NBA point guards in Real Plus-Minus (RPM) at minus-0.94. Basically, Wall’s mere presence on the court is negatively impacting the Wizards. (Which we know isn’t totally true, but still.)

Interestingly enough, Wall was quoted after Wednesday night’s game complaining about Randy Wittman’s rotations that left both he and Bradley Beal on the bench at the same time.

Wall, via Jorge Castillio of The Washington Post:

“I feel like we can’t have me and Brad sitting. That’s just my opinion. Coach makes the decision he feels is best for us. I just feel like one of us has to be in in that situation because when you’re on the road, this is the time when you can step on them.

“I just feel like one of us has to be in. I don’t know. It’s just my opinion because our second unit was just so stagnant. And I’m not saying they lost the game. [Shoot], we all lost the game. We didn’t make shots. We were 1 for 20, right? I think we were just so stagnant. We really didn’t have anybody penetrating and creating.”

Funny thing, however: When Beal and Wall are on the court together the Wizards have an Offensive Rating of 99.5 and a Defensive Rating of 103.4—a Net Rating of minus-3.9 in 258 minutes of game action. The Wizards overall have a Net Rating of minus-2.7. Wall’s comments seem a little misguided.(1)

Maybe he needs this perceived knock as inspiration to get into a groove and get back to being the #WallStar people have come to know and love. Or maybe this is the first obvious sign of discontent in the Wizards locker room between players and coach. Either way, it can’t get any worse than scoring six points in the fourth quarter quarter while the other team scored 27.

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Opening Statements: Wizards at Hornets, Game 12 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-at-hornets-game-12.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-at-hornets-game-12.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:51:51 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48684 dc-over-charlotte-hornets-logo

Just when you thought it was safe to watch the Wizards … turnovers and anemic defense rear their ugly heads again. The most surprising thing about Tuesday night’s lackluster loss to the Indiana Pacers was coach Randy Wittman’s post-game response. Instead of ranting about the lack of defense or valuing possessions, Wittman chalked up the loss to shots not falling.

“We have to let this one go, I thought our guys played hard, I don’t have a problem with that. We just ran into a hot team shooting the ball,” Wittman said.

Wittman’s players followed his lead. “We missed a lot of shots, we had a lot of open ones and we just had to knock them down,” Beal said. “They made theirs and we missed ours.”

In one sense, Wittman and Beal are correct. It is virtually impossible to beat an opponent that shoots a historical 19-for-26 from 3-point range (73.1%). But that is not the only reason Washington lost. Paul George and C.J. Miles hit some ridiculously tough shots at a ridiculously high percentage, but there was also no double-teaming, no ball pressure on George Hill to disrupt Indiana’s offensive flow, no rim protection, and absolutely no sense of urgency in the fourth quarter when Washington’s deficit swelled to double-digits.

Washington may have missed a lot of open 3-pointers, but that does not explain the lack of effort or the multiple turnovers on contested bounce passes in the lane or errant passes out of bounds. The defense and turnovers were just as bad as they were in the beginning of the season when everyone was yelling “the sky is falling.” The lack of recognition from players and coaches is disconcerting.

The good news is Washington will not have to wait very long to get back on the court and erase the memories of giving up 123 points to Indiana. The Wizards travel to Charlotte where they will play their second game in a four-games-in-five-nights stretch.

The bad news is that Charlotte plays a similar style of small ball as Indiana, and the Hornets are on a six-game home winning streak. If Washington expects a different outcome versus the Hornets, they will have to expend a lot more energy and effort on defense.

Joining TAI to provide more insight into the new-look Charlotte Hornets is Doug Branson (@DougBransonSBN) of the Hornets SBNation blog atthehive.com and co-host of the entertaining podcast Hive Talk Live (@HiveTalkLive).

Teams: Wizards at Hornets
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
Television: CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Hornets fav’d by 4.5 points.

Q #1: Charlotte has won its last six home games while averaging 114.5 points per contest. Is this the beginning of a turnaround in Charlotte or a product of weaker competition (Sacramento, Philly, Brooklyn, Portland, NYK)?

@dougbransonSBN: It’s easy to look at the lineup of opponents and question the record, but the Hornets have also played well against very good competition. They took Atlanta (twice) and Miami down to the wire early in the season. They played three good quarters against the Spurs before getting suplexed by Manu Ginobili. Moreover, the team has revamped its shooting and changed its philosophy of play to include more 3-point attempts and more ball movement. Those two things will always keep you in a game.

Q #2: What head-to-head matchup will have the most impact on the Wizards vs. Hornets game?  Wall vs. Walker? Gortat vs. Jefferson? Anyone else?

@dougbransonSBN: Wall vs. Walker. Kemba Walker is on a tear and feeling comfortable at home and needs a tough defensive test. John Wall always seems to feel a little off in Charlotte. Hopefully, Wall has watched the tape on Kemba and doesn’t start going under screens because Walker has improved his outside shooting this season and isn’t afraid to pull-up and knock it down. On the other side of the coin, Kemba is a good pick-and-roll defender but he’ll still need everyone’s help to contain Wall.

Q #3: Charlotte, like Washington, made a concerted effort last offseason to acquire more outside shooting—specifically 3-point shooting. The Hornets are now seventh in the league in 3-point percentage and ninth in scoring. How has the offense changed with this new emphasis on long-range shooting? Is the team more fun to watch?

@dougbransonSBN: The Hornets are much more fun to watch, not just because of the 3-point scoring but because they have a variety of ways they can hurt you on offense. Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb can all drive the lane and finish spectacularly. When Al Jefferson is on his game and has a favorable matchup, his post game is still a joy to behold. Finally, newcomer Frank Kaminsky is playing more and more confidently than ever.

The offense has changed dramatically in two ways: more space in the middle and more off-ball player movement. The Hornets are playing 4-out most of the time. Leaving room in the middle for Al Jefferson to work in the starting rotation and Lin, Lamb and Batum to drive in the second unit. Yes, I said Batum—he’s getting the lions share of the offensive workload and has leaked over into the second unit often this season.

Q #4: Jeremy Lamb is getting significant minutes for the first time in his career and is producing on the offensive end. What does he bring to the team and does he fit as a long-term piece in Charlotte?

@dougbransonSBNHe brings confidence and the ability to get tough buckets in traffic to the second unit and crunch time offense. His speed around the corner off screens gets him into the lane and his long arms allow him to float the ball over the trees. His defense is a work in progress but getting better.

Long term I think he fits perfectly. Despite his stellar play, the Hornets can’t really play him in the starting lineup, because A) they need someone who can play defense on the wing other than Batum, and B) with Kemba, Batum and Al all needing the ball, that would be too many hens in the hen house.

Next season, Jefferson is likely to find a new home, you may not have Batum, and MKG’s stellar defense returns to the starting lineup. It’s easy to envision Lamb as a starter next season.

Q #5: Which player has been the most pleasant surprise so far this season?

@dougbransonSBN: I can’t pick one. I just can’t. This team went into the offseason and collected a group of guys that were in desperate need of either a second chance or a bigger role, and early on they have all risen to the challenge. Out of the shadows of Lillard and Aldridge in Portland, Batum has become an all around All-Star-type player. Jeremy Lin has proven he can be a vital crunch-time scoring option off the bench. Jeremy Lamb is having a coming out party. Even Spencer Hawes has proven to be a nice playmaker and rebounder off the bench. Hornets fans have a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about this team.


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Key Legislature: Wizards 106 vs Pacers 123 — Script It, Grip It and Rip It http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/key-legislature-wizards-106-vs-pacers-123-script-it-grip-it-and-rip-it.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/key-legislature-wizards-106-vs-pacers-123-script-it-grip-it-and-rip-it.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:15:26 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48696 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards vs Pacers, Regular Season Game 11, Nov. 24, 2015, by John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)


Paul George and C.J. Miles combined to score 72 points and crashed the Tuesday night party at the Verizon Center. No Wizards were spared in this deluge, drowned by a tidal wave of 3-pointers.

The Indiana Pacers, as a team, shot 73 percent from 3 (19-for-26), the best ever 3-point percentage for an NBA team with at least 25 attempts, per know-it-all stat house Elias Sports. George and Miles made the entire lower bowl of the arena part of their splash zone, shooting 7-for-8 and 8-for-9 respectively, with seemingly no respect for whichever desperate Wizards defender inserted a hand into their sightlines.

“I think we just had an exceptional shooting night from the perimeter,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said after the game, playing down the import of playing a small-ball lineup featuring a 3-4 combo of George and Miles. “Exceptional” is an apt description. What was not exceptional, in very clear hindsight, was that many of the pre-game storylines for this contest actually looked more like script 48 minutes later.

To wit… Storyline: Paul George would leave any and all Wizards who dared step to him broken with effectiveness that’d make Perses, Titan lord of destruction, green with envy. He entered the game averaging 28.4 points per game in the previous nine, while shooting 47 percent from the field and better than 48 percent from 3.

The warning signs—loud, clear, near—were there within the game’s first few minutes. George hit a 3 over Otto Porter (who at that point in history was allowing opponents to shoot 53.6% from the field), cut baseline on a slow break to polish the rim with a double-clutch reverse slam, and then forced an early, easy foul on Porter—tall enough but nowhere near quick enough to stay with Indiana’s best.

Porter, of course, wasn’t the only defender thrown at George on the night. But others, including Bradley Beal, who George probably didn’t even see from his 6-foot-9 perch, didn’t fare much better.

*checks box*

Storyline: The Pacers, engines ready and revved, would speed to an early lead, aided by an open outside lane (37.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc, ranked 4th in the NBA) and a team-wide ability to cut off passing and driving lanes (2nd in both steals per game and Opponent Turnover Ratio).

Indiana’s 33 first-quarter points, obviously helped by Miles picking on Kris Humphries, put them ahead by two points after 12 minutes. They scored 29 in the second (beating their huge 26.1 second-quarter scoring average) to lead 62-61 at halftime. The Pacers were 8-2 on the season with a lead going into the third quarter, so the caution flag was waving, but there were enough reasons for Washington to remain optimistic.

The ball was moving around nicely enough for the Wizards (even with John Wall on the bench) that, if you were to have squinted, you may have mistaken them for the Warriors, who average the fewest seconds and dribbles per touch. Nene was fighting through contact and tugs of his XXL jersey without complaint (but still missing free throws). Wall, by far the best perimeter defender on the squad (sporting the best Defensive FG% and forcing the most deflections), was taking pride in contesting the Pacers’ shooters, leaving his defensive arm above his head as if it were a follow-through on a jump shot. And as a team, the Wizards at the break were giving the Pacers a taste of some of their own defensive dust, tied for seven steals, and down just one point despite Indiana shooting 80 percent from 3 and 60 percent from the field.

Turnovers and missed shots rolled out of both locker rooms to start the second half. Beal, finally, grabbed the spotlight like it was Harry Potter’s Golden Snitch with a chase-down block on George in transition, then finishing a layup through a referee whistle on the other end (he would miss the free throw). The problem, particularly for Washington, was that for the rest of the period, stars would star and role players, other than Miles, would contribute little besides bricked 3s. For the Pacers that was good enough. They led by 11 after three quarters.

*checks box*

Storyline: Long-standing offensive and defensive issues, including an odd opposition to allow John Wall to rip apart defenses with the pick-and-roll and an inability to defend the perimeter, especially the 3-point shot (1), would make navigating rough waters tough for Randy Wittman.

John Wall has been scoring or creating nearly a point per pick-and-roll possession this season (0.98), the second-best mark in the league behind Chris Paul. Marcin Gortat, the big man with a scoring inclination, has been averaging 1.2 points per roll-man possession but only on 25 such possessions through 10 games. On Tuesday, despite all the data in this combo’s favor, Gortat would see just one roll-man possession (run with Beal, which resulted in a made Gary Neal 3 from the corner). And Wall would initiate just seven pick-and-roll possessions, none with Gortat, bringing his total to 84 on the season. Not ideal.

Lineups are still being sorted out, which is part of this basketball operation’s complications. For example, Humphries started the fourth quarter with Sessions, Neal, Beal, and Nene. That lineup had previously played just 150 seconds together. They failed to trim the Pacers lead, due in part to Hump’s inexplicable (perhaps coach-instructed) insistence on crawling into Lavoy Allen’s shorts from beyond 23 feet (Allen is a 14.3% shooter from 3), an inability to capitalize on simple scoring opportunities (like layups), and Nene being asked to be both rim protector and facilitator—unfair, perhaps, because he’s the equivalent of a once powerful generator on its last gasps 20 years into a zombie apocalypse.

Humphries stayed on the court after a timeout, with Wall checking in for Sessions, to form a five-man unit that had played less than a minute on the season. This lineup failed to trim the Pacers lead.

Minutes later, Porter checked in for Humphries. George crossed-up Beal, stepped into a 3 and made it (duh). Neal, Washington’s high-point man, crossed-up a defender and stepped back into a 3: count it. But in between, Beal missed two looks and George would make another shot over Porter. Neal added a baseline floater and another 3-pointer but it wasn’t enough. This lineup also failed to trim the Pacers’ lead.

Meanwhile, Gortat, on one a knee at the scorer’s table for more than a minute, was unable to enter the fray (with less than five to play), and Dudley hadn’t left his seat on the bench, nor would he.

With about two and a half minutes to play, as fans began to scramble to the exits, the Wizards accepted their fate and Wittman pulled the starters. DeJuan Blair, Kelly Oubre, Temple, Neal, and Sessions took on Indiana’s starting five, still on the court. In the final minute, Paul George spun past Oubre, hesitated 18 feet from the hoop, took a bump, and fell away toward his own bench for a midrange make. That shot gave him 40 points, the most since scoring 39 in Game 4 of the 2014 Eastern Conference semis … against the Wizards.

After going down 101-88 with nine minutes left to play, the Wizards pulled within 10 points on four different occasions, but they were never able to crack single digits. The Pacers had an answer each time. To Washington’s credit, however, they did score 106 when the Pacers had been allowing just 92.3 pointers per game over their last nine. Not enough when you give up 123.

*checks storyline, checks box*

“One of my old coaches used to say, ‘Some games, no matter what you do, you are going to win. And some games, no matter what you do, you are going to lose,’” Gary Neal said post-game. “With those guys shooting the ball like that, I think tonight was one of those nights.”

Sure was.

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By George, Paul and CJ Shoot for Miles — Wizards vs Pacers, DC Council 11 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-vs-pacers-dc-council-game-11.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-vs-pacers-dc-council-game-11.html#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2015 15:15:17 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48682 The D.C. Council… TAI’s highlights, seen and heard, from each Washington Wizards game. Now: Wizards vs. Pacers, Game 11, Nov. 24, 2015 at the Verizon Center, via Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it).


Make or miss league, huh? Sometimes. And sometimes it’s easier to make when you are 6-foot-9 with amazing handles, have multiplied confidence arisen from a shattered leg, and have a teammate equally capable of catching fire.

Paul George dropped 40 on the Wizards in just 19 shots (7-8 from deep, and 5-6 from the charity stripe). He added 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. He’s back, folks. And he’s a shooter who’s just taller than the other guys.

Don’t worry, it’s not that simple. Or is it?

NBA.com player tracking data conveys that George went 9-for-10 on contested shots (with a defender within 3.5 feet) and 5-for-9 on shots not as hotly contested. The 3.5-foot range of demarcation is rather arbitrary. George made his first seven attempts of the game. Otto Porter was within 4, 5, and 3.7 feet of three of them; Bradley Beal was within 2.4 and 3.8 feet of two of them; and Marcin Gortat was within 4 feet of one. Only one of George’s first six attempts was, by definition, contested, but those others were very close distances when considering the tremendous length of NBA players. But George was also pulling up from deep, deep. Three of those first six makes, which set the tone for the night, were 3-pointers. The NBA 3-point line around the arc is 22 feet, 1.75 inches. George’s attempts were from 27.5, 25, and 25.1 feet. Far out, bruh.

For the game, George’s “closest defender” field goal results: Porter (5-6), Beal (4-5), Gortat (2-2), Neal (1-2), Temple (1-2), Wall (0-1), and even Kelly Oubre (1-1)—the last versus the Wizards’ rookie so PG could get his forty.

Said George after the game: “I feel great out there. Well, honestly I just feel like I had a year to work on my game. Most of the time, players get a good two or three months in the summer to get better. I had a full year of sitting out and just getting better, and just learning because I knew the changes we were going with. They definitely put pieces around me to succeed and it is my job to take us there.”

The feeling great part was quite evident, as much as it was evident that Otto Porter is still a year or two away from being a top-notch defender (whether it be via more strength, more respect from the referees, or both), and that the only other rostered player physically capable of checking a player like George is Kelly Oubre, who is at least three years away from being a respectable defensive presence. And Jared Dudley, while a smart defender, is not in the athletic realm of someone like George. It be’s like that sometimes.


CJ Miles is Indiana’s real stretch 4, despite the resistance and media hoopla surrounding Paul George playing that spot. Miles, a 6-foot-6 wing who’s a career 35 percent 3-point shooter (and in his 11th NBA season), started out being guarded by Kris Humphries and reciprocated the defensive relationship in return.

Miles attempted and made three 3-pointers in the game’s first five minutes. Humphries was the closest-yet-so-far-away defender on all of them. His first shot was simply testing the water. The data tells us that Miles possessed the ball for 5.6 seconds and dribbled four times while his realization he was being checked by the bigger, slower Humphries fueled his confidence. Miles fired the ball 25 feet away from the basket with Humphries 4.4 feet away. Made it.

The next two shots were of the catch-and-shoot variety. Miles didn’t dribble, only held the ball for 0.7 seconds on each. It was clear that Humphries realized that he should be conscious of his man’s capabilities, but he gave too much space nonetheless—he was tracked as 4.6 and 5.7 feet away from Miles’ next two 3-point makes. Humphries was soon after removed from the game and only saw four minutes of spot duty over the rest of the night, as Jared Dudley was inserted to start the second half. To that end, Miles went 1-for-6 when Dudley was the closest defender. But the opening damage had been done. Miles went 8-for-9 from deep overall, scoring 32 points on 16 shots and getting buckets on a variety of Wizards wanding in his direction.

Asked about his halftime insertion of Dudley for Humphries, Randy Wittman said, “It was a better matchup, I just felt. Nothing more than that … Just a gut feeling to try to get a different look to start the second half.” Pushed for an answer on if that’s a move the coach might consider making going into games when facing lineups like the Pacers starters, Wittman kept it brief: “Yea, we could look at that.”


John Wall was minus-24 on the night—perfect symmetry with the plus-24 of Pacers star Paul George. This is the third game in the last six where Wall’s plus/minus has been in the negative twenties. He was minus-20 in last Saturday’s win over Detroit and minus-24 in the Nov. 10 loss to the Thunder. Aside from the number of turnovers (8 versus Indiana), nothing in Wall’s game has been in-your-face concerning. But he also appears to be running on regular old unleaded instead of premium. Although, he did hit three of four 3-point attempts.

“It’s been up-and-down. It’s frustrating for me. I mean, I think I was playing well at first today, but then only had nine shots in 30 minutes. It gets frustrating, but it’s all a part of me just trying to make the right reads and find guys,” Wall said when asked to assess his season to-date before giving credit to Indiana’s defense. He finished with 18 points on 5-for-9 field goals and 5-for-5 free throws with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 8 turnovers, 0 steals, and 0 blocks.

Wall was also asked how he was doing physically. “Doing what I can do. Doing what I can do. I don’t make complaints. I played through a broken hand so I’ll be alright,” he said before releasing a curious chuckle as his postgame session with the media concluded.

It’s clear that Wall and his Wizards are going through some things. Thankfully or not thankfully, it’s a long season.

That Game was … A dazzling offensive duel turned into a sloppy, deer-in-headlights mess.

Wall botched the last play of the first half. Randy Wittman, appearing frustrated but totally at peace with having to remit another crucial possession to superstar chance, turned his back to get a head start on his halftime piss, frequently glancing back to peep the result. The result was Wall overextending time-and-space limits at that particular moment with a dribble to almost lose the ball out of bounds. He had to scramble just to get it to a teammate back in play. The game of hot potato on a Slip-and-Slide concluded with a rushed Gary Neal shot that pinged off the side of the backboard.

Of all the moments that add up to make a basketball game, this one was closer to the meaningless end of the spectrum. The first 24 minutes were over and the Wizards, by one valid measure, succeeded. George and Miles were throwing Velcro darts at a soft and welcoming thicket of material comprising the basket at which point the darts caught fire, scorching twine like a controlled forest burn. Through it all, the Wizards were just down one point, 61-62. They’d thrown some of those fire darts themselves—seven different Wizards attempted a 3 in the first half, and six different Wizards made a 3; collectively, they went 9-for-17 (53%) from deep.

But then the third quarter came and no amount of halftime #WittmanJava could change the previously set tone. Wall committed 4 of his 8 turnovers in the period—some were sloppy lobs of the ball up court in an effort to push pace, some were the result of George knowing Wall’s preferred passing lane on a particular play. Beal retreated into a smothering defense that ran several Pacers at him, and the Wizards went 1-for-8 from deep, getting outscored 31-21 in the period. George picked up where he left of with 16 third quarter points.

The Wizards just didn’t have it. They froze. Several second half wide-open 3-point attempts were missed with no defenders in sight—a defender 16.3 feet away (Beal), 11.7 feet away (Beal), 7.7 feet away (Porter), 8.9 feet away (Dudley), and 6.7 feet away (Dudley). Make or miss league, my friends.

Three Things We Saw.

#1) Two opposing teammates each scored more than 30 points in the Verizon Center—George with 40 and Miles with 32. The times that has happened to the Wizards in D.C. since John Wall entered the league:

  • Kevin Durant scored 34 and Russell Westbrook 32 in a Thunder win on Jan. 21, 2014.
  • Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza each scored 30 in a Wizards win over the Raptors on Feb. 6, 2012.
  • Westbrook scored 36 and Durant 33 in a Wizards win on Jan. 18, 2012.
  • LeBron James scored 35 and Dwyane Wade scored 33 in a Heat win on Mar. 30, 2011.

#2) Gary Neal was Spurs Gary Neal in 29 minutes off the bench, scoring 23 points on 5-for-8 from long distance. The last time Neal made five or more 3s in a game: Dec. 10, 2012—he went 7-for-10 as a starter in a 134-126 Spurs overtime win versus the Rockets.

#3) Before the game, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that he looks at lineup data “a lot.” His main, spread-the-floor unit of George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, CJ Miles, and Ian Mahinmi (Indiana’s normal starters and last night’s starters), however, fielded a very poor NetRtg of minus-14.9 over 98 minutes heading into the contest. Versus the Wizards that crew went plus-12 over 18 minutes and put up a NetRtg of plus-37.9. They NetRtg on the season was cut in half, in a positive direction, and now sits at minus-7.0. My, how one game can drastically flip the script in the theater of small sample sizes.


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How Much Does Frank Vogel Look at Lineup Data? ‘A Lot’ http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/how-much-does-frank-vogel-look-at-lineup-data-a-lot.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/how-much-does-frank-vogel-look-at-lineup-data-a-lot.html#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 23:18:55 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48676 20151124-frank-vogel-indiana-pacers

If you peruse this Washington Wizards blog site every now and then, you might have noticed a particular affection for lineup data. Individual plus/minus data and other on/off-court numbers, and iterations of those connected to more advanced metrics such as stats per possession, do tell a story. But NBA teams must play five players at once, and the combination of which five players work best together can be much more insightful (and maybe much more important).

The Pacers, like the Wizards, are going through a fairly drastic shift to a court-spreading style of play. Gone is Roy Hibbert, gone is David West, and here is Indiana’s most-used lineup to date: George Hill, Monta Ellis, CJ Miles, Paul George at the 4, and Ian Mahinmi (the lineup that will start tonight versus the Wizards). That crew has played 98 minutes together over seven games (Indiana’s next most-used lineup has played 37 total minutes over five games), but has only started six of the Pacers’ 13 games due to a variety of injuries.

The advanced statistical returns on that lineup, however, have not been good—just like the Wizards and their “spread-the-court” starting unit that features John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kris Humphries shooting 3s, and Marcin Gortat. Per NBA.com/stats, 24 different NBA five-man units have played 90 or more minutes together this season. Only two teams are putting up a Net Rating (1) worse than the minus-9.8 of the Wizards’ starters: Indiana’s crew at minus-14.9 and the go-to lineup of the Orlando Magic at minus-16.5. Of course, the main lineup of the 3-11 Brooklyn Nets ranks third-best in the NBA with a NetRtg of plus-14.6. So yea, it’s early.

With the new-look Pacers in town, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask head coach Frank Vogel about how/if he used lineup data. One of the opening questions from another reporter asked Vogel to assess the new-look Wizards, given the similarities in transformation. Vogel’s answer:

Vogel: “They’re doing a good job and they’re just giving more space to great offensive players in Beal and Wall. Looks good so far. They’ve had a couple bumps in the road just like we’ve had a couple bumps in the road, but it makes them very, very much more difficult to guard—Humphries being out at the 3-point line, it makes him more of a threat. I’m interested to see how it progresses throughout the year.”

Weidie: In the early part of the season when you are trying to figure out which combinations you like best on the court, how much to you look at lineup data—five-man units, four-man units, etc.?

Vogel: “A lot. I do look at it everyday, after every game I should say. And then over each five games we’ll get a report, each 10 games we’ll get a report, and we’ll keep studying it.”

Weidie: Is there an specific number of games that’s a good sample size for judging how successful a lineup is?

Vogel: “There is. I don’t know what the exact number is, but we’re not there yet. It’s still too soon to say. Obviously when you see reports like that, there’s two ways to react to it. You can stop playing certain lineups, or you could tweak those lineups to be more successful on the court. And that’s where we’re at. When one lineup’s not succeeding, why isn’t it succeeding? Let’s try to make it work.”

Reporter: Even though it’s early, would you still say at this point that you guys are better in a bigger lineup, or more comfortable in a bigger lineup?

Vogel: “I think we’ve been good with both, to be honest. There’s room for improvement in both areas, but I think that there’s been times where the spread lineups have looked really scary, really good. There’s times where we’ve clicked with two bigs out there as well.”

Weidie: Have you looked at lineup data more now than in the past, in particular because you’re trying to interject a new style of play into this team?

Vogel: “Yes, much more. Absolutely. Because we’ve always played two bigs, that’s just who we’ve been. So evaluating what’s working and what needs improvement is a bigger part of this year’s plan.”

It will be interesting to see how lineups from both teams play out this evening, in particular how much Washington’s “big” stretch 4 in Kris Humphries is tasked with guarding Indiana’s “wing” stretch 4 in Paul George. Or if Humphries is more frequently matched up against 6-foot-6 wing CJ Miles, which seems to be what other teams do in similar situations.

Click here for Wizards-Pacers Opening Statements.

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Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pacers, Game 11 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-vs-pacers-game-11.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-vs-pacers-game-11.html#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 17:32:09 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48671 Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers - Nov. 10, 2012

Two seasons ago, the Indiana Pacers knocked the Wizards out of the postseason in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, then lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. That Pacers team featured a starting lineup of George Hill, Paul George, Lance Stephenson, David West, and Roy Hibbert, and it rolled out a capable second unit of Luis Scola, Danny Granger, Evan Turner, C.J. Watson, and Ian Mahinmi.

Here’s what’s happened in the time that’s passed since that May 2014 ECF: George shattered his right leg in a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage, spent the better part of a year recovering, then got moved to power forward; Stephenson went to Charlotte, then to the Clippers; West signed with the Spurs; Hibbert was traded to the Lakers; Scola went to Toronto; Granger went to the Clippers, then the Heat, then was cut by the Pistons and is now a free agent; Turner joined the weirdly cohesive group of misfits known as the Celtics; and Watson went to Orlando. Only Hill, Mahinmi, and George remain.

In place of those seven departees, who combined to play more than 11,000 minutes in 2013-14 (57.9% of the team’s total minutes), Indiana has added players such as Monta Ellis, Jordan Hill, C.J. Miles, Chase Budinger, Rodney Stuckey, and Glenn Robinson III. The Pacers also drafted promising rookies Joseph Young (best known as last year’s Pac-12 Player of the Year who did this) and Myles Turner (who, while often injured, offers enormous potential in an ever-important style game).

The 2015-16 Pacers, at 8-5 and just above the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings, have been on a roll since an 0-3 start. Since that losing streak, this is how their season has gone: win three games, lose one, win three games, lose one, win two games, at Wizards on 11/24.

As for the specific matter of Wiz-Pacers, the two teams have a bit of a streaky relationship themselves. In the past 25 regular season games, dating back to the start of the ‘08-09 season, Washington is just 7-18 against Indiana (helped by nine straight wins over the Wizards beginning in 2010.) The Pacers have won the two most recent contests, in early 2015 by a combined six points that featured two overtimes, but the Wizards won the previous three.

Indiana has traditionally done a pretty good job containing John Wall, who tends to rely more on his own offense as the Pacers have had a knack for sealing passing lanes and defending pick-and-rolls. He averages just 6.7 assists but 19.2 points per game against Indiana, one of just eight NBA teams he scores at least 19 per game against. With Hibbert and Stephenson both in different jerseys, Ellis in an Indiana jersey, and George playing the 4 now, Wall will face an entirely different Pacers defense than the ones he’s been attacking for most of his career.

Speaking of George and his switch to an interior (but still very much exterior) role, it’s been a mixed bag so far. He’s averaging career highs in points (24.8 per game, well above his career best of 21.7), assists (4.8), rebounds (8.5), 3-point percentage (.417, on an amazing, and also career-high, 6.5 attempts per game), and free-throw attempts (6.9).

But he’s also averaging a career worst in turnovers (3.5) and relying more on his jump shot than he did even as a wing player.

George has attempted 243 field goals this season; according to NBA.com/Stats, 196 of them have been jumpers, and 60 have been from 15-19 feet away from the basket. That’s some #WittmanBall if I’ve ever seen it. Of those 243 FGA, nearly 66 percent have come from at least 15 feet away from the hoop compared to 20 percent from within five feet and 25.5 percent from 9 feet or less. He’s connected on just 35 percent of those 15-19 foot jumpers, as well as 35 percent on 10-14 footers; compare that to 44.4 percent of 20-29 footers.

In addition, coach Frank Vogel seems to still be in the process of determining how the hell to use this lanky, athletic, 6-foot-9 beast who can casually drain 35-footers. The Pacers’ primary lineup of Hill-Ellis-Miles-George-Mahinmi, which has played 98 minutes together, has mustered an OffRtg of just 87.5 while allowing a DefRtg of 102.5. When they go a bit bigger and sub Miles out for Jordan Hill—their second most used lineup, with 37 minutes played—their OffRtg shoots up to 95.3 but their DefRtg also rises to 105.7. After that, the next six lineups in terms of minutes played have a positive NetRtg, but those six lineups have combined to play just 151 minutes together.

Putting George, listed at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds and a pro who’s played his entire career at the 2 and 3 spots, into the paint was always going to bring some complications. Adding Ellis, accustomed to being the primary ball handler, into the mix was always going to complicate matters further. (Perhaps too much Monta was the biggest issue to start the season.) Swapping David West and Roy Hibbert for Jordan Hill and longtime reserve Mahinmi was never going to be a graceful transition, either.

But the Pacers have won eight of their past 10 games, so maybe they’re figuring it out earlier than everybody expected.

Washington, too, seems to be figuring itself out. The Wizards have won three in a row and haven’t allowed an opponent to reach 100 points in those three wins, a welcome change after giving up triple-digits in five of their first seven games. Their primary starting lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kris Humphries, and Marcin Gortat have an OffRtg of just 91.4 and a DefRtg of 101.2, but that same lineup with Garrett Temple instead of Beal put up an OffRtg of 108.5 and a DefRtg of 98.1 over the past three games. That’s not a suggestion that Temple fits in the starting lineup better than Beal, of course, but rather that the Wizards appear to be finding something resembling a rhythm on both ends of the court.

Again, it’s difficult to make any sort of predictions for this game, as the Pacers look completely different from the squad that knocked Washington out of the postseason two years ago. The Wizards, too, have dramatically altered their makeup.

I’d expect to see an aggressive Wall eager to drive into a sea of Pacers uniforms that doesn’t feature a large No. 55 for the first time in his career, and I’d expect to see a similarly eager Marcin Gortat, happy to battle with Mahinmi instead of Hibbert for once.

This might be the fastest-paced Wizards-Pacers game in a long, long time.

Joining TAI to further break down and, more importantly, give some insider perspective on these new-look Pacers is Tom Lewis (@IndyCornrows) of the Pacers blog Indy Cornrows.

Teams: Wizards vs Pacers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 2.5 points.

Q #1: Some players never recover after a serious injury, either physically or psychologically. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Paul George, who is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. Is he showing any lingering effects from the injury?

@IndyCornrows: After struggling to find his shot in the first couple of games, Paul George has become the dynamic playmaker at both ends of the floor we always hoped he’d be even prior to his injury. His total game has surpassed where he was pre-injury and as he continues to get more comfortable with the new faces and new style of play, everything is coming easier on the offensive end. So far (*knocks on wood*) there haven’t been any lingering effects to start the season. George is playing about 35 minutes per game so we will just have to wait and see if he can hold up through the marathon season. While PG has had plenty of highlight dunks he doesn’t seem quite as explosive, which may be part mental and part physical as he keeps building up his game shape. I spoke with him about this on Saturday and he admitted he’s not quite there but expects to get that on-demand burst back in his game.

Q #2: The Pacers’ pace has increased in each of the past three seasons, going from 92.84 possessions per 48 minutes in 2012-13 to 94.90 in 2013-14 to 95.50 in 2014-15 and up to 98.72 this season. What has been the cause of that trend, and do you expect it to continue?

@IndyCornrowsIt is hard to point to any past seasons for trends since the makeup of the team and offensive approach has changed so drastically. We almost have to throw out everything from last season without Paul George in the mix. Also, with David West and Roy Hibbert playing a big role the past two seasons, the pace had to remain slow. Now the Pacers are using a spread lineup and have more agile bigs even when they use a more traditional lineup. Their brand of pace-and-space ball has increased the pace but is still slower than expected as they figure out how to make it work.

Q #3: How have the losses of Roy Hibbert and David West impacted the team?

@IndyCornrowsAs mentioned above, losing Hibbert and West let the Pacers change from a power post team that relied on half-court sets to a more versatile lineup that wants to run and shoot more 3s. Defense remains a strength but instead of a stout interior defense, the Pacers are using their length and quickness to attack teams on the perimeter and currently sit second in the league in steals. Plus, the current style of play is far more entertaining to watch.

Q #4: With Monta Ellis, George Hill, and Paul George, the Pacers have three players who function best with the ball in their hands. They’re also leading the team in minutes, by far (each gets at least 33 mpg while no other player gets even 28). How has that dynamic worked thus far?

@IndyCornrowsAs with everything thus far, this trio is a work in progress but the chemistry is building nicely. Neither Hill nor Ellis is a true point guard and when they aren’t on the run, Ellis often facilitates the offense as a better ball handler in the pick-and-roll. He can get in the lane and create better than Hill who has benefitted by getting better shots behind the arc, where he is making 45 percent of his 3s. Despite his reputation, Ellis has been a willing cog (and passer) in the offensive attack. It also helps having two players (Ellis and PG) who can create a shot when things break down.

Q #5: The lineup that’s played together the most for Indiana this season has been George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, C.J. Miles, Ian Mahinmi. That lineup has mustered a dreadful 87.5 OffRtg, and a NetRtg of minus-14.9. The next most used lineup is Hill, Ellis, George, Mahinmi, Jordan Hill. That lineup has been better on offense, though hardly Warriors-esque, with a 95.3 OffRtg but has been been worse on defense with a 105.7 DefRtg.

Is Frank Vogel still trying to figure out how this team is most efficient?

@IndyCornrowsFrank Vogel is still figuring out when and where to use his spread lineup to create mismatches and when to play big to matchup with other big lineups. But he is committed to giving that lineup a chance to work through their growing pains and develop as expected. The first three games of the season were clunkers so all of the Pacers numbers have been trending in the right direction over the past ten games. Several minor injuries have also forced Vogel to continually alter his playing rotation and he’s surely seen a few lineups he won’t use again, but the overall defensive numbers are moving in the right direction.

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Key Legislature: Wizards 97 at Pistons 95 — Two Plus Two Equals Five http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-97-pistons-95-key-legislature-game-10.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-97-pistons-95-key-legislature-game-10.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 16:38:45 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48667 TAI’s Key Legislature… The game’s defining moment, its critical event, the wildest basketball thing you ever saw, or just stuff that happened. Wizards at Pistons, Regular Season Game 10, Nov. 21, 2015, by Sean Fagan (@McCarrick)

Five seconds is an eternity in the NBA. Five seconds is long enough to watch the play develop in front of you and either attempt to run it or call a timeout. As an NBA player, you might spend an extra second of that considering where you are headed to after the game, or the series of events that have led you to this moment. You might consider your shoe deal. However, rarely do you expect the refs to blow the whistle on a five-second violation with the outcome of the game still very much in doubt. At the very least, you’d expect to receive all five of your allotted seconds.

On Saturday night with 9.2 seconds remaining in the game and the Wizards clinging to a precarious two-point lead over the Pistons in Detroit, the referees blew a five-second violation on Otto Porter and left Coach Randy Wittman apoplectic on the sidelines. Porter, as in the inbounder, had enough time to fake one inbounds pass to Bradley Beal before turning to his second option, John Wall in the backcourt. It was at that moment that the refs whistled Porter for five seconds and promptly gave the ball back to the Pistons with a chance to either tie or take the lead.

With the aid of replay, we can note that even if you tried to count “five Mississippi” as fast as possible while leaving off the ending P-I, you wouldn’t blow the whistle on poor Otto as fast as they did. Porter’s face couldn’t even betray rage but registered somewhere between grim resignation and blank befuddlement. He was cheated of his final second (the NBA later acknowledged the error in its Last Two Minute Report), and it was that act of blatant thievery that could been the “sliding doors” moment of Mr. Porter’s career.

Or perhaps not.

But it was Otto who had to overcome the slings and arrows of referee bias and ultimately find himself guarding Detroit’s final shot—a 3-point attempt by Marcus Morris that would have sealed a win for the Pistons. Porter covered the ground between Ersan Ilyasova and Morris, leaping out to close down the latter player who received the ball at the top of the key. Morris created just enough room with a head fake to launch a 3, but it touched nothing but air on its way to the basket. On that play, two things of note should be recognized:

  1. Porter had to cover an ungodly amount of space to leap out and guard Morris. He literally sprinted six feet in less than a second to be in time to disrupt the shot.
  2. Porter didn’t commit the cardinal Wizards sin of fouling a spotty shooter behind the 3-point line. Formerly known as the Al Thornton Special and now called the Garrett Temple Special, it would have been easy for Porter to allow his momentum to carry him into Morris. Instead, he kept his hands up just enough to disrupt the shot.

Porter was allowed his redemption but getting angry at the zebras is a losing proposition; in any case, the Wizards had performed poorly enough throughout the game to deserve a loss, but it did seem that the stars were aligned against them for most of the evening. Besides the phantom five count, there was also a moment where the clock simply did not run, giving the Pistons an additional 10 seconds of time with the ball. That and the fact that the Palace at Auburn Hills is built upon an ancient burial ground of the Kardashians—thus rendering Kris Humphries completely ineffective.

In the end, the time-based shenanigans in this contest will have little effect on the Wizards, who crawled two games over .500 on the backs of the ageless Nene and perpetual journeyman Ramon Sessions. But the game would have been lost if not for Porter’s ability to cover six feet in less than the time it takes to say “one Mississippi.”


  • Andre Drummond’s streak of double-doubles was brought to a crashing halt, which is due in large part to the inability of the Pistons to get him the ball rather than any particular defensive acumen by the Wizards. Drummond only had six shot attempts on the night but bullied his way on both ends of the glass against the Wizards frontline. He was even wide open on final play but his teammates could not find him.
  • Nene was the MVP of the game with his 18-point performance and feisty hands, but his play resulted in some unintentional JaVale McGee PTSD. As much as one trusts Nene’s veteran savvy, one also has to openly question whether it is ever a good idea for Nene to take the ball all the way down the court and attempt a layup by his lonesome.
  • Kris Humphries had the opposite night of Nene and another ineffective night after his breakout performance against the Magic. The issue right now is that the Humphries experiment as a stretch 4 is still yielding more negatives (0-7 FGs and 0-4 3PTs), while neutering Humphries where he used to thrive in (getting the basketball on cuts or 18 feet from the hoop). There just isn’t enough consistency with Humphries shooting right not to continue feeding him the ball behind the arc, but Randy Wittman appears content to ride or die with his experiment.
  • Finally, the Marcin Gortat watch continues. Gortat took a beautiful feed by Wall to put the Wizards up by five with about a minute remaining but otherwise continued his season long disappearing act after erupting in the first quarter. His line of minus-22 stands out among the starters as the biggest eyesore (Nene finished plus-24), and it doesn’t appear that Wittman “calling him out” has helped Gortat find an uptick in his game.

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The Pixel-and-Roll Show: Chopping up the Wizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/the-pixel-and-roll-show-chopping-up-the-wizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/the-pixel-and-roll-show-chopping-up-the-wizards.html#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 14:51:21 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48649 marcin gortat, truth about it, washington wizards, abe lincoln, adam mcginnis, pixel and roll, podcast
On the latest Pixel-and-Roll Show podcast, Kyle Weidie and Rashad Mobley join me to assess Washington’s performance over the first three weeks of the NBA season. We pontificate on KD to D.C., share our recent locker room experiences, and discuss Martell Webster’s season-ending injury.

Other discussion topics:

  • Washington’s defensive issues
  • Offensive struggles
  • Lack of team identity
  • The Kris Humphries Stretch 4 Experiment
  • Marcin Gortat’s rocky start and call-out by Coach Wittman
  • John Wall’s career-high turnover rate and his 3-point shooting form
  • Whether fans should be alarmed
  • This year’s #KD2DC game being a dud
  • Whether Durant dealing with headaches of playing at home will be more or less than compared to bringing a title to D.C.
  • Interesting tidbits from the Bucks game
  • What we’ve seen so far from rookie Kelly Oubre
  • Twitter questions from fans

Listen and Subscribe! 

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The Bench Mob Saves The Day — Wizards at Pistons, DC Council 10 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/the-bench-mob-saves-the-day-wizards-at-pistons-dc-council-10.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/the-bench-mob-saves-the-day-wizards-at-pistons-dc-council-10.html#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2015 17:24:53 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48650

One of those Friday night's for Nene. pic.twitter.com/IaHfdWvIvc

— Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202) November 22, 2015


Nene. He was removed from the starting lineup before the season in favor of Kris Humphries with the hope that three areas would improve: Marcin Gortat would have more room to roam the lane, Kris Humphries (or whomever the stretch 4 ended up being) would add the versatility that was lacking with Nene in the starting lineup, and finally Nene himself would have an easier time imposing his will against second-team personnel.

In Detroit, Gortat scored 14 points, but he scored 10 of those in the first quarter when John Wall looked confident and was creating offensive opportunities for the starters. He was not able to maintain that momentum. And Humphries may as well have been a DNP (more on that later), but Nene imposed his will early, often and successfully.

When the Brazilian checked into the game with 1:40 left in the first quarter, he was on defense, and, due to a great pick by Andre Drummond on Garrett Temple, Nene was all alone on the perimeter with Reggie Jackson. Nene stood his ground, got his hand in the face of Jackson, and forced him to take a tough fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expired. Nene then ran the floor, beat Drummond to the paint, went to his spot on the block, called for the ball, and hit a step back jumper. There was no hesitation, none of the dreaded over-dribbling that Randy Wittman hates—just fluid motions on both ends of the floor.

Nene was at his most effective in the second quarter when he and his fellow bench mates stretched the Wizards’ lead from six to 14 points. Drummond was now on the bench, and Aron Baynes—whom Comcast SportsNet’s Steve Buckhantz described as an “immobile, big, lumbering guy”—was tasked with guarding Nene. Nene bothered Baynes on defense by repeatedly pushing him further up the lane, and on defense Nene got away with a hook en route to an easy basket in the paint. He also hit midrange shots and dominated against substandard competition just as he was supposed to do as a former starter. By halftime Nene was 7-for-7 from the field with 14 points, and had the starters not surrendered the double-digit lead, he would have comfortably led the Wizards to a 14-point lead at the start of the third quarter.

Nene finally missed a shot in that third period, and he only scored four points in the second half, but he picked up the offense and defensive slack for the starters in the first half, and helped the bench play with confidence well into the fourth quarter. He also showed that, unlike Kris Humphries, he can dribble, drive, and finish. Just watch:


Kris Humphries “wins” this award for the second consecutive game. On a night when the starters collectively played like an ace pitcher sans their best stuff, Humphries was the weakest link by far. In 16 minutes of play, he went 0-for-7 for the field (including an airballed floater and an 0-for-4 effort from the 3-point line), grabbed just five rebounds, and could not stop the quicker Ersan Ilyasova in the paint. During one particularly futile stretch toward the end of the second quarter, Humphries badly missed a 3-pointer, then missed an attempt to dunk his own miss, and then two possessions later he was late on a defensive rotation and allowed Ilyasova an easy drive to the basket.

Humphries started the second half with a missed layup, a bad pass turnover, and a missed 26-footer. Coach Wittman sat him down at the 7:47 mark of the third quarter and he did not play again. Yes, Humphries has become low-hanging fruit when it comes to listing all that’s wrong with the Wizards, and even though he (and Jared Dudley) are placeholders until Kevin Durant arrives (or doesn’t), there has to be a better solution. He’s noticeably off-key.


Ramon Sessions. With the exception of the first nine minutes of the game when it appeared as if John Wall could get anywhere on the court without resistance, the All-Star had an off night. He finished with eight points and seven assists, but only two points and two assists came after the first quarter. For one night, Sessions pulled off a believable J-Wall impression.

In the second quarter, as both Buckhantz and Phil Chenier pointed out, Sessions pushed the pace and showed off his ability to get in the lane at will (just as Wall would normally do). He went to the free throw line six times in the first quarter and made four. When there was no clear opening for Sessions, he did what any good point guard would do: he fed the ball to the man with the hot hand, Nene.

Sessions came in for Wall with 6:02 left in the third quarter with the Wizards trailing by nine points. Sessions then had four points, five assists, and was accountable for 14 of the Wizards’ final 15 points in the third, using the same successful formula that had worked in the second quarter. He pushed the ball, put pressure on the Pistons interior defense by getting into the lane, got to the free throw line, and took the open shots when necessary.

Perhaps Sessions’ most impressive play of the night came via a hockey assist. He grabbed the long rebound off a Stanley Johnson miss, sprinted up the court, drove the lane, and drew the defense to him. Then he kicked it out to Gary Neal who swung the ball to Jared Dudley for the splash…

John Wall won’t always lay an egg the way he did on Saturday night, but there’s comfort in knowing that Sessions can summon this type of performance in case of emergency.

That game was … an exercise in trust by Randy Wittman.

John Wall was clearly in an offensive rhythm in the first quarter. After the Pistons jumped out to a 12-4 lead, Wall led the Wizards on a 16-8 run with six points and four assists. Wittman traditionally takes Wall out of the game toward the end of the first quarter and rests him until halfway through the second, but given how fluidly Wall was running the offense and getting easy baskets for both himself and his teammates, Wittman probably should have let him continue. Instead, he took Wall out of the game. The Wizards’ bench held it down for two and a half minutes to lead by 26-20, however…

In the second quarter the bench completely took over (thanks to Sessions and Nene) and they built a 14-point lead with 5:57 left in the period. Coach Wittman let the bench stay in a bit longer than usual while the Pistons subbed in three of their staters (Caldwell-Pope, Drummond, and Jackson)—Washington’s bench still maintained a 14-point lead. But then Wittman appeared to sub the starters back into the game simply out of habit instead of reading and feeling the flow of the game. They reeled and the game was tied at halftime.

When the Wizards trailed by nine points in the second half, Wittman pulled Bradley Beal, Gortat, and Wall out of the game and decided to play Sessions, Nene, and Garrett Temple instead. He went with a bench-heavy rotation until six minutes were left in the game, when the starters were allowed to come in and win it. After not going with the flow in the first half, Wittman switched his strategy in the second half by trusting the bench to keep his team in the game and allowing his starters to seal the deal.

Three Things We Saw.

#1) The referees were just as off as John Wall on Saturday night. As Steve Buckhantz first observed with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter, the game clock did not start for 10 seconds, which could have adversely affected the Wizards in the closing seconds of the game. There was also a quick five-second call on Otto Porter, when the replays clearly showed only four seconds had elapsed. And finally, with 2:17 left in the game, Marcus Morris tied up Gortat, which should have resulted in an easy jump ball for the taller Gortat. Instead, Andre Drummond was allowed to sneak in, much to Wittman and Gortat’s dismay. Drummond easily won the tap over a distracted Gortat. The Wizards still won the game, but Wittman & Co. could have mounted quite a protest had the game gone the other direction.

#2) Bradley Beal returned after a three game absence due to a bruised left shoulder. He looked understandably hesitant during the game, even if he ditched his shoulder harness after halftime. Beal finished with just seven points on 3-for-8 shooting, but he did hit a big basket in the fourth quarter when he curled off a Nene screen and hit a shot to give the Wizards a 90-89 lead.

#3) Garrett Temple and Jared Dudley could have easily been chosen as the X-factors in the win. Temple was back in a reserve role with the return of Beal, but he didn’t miss a beat with eight points, five rebounds, and several deflections. Jared Dudley, who told the media after the Bucks game that his conditioning and his shooting stroke were finally in simpatico, had another strong shooting performance with nine points (2-for-2 from the 3-point line). Dudley and Temple, along with their fellow bench players Sessions, Nene, and Neal, scored 51 of the Wizards’ 97 points.

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Opening Statements: Wizards at Pistons, Game 10 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-at-pistons-game-10.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-at-pistons-game-10.html#comments Sat, 21 Nov 2015 20:19:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48643

Tonight, the Wizards take on the Pistons in Detroit. It’s the first of four meetings against Stan Van Gundy’s guys and there are plenty of reasons to get fired up for this one. John Wall is playing as well as he ever has, even if he’s shooting below his career average from both the field and free throw line, and his turnovers are up. He ranks in the top five in assists per game (3rd), free throw assists per game (1st), secondary assists (T-5th), and points created by assists (3rd). Passing wizardry of the highest order. Wall will square off against Reggie Jackson, who is not only averaging 20.4 points per game but also adding a healthy 4.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. He’s also a plus defender, just barely, with the size (he’s 6-foot-3) to bother Wall on and off the ball.

But the real reason to tune in is to watch Andre Drummond dominate. Drummond has double-doubled in each of Detroit’s first dozen games, the longest streak by a Piston since ’85-86 and the longest streak since CP3 double-doubled in the first 13 games of the 2013-14 season. And these aren’t just normal, human double-doubles: Drummond is flirting with a 20-20 line. He’s going to be a handful or two (or ten) for Marcin Gortat, who has had his struggles on the glass this season, which forced Randy Wittman to put him on blast. Gortat is grabbing 30.4 percent of contested rebounds, which pales in comparison to Drummond’s Contested REB% of 42.5. The Polish Machine had better bring his A game to The Palace.

I have yet to watch the Pistons play this season, so to do this preview justice I reached out to someone who has: roundball poet Seth Landman (@sethlandman) who kills it over at The Peach Basket. Read his look-ahead below and follow him on Twitter.

Teams: Wizards at Pistons
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
Television: NBATV/CSN+
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Pistons fav’d by 2 points.

Q #1: Andre Drummond is averaging 19 and 19. Is he another one of those Monstars from Moron Mountain and whose powers did he steal?

@sethlandman: The answer to this question is Dwight Howard. It’s boring, but true. Everything you would say to describe Andre Drummond’s game doubles as a description of Young Dwight Howard: the crazy combination of speed and size, the pick-and-roll dives that open up the whole offense, the terrifying rim protection, the ability to switch onto any kind of offensive player, the phenomenal rebounding, etc. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Young Dwight feels a little underrated to me historically, by the way. Do we remember that he was the second-best basketball player in the world for an extended period of time? To bring this back to Drummond, the thing I really want to talk about is the rebounding. Here’s a crazy stat: the list of players going back to 1970 who have pulled down 25 percent of available rebounds while playing more than 35 minutes per game is just 2015-16 Andre Drummond and a bunch of random Dennis Rodman seasons. It’s so rare for a big guy to play this many minutes! I don’t know if Drummond will ever be the best player on an NBA Finals team the way Dwight was in Orlando, but it certainly feels like it’s in play to me.

Q #2: You’ve written about the Pistons’ ability to score—impressive because it’s powered by creative off-ball movement and precise passing not seen since, oh, the Brazilian national soccer team in 1994.

How much of that is parts fitting perfectly together, and how much is it the underrated, mostly-hated Reggie Jackson pulling strings?

@sethlandman: I don’t know if I’m ready to compare this team to the sublimity of soccer at its highest level, but I do think the Pistons seems to be playing with a clear sense of purpose that fosters unselfishness in the context of the game itself. Drummond is at the center of it all. You put a ball-handler who can play pick-and-roll with Drummond, and the gravity created by that action allows everything else to happen. Still, I have this nagging sense that this is still more an idea of a basketball team than an actual basketball team. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova: these all seem like lesser models built from more ideal prototypes. Combine Morris and Ilyasova into one player, and you maybe have a good stretch 4, but in real life Morris can’t shoot and Ilyasova doesn’t rebound. Caldwell-Pope continues to look the part of a world-class shooting guard, but at this point I wonder if the stats will ever bear that out. Even Reggie Jackson is, I’m a little sad to say, probably better in theory than in real life. A big guard who can get to the rim and shoot enough to keep defenses from mercilessly going under ever single ball screen? Sounds great! But Reggie, as he must be well aware based on life-experience, is not Russell Westbrook. He’s just Reggie Jackson. That’s fine, but if he’s the second best player on your team, you might be a little over-extended.

I remember when Stan Van Gundy signed Jodie Meeks, I thought, “Jodie Meeks is not very good, but he can really shoot.” In terms of Stan’s philosophy, both sides of that “but” are revealing. How do you build a team? Do you find players with outsized physical talent and teach them to do the things you need, or do you find players with clearly defined skills and try to put them into situations where their athletic shortcomings aren’t exposed? Every player on this Pistons squad is an unyielding basketball dilemma on one side or the other of that equation, save Drummond. But what the hell: maybe Drummond is enough.

Q #3: In Detroit’s last five they’ve beaten the Cavs (!), but lost to both L.A. teams, Sacramento, and Golden State (no shame there). You’re Stan Van Gundy. Where can you score some consistency because I don’t see any on Amazon.com?

@sethlandman: Well, in the time since you asked me this question, they managed to beat the Timberwolves by 10 on the road, which isn’t exactly like taking down the Warriors, but it’s something. That consistency you’re referring to is elusive. For the Pistons, I think it’s on the bench. Their starters are playing insane minutes right now. Caldwell-Pope and Morris are both in the top five in the league in minutes per game, and Drummond is first among centers. I think that’s fine, in and of itself, but it points to the fact that the bench is an issue. Stanley Johnson is probably their best guy off the bench right now, and he’s a rookie. Aron Baynes is solid, I guess, but it’s not like other teams have to game-plan for him. Anthony Tolliver is supposed to stretch the floor, but he’s making 26 percent of his 3s right now. Maybe getting Brandon Jennings back will help? I think part of the problem is what I talked about in my previous answer. When you have an entire roster of flawed players carefully put together, one bad game throws everything into chaos. This is a good basketball team, but in many ways team consistency is a byproduct of talent, and the Pistons just don’t have enough across the roster quite yet.

Q #4: Wittman or SVG? Wall or three Pistons of your choosing? Jared Dudley or Brandon Jennings off the bench?

@sethlandmanLet me just quickly say SVG and Jennings so I can focus on that middle question, which is a juicy one. I’m going with Wall. I love Drummond, but man, Wall is just so special. He’s got once-in-a-generation court vision, and I’ll take that over once-in-a-generation rebounding. Nobody else I’m getting with my other two Pistons is moving the needle for me. I know you’re always supposed to go with the big man, but that’s how you get Hakeem Olajuwon (or Sam Bowie) instead of Michael Jordan. Hakeem’s great. Probably one of the 10 or 15 best players ever. You could never fault the Rockets for taking him ahead of Jordan, but they could have had Jordan. That’s an extreme example, and I feel insane writing it, but that’s what Wall does to me. I wrote about him extensively already in The Peach Basket’s Wizards preview before the season, and my thoughts on the matter still stand. I’d take Wall ahead of anyone in the league right now besides Curry, LeBron, Durant, Davis, Westbrook, and maybe, MAYBE, Karl-Anthony Towns. There. I said it.


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Washington’s Venison Feast — Wizards vs Bucks, DC Council 9 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-vs-bucks-dc-council-game-9.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-vs-bucks-dc-council-game-9.html#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2015 23:36:30 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48606 john wall, washington wizards, milwaukee bucks, truth about it, adam mcginnis, 2015


John Wall. When Washington’s All-Star point guard subbed back in at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter, Milwaukee led 38-36. The Wizards then proceeded to go on a 28-8 run to close out the first half and permanently take control of the contest. This was not a coincidence. Wall finished with a line of 19 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. He was clearly the best player on the court.

Wall drove at will, pushed the tempo by finding open shooters off misses and makes, and relentlessly harassed the Bucks’ guards. His jumper was shaky at beginning but he eventually knocked in a few 3-pointers. With his backcourt partner Bradley Beal out again, it was imperative for Wall to dominate the action—he did just that, finishing plus-30 in 31 minutes. Quite impressive.


Kris Humphries was bound to come back to earth after his outstanding Saturday night performance against Orlando. But he propelled downward with a thud that has defined his season—growing pains. Kris was tentative with the ball in his hands, often dribbled to nowhere (which gave me JaVale McGee flashbacks), and finished with a plus/minus of minus-5. The Minnesota native still hustles, supports his teammates, and is trying hard to remake his outside game—all positives, which is why I am still willing to give him a pass in November for any glaring miscues.


Jared Dudley. While the Humphries Stretch-4 Project is a work in progress, Dudley has a proven track record in the NBA that he can effectively fill this role. His excellent display on Tuesday night is why the front office brought in the former Boston College standout. Dudley splashed multiple momentum-swinging 3-balls, and while his drives are never sure things because of his subpar quickness, they are under control and he usually makes the correct pass. Dudley put up 13 points, corralled seven rebounds, dished two assists, and committed zero turnovers in 22 minutes. On defense, he stayed in front of his man and his rotations were formidable. If Dudley’s health can hold up, it is probably only a matter of time until he starts: simply put, Washington was and has been a superior squad with Dudley on the floor and his game high plus-34 versus Milwaukee bears this out.

That game was … a defensive vise grip.

After the game, both Randy Wittman and Wiz players emphasized that their new, simplified defensive approach was the key to the blowout victory. Their assessment was legitimate. Milwaukee’s final shooting numbers—43 percent on field goals and 47 percent on 3-pointers—masked how the Wizards gutted the Bucks like a butcher shop.

The Bucks scored two points in the final four minutes of the second quarter. They had zero buckets in the last five minutes of the third quarter. And during a nine-minute second half stretch, Milwaukee was held scoreless. Wall, Otto Porter, and Garrett Temple controlled the perimeter and eliminated any passing lanes with active hands. The deflections piled up, which led to advantageous offensive opportunities and, at the final buzzer, Washington had outscored the the Bucks 18-2 in fast break points. Sometimes that basketball cliché of “defense creates offense” actually proves true.

Three Things We Saw.

#1) In the meta matchup between former Georgetown Hoyas, Porter and Greg Monroe, Young Simba destroyed his elder classman. Otto easily could have been MVP or the X-factor in this contest. He slashed effectively, drilled jumpers. and wrecked havoc on defense. The artist formerly known as Slenderman compiled 19 points on just 11 shots and tallied a spectacular plus-32. His running, high-off-the-backboard shot is becoming a trademark move and continues to ease concerns that he would be unable to finish in traffic at this professional level. In sharp contrast, Monroe scored just four points and his minus-26 was the worst by any player in the game. Porter even swatted Monroe once. I asked Otto if he talked any smack about the block. He admitted that he didn’t because Monroe took a charge on him. (Such an Otto answer.)

#2) After three straight blowout defeats, this team’s identity was in flux. The offense was a mixed bag and their defensive was a complete mess. Wall conceded that they stopped trying to do complex stuff like icing or switching on D and focused on more standard principles, and Dudley credited the staff with extra film study to clean up their miscues. With two straight victories, it appears they’ve found a fix to their woes.

#3) Three weeks into the NBA season, Washington has a record of 5-4 (3-0 when holding opponents under 100) but due to a quirky early schedule with long layoffs, it is difficult for us gadfly commentators to properly appraise their play. Four of their victories have come against Milwaukee and Orlando, two teams which reside in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. Starting Saturday in Detroit, the Wizards have five games in seven days, so there soon will be a better read on where things stand.















Video Compilation.


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Key Legislature: Wizards 115 vs Bucks 86 — Wall-to-Wall Coverage http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-115-vs-bucks-86-key-legislature-game-9.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/wizards-115-vs-bucks-86-key-legislature-game-9.html#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 22:49:31 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48600

The Wizards were ahead 15-12 when John Wall checked out of the game and Greivis Vasquez checked into it.  Wall had just four points and two assists at the time, but he had the Wizards running at a quick pace and, more importantly, he’d kickstarted the Bradley Beal-less offense.

The upbeat Wizards starters were getting easy baskets both inside and out but Vasquez entered the game with the intent of imposing his own slower-paced will on the game, while helping to erase the Bucks’ deficit which had worked its way up to six points. Vasquez didn’t speed his way up and down the court, and he didn’t use any fancy behind-the-back dribbles to get where he wanted. Vasquez’s approach was that of a slow, deliberate, effective turtle. He’d back down Ramon Sessions in the lane, and depending on the reaction of the defense, he’d find teammates in the post, look for a wide-open shooters in the corner, or turn the corner for a midrange floater. If Jerryd Bayless decided to take over ball-handling duties, Vasquez would run to an open spot on the perimeter, wait for the ball, shoot a shot that seemingly took a lifetime to leave his hands, and he’d nail it. His 3-pointer with 1:07 left gave the Bucks a 26-24 lead and provoked one fan to quickly flash the Venezuelan flag.

Four minutes into the second quarter, despite the efforts of Sessions and Otto Porter who combined to score the first nine points for the Wizards, Vasquez was still controlling the tempo. He hadn’t just led the the Bucks to a four-point lead, but was also Milwaukee’s leading scorer (9 points) despite only having played a little over eight minutes. Not coincidentally, John Wall, the team’s best perimeter defender, had been on the bench during this same span of Vasquez domination—he must have been wondering when he would get his chance to take over. In fact, some of the bloggers covering the game (present company included) wondered aloud why Wall was on the bench for so long (it added up to almost 15 minutes, real time), considering the Wizards had not played since Saturday and would have the rest of the work week off before their next game in Detroit on Saturday.

Coach Wittman sent John Wall into the game at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter and he immediately proceeded to show Vasquez, the Bucks, the bloggers, and the Verizon Crowd exactly “what it was,” as Jordan Crawford once said.

As soon as Wall checked into the game, as if he was setting the tone for the remainder of the quarter, he fought through a Johnny O’Bryant screen and contested a missed corner 3 by Vasquez. On the very next possession, Wall slowly dribbled to the right, then quickly crossed over to the left, drove by Vasquez, drew the foul, and made one of two free throws. Wall then proceeded to assist or score on 20 of the Wizards’ next 27 points.

First he threw a one-handed cross-court pass to Otto Porter who pulled-up for a jumper. He then threw a much easier pass to Garrett Temple with just five seconds elapsed in the 24-second clock for a bucket. After an official timeout, he got the ball to Jared Dudley who found his rhythm with five quick points. Vasquez checked out the game with the Bucks down 40-42. Michael Carter-Williams and Bayless checked in, but they were powerless in the face of Wall’s dominance. In all, Wall (5 points and 6 assists in the quarter) led the Wizards on a 28-8 run to nab a 64-46 lead by the end of the second quarter.

After the halftime break, however, Washington was careless with the ball and let up on defense, which allowed the Bucks to trim the Wizards’ lead from 20 points to six in four minutes. But then Wall—who else?—seized control by finding Porter for a 19-footer and then hitting a 3-pointer of his own to bring the lead up to 15 points. The Wizards led by at least 15 points for the remainder of the game.

As Coach Wittman remarked after the game, the Bucks (especially Vasquez) prefer a slower pace, and Wall, on offense and defense, saw to it that the game was the exact opposite. Wall pushed the ball down the court even after the Bucks made baskets, played on-the-ball pressure defense on the Bucks’ guards, and, as fellow TAI colleague Adam McGinnis remarked, “Wall was the best player on the court.”

That’s why they brought (and keep) him here.


  • Kelly Oubre scored all of his seven points during the 4:34 he played in the fourth quarter, which included an easy 3-pointer. But Oubre was even more impressive in the locker room after the game. First, he ignored Georgetown alum Otto Porter and other members of the Wizards media who were trying to watch Maryland game, and boldly requested (along with Drew Gooden) to watch the Kansas vs. Michigan State tilt. Unfortunately for Oubre, that game did not start for another 20 minutes. Second, he nearly hounded the Wizards video staffer for a copy of the game tape, so he could analyze the contest. The staffer told him to relax and enjoy his Wednesday off, but Oubre insisted that he get that he get his hands on the tape during the day off. Gary Neal and Garrett Temple jumped in to encourage Oubre to enjoy his day off, which seemed enough pressure for Oubre to concede and wait till Thursday. Still, the fact that he was willing to learn more even after a victory is quite impressive.
  • Kris Humphries followed up his five 3-pointer shoulder shrug performance with nine points and four rebounds in 20 minutes of play. He went 1-for-2 from the 3-point line, but he still has the tendency to want to dribble-drive his way to the basket, which too often leads to turnovers.
  • The Wizards are 3-0 on the season when holding opponents to under 100 points. A lot has been made about the Wizards’ evolving offense, but defense has been the bread and butter of this team’s success over the last two seasons. The Magic came into last Saturday night’s game having won five of their last seven with an offensive rating of 101.3 in those games.
  • The Wizards allowed the Bucks to score 20 points in the first nine minutes of the third quarter, but then only allowed 20 points for remaining 15 minutes of the game. They are still prone to lapses on the perimeter, but on Tuesday night their pressure defense (at times, the team even deployed a full court press) successfully threw the Bucks off their rhythm. When asked about the increased ball pressure, Coach Wittman joked, “We weren’t running a 1-2-1-1, 3-4 zone or anything, it wasn’t real complicated. We did make it [the defense] simpler, and we’ve won two in a row since doing it so I think it’s helping.”
  • Martell Webster was his usual animated self both during and after the game.  However, the Washington Post‘s Jorge Castillo reported this morning that Webster will have season-ending hip surgery on Friday.

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Opening Statements: Wizards vs Bucks, Game 9 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-vs-bucks-game-9.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2015/11/opening-statements-wizards-vs-bucks-game-9.html#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 15:13:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=48594 bucks

Preseason speculation on who would start for the Wizards centered not around who would replace Paul Pierce—Otto Porter was the obvious choice by default of his own success —but who would play the well-advertised position of “stretch-4.” A numerator of the equation: would Nene actually accept a bench role at the much-maligned (by him) 5 spot?

As the offseason progressed and Washington collected wing players to jibe with a new style (or modified brand, according to Randy Wittman Theory), it was ultimately revealed in the first preseason game that Kris Humphries was the new starting 4. It made the most sense. Jared Dudley, the wing most experienced and capable of starting at 4, was announced out-of-commission for several months due to back surgery. Actually, Humphries starting didn’t make the most sense, it made the only sense. Many with the Wizards felt that Dudley (and the team) would be better served coming off the bench, anyway. He would help anchor an uncertain second unit.

After laying more groundwork for an extended floor game under Brad Stevens in Boston, Humphries furthered efforts to stretch his excellent midrange game past the 3-point line over the summer. Humphries can still be considered a “traditional big” who can rebound, run the floor, and know his role—maybe symbolizing Wittman’s reluctant comfort with the transition. Humphries certainly racked up 3-pointers versus Orlando on Saturday (5, which increased his career total by 63%), and he has displayed small doses of an improved ability to drive the ball, but an overall limited offensive repertoire still brings his utility as a starter into question.

The super early returns are not great for the Wizards’ starting five: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kris Humphries, and Marcin Gortat. This unit has played 98 minutes together (25% of all Wizards court minutes; 34% before Beal sat out due to injury the last two games) to the total of minus-12 in plus/minus. Not a ‘terrible’ minus in this small sample size, which is why the following numbers from that squad are slightly more revealing:

  • 43.1% FGs
  • 28.3% 3Ps
  • 90.7 OffRtg (team OffRtg is 99.6)
  • 96.6 DefRtg (team DefRtg is 104.1)
  • NetRtg of minus-5.9 (team NetRtg is minus-4.5)

For reference, last year’s starters that included Pierce at the 3 instead of Porter and Nene at the 4 instead of Humphries:

  • 596 minutes (14.9% of all team floor time)
  • 49.2% FGs
  • 39.3% 3Ps
  • 106.1 OffRtg (team OffRtg was 101.8)
  • 98.7 DefRtg (team DefRtg was 100.0)
  • NetRtg of plus-7.4 (team NetRtg was plus-1.9)

This year’s Wizards plot in the Venn Diagram cross-section of “small ball” (or pace-and-space) and simply shooting more 3-pointers. Yes, there is something to Randy Wittman’s insistence that his roster, in the past, did not always allow for such a philosophy. But, simply attempting more 3-pointers—shooting the more efficient and simply valuable shot—does not rely on roster construct. One only needs to observe Bradley Beal try a 3-pointer behind a screen that would have been a long 2-pointer last season in an offense that better allows for such. Coaching normally tries to dictate where the screen is set, right?

We should take a step back under that umbrella of it being more ideal for the Wizards to attempt more 3s, as it became a hammering point last year that the team was good at shooting 3-pointers … but they didn’t take advantage of that skill as much as they could have. Ninth in percentage, 27th in attempts, went the final stanza of the season’s disjointed poem.

Then there’s the fact that this year’s starting lineup only really includes one established 3-point shooter: Bradley Beal.

Wall’s jump shot is still very much a work in progress, or “still bears the artless mark of practice rather than natural ability,” once observed TAI’s Conor Dirks; Humphries made two 3-pointers in 691 career games before this season; and Porter is merely a cub learning the way of life, i.e., he’s still (currently) just a 30 percent shooter from deep.

Here’s how the 13-for-46 (28.2%) 3-point shooting of the starting unit when on the court together breaks down:

  • Wall is 1-for-8 (12.5%; 28.6% for the season). He made the first Wizards 3 of season, then missed his next seven attempts.
  • Porter is 3-for-12 (25%; 28.6%); all three makes were assisted by Wall.
  • Beal is 5-for-14 (35.7%; 47.1%); three were assisted by Wall, one by Porter, and one was unassisted.
  • Humphries 4-for-12 (33.3%; 38.9%); two were assisted by Wall, one by Beal, and one unassisted.

Ten other Wizards lineups have played 10 or more minutes together through eight games. We categorize the top and bottom of the class like so (according to points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions).


Premium #WittmanJava Offense:

  • Wall, Beal, Porter, Dudley, Gortat (131.8) – 11 minutes (3 games)
  • Wall, Beal, Porter, Humphries, Nene (118.9) – 13 minutes (3 games)

Brown, Coffee-accented Water #WittmanJava Offense:

  • Sessions, Neal, Beal, Dudley, Nene (58.2) – 11 minutes (3 games)


Premium #WittmanJava:

  • Sessions, Temple, Oubre, Dudley, Blair (83.0) – 14 minutes (2 games)
  • Wall, Beal, Porter, Humphries, Nene (87.5) – 13 minutes (3 games)

Low Budget #WittmanJava:

  • Wall, Neal, Porter, Gooden, Gortat (119.8) – 15 minutes (3 games)
  • Wall, Neal, Porter, Humphries, Gortat (115.9) – 15 minutes (5 games)

We go through this exercise not to point out the outlier of a Blair-anchored lineup leading the way in defensive #BasketballMath (via Garbage Time All-Star-ing), nor to highlight that the combo of Gortat and any other big on the roster (not named Nene) is keeping the Wizards from getting enough defensive stops. We are not here to say that Humphries is definitively an unideal starter at 4 (compared to anyone else on the roster and even with his limitation)—he provides a floor-spreading component while Wittman can play him limited minutes for a starter and use remaining minutes to extend his bench as the team aims to play faster.

Nor are we trying to convey that Dudley should definitely be starting at 4 (however, only 50% of his minutes have come next to Wall, only 40% on the court with Beal—seems like he could help both of their games with more run).

But maybe we are saying Humphries could even play the 5 more in some small lineups (he’s been the only big on the floor for the Wizards for just three of his 171 minutes on the season). But that’s —I mean, that would just be too crazy for Wittman to do on a regular basis.

The point: Player availability and matchups walk a fine line over weaknesses in defensive depth (which is odds on being Wittman’s next roster coup d’etat), and that the old ball coach might be forced to be more flexible than ever in assessing which combinations work best. Also: There’s a ton with the Wizards left to capture, despite what Wittman might have you believe about his rotation off the bench being “pretty standard.” Roster continuity is one thing, learning to play with each other is another. It’s early, we keep saying, so the Wizards still have time to lessen the effects of the NBA’s “make or miss league” mentality and to address what they’re missing. That’s what we are saying.

Tonight’s opponent: the Milwaukee Bucks again. A long, stretchy team coached by Jason Kidd. Did you know that while Randy Wittman has played 79 different lineups on the season Kidd has played 100? What does this even mean? Who knows? Mitch Vomhof (@mitchvomhof) of TrueHoop Network blog Bucksketball stops by to try to explain what’s be coming straight outta Milwaukee. Let us go…

Teams: Wizards vs Bucks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN/NBATV
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 4.5 points.

Q #1: The Bucks handed the Cavs their second loss of the season since losing to the Bulls on opening night with a double-OT, 108-105 win in Milwaukee on Saturday.

What was the most thrilling part of this victory? And did Milwaukee crack some sort of code in beating one of the NBA’s top three teams?

@mitchvomhof: The thing I was most (but also least?) impressed with was that the team was able to pull out a win in overtime, especially against a team like the Cavs with a superstar like LeBron. Let me explain. Over the past several years, the Bucks have had difficulty closing out games, including those where they have a comfortable lead but somehow manage to blow it in the fourth quarter. Saturday’s game followed a similar pattern; trailing by about 10 points for a significant portion of the game, the Cavs were able to claw their way back to force overtime. So that wasn’t so thrilling.

What was exciting was the Bucks’ ability to hang with Cleveland through two overtimes, even when LeBron woke up and took over the game. Clutch steals from the returning Michael Carter-Williams and shots from the slowly emerging Greivis Vasquez helped hold off the Cavs, and if those backcourt players can continue to play well, they’ll be a huge boost to the team’s play. As far as cracking any codes—I don’t think so. You can hope to catch LeBron on an off night or you can concentrate on eliminating his teammates’ impact and making him beat you by himself, but Cleveland is going to be a tough matchup for most teams on most nights.

Q #2: Only one Bucks five-man unit has appeared in more than four games together – the Greivis Vasquez, Jerryd Bayless, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Greg Monroe lineup has played 28 total minutes over seven games. This lineup is also quite atrocious in a small sample size so far this season (minus-20 Net Rating, 86.6 OffRtg, 106.6 DefRtg).

For various reasons, Milwaukee has also started seven different units over 10 games. Which Bucks lineup is the most optimal and why? And which lineup do you hate to see Jason Kidd play?

@mitchvomhof: I think the most optimal lineup is the one that we finally saw start a game on Saturday night: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Greg Monroe. Sadly, we won’t see that lineup for tonight’s game due to Parker’s recent diagnosis with a talonavicular sprain in his foot; however, that lineup seems best suited to balance the team’s offensive challenges with enough rebounding prowess to mitigate issues in that area.

The lineup I least like to see is really anything involving Vasquez and Bayless being on the floor at the same time. I know that Bayless has been the team’s secret best player over the last six games or so, but it’s unfathomable that he keeps making 3-pointers and scoring at this rate. Vasquez’ early season shooting woes have also made me very sad.

Q #3: Heading into Monday’s games, the Bucks ranked:

  • 13th in OffRtg
  • 24th in DefRtg
  • 30th in DREB%
  • 30th in Pace
  • 6th in 3P%
  • 5th in Points off Turnovers

Which of these rankings so far is most encouraging, and which is most concerning (and why)?

@mitchvomhof: Considering that the team had (and still has) legitimate concerns about shooting the 3, I’d say that being 6th in 3P% is probably the most impressive statistic for this team in the early going. The most concerning ranking has to be the one in which they’re dead last: defensive rebounding percentage. The team’s prized offseason acquisition, Greg Monroe, is supposed to aid in that facet of the game, and while he’s done his share individually (over 10 rebounds per game), the team is still struggling and giving up far too many second-chances to its opponents. That’s going to have to improve if the Bucks want to continue their improvement in the East and make another playoff run.


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