Wizards Blog Truth About It.net http://www.truthaboutit.net Washington Wizards Blog, ESPN TrueHoop Network Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.14 Winning Cures Everything — Even #SoWizards http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/winning-cures-everything-even-sowizards.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/winning-cures-everything-even-sowizards.html#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 06:45:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52615

Too crafty, too quick @JohnWall pic.twitter.com/kLZ4A85Adl

— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) January 19, 2017

I get it. I get it. The Wizards did not do a good job closing out the Memphis Grizzlies. They almost blew a late seven-point lead in 19.6 seconds by fouling a 3-point shooter, missing a free throw, allowing Memphis to get a jump ball call, losing said jump ball, then leaving a man wide-open for a last second 3-point attempt.

But just listen to yourself: “Waaah, the Wizards won their 13th straight home game but I didn’t like the way it ended.” If we have reached the point that we are complaining about wins, that’s a good thing.

I’ve got this friend. Let’s call him “Chad.” No matter what you say about the Wizards, he responds with something negative.

Washington just won 13 straight home games. Yeah, but they are 4-13 on the road.

Otto Porter is emerging as one of the best small forwards in the NBA. Yeah, but now we will have to max him.

Jason Smith is finally turning the corner. Yeah, but Andrew Nicholson.

Attendance is finally improving at the Verizon Center. Yeah, but look at the Grizzlies game.

It can be exhausting.

Let me ask you something: Did Washington ever trail against Memphis? No.

Did Washington ever trail in their previous game against Portland? No.

That’s 96 minutes of front-running basketball. Pretty, pretty good.

Look, I know this team still has problems. Some might say big, long-term ones. But those problems have to do with poor management, not the effort and performance of the players on the court. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are all having career years, and Scott Brooks seems to have found a way to fashion a passable outfit from a bench full of irregular clothes.

You can be mindful of the huge hole the front office has dug, while at the same time appreciating the accomplishments of the players who are here. It’s sort of like being against the war but supporting the troops—at least that’s what I tell myself to get through the day as a Wizards fan.

Otto Still Not Getting Any Respect

I asked Tony Allen before the game how much time he is able to spend during the season preparing for each opponent. Allen said he gets a five-minute edit of each player he is going to guard.

For the Wizards, Allen said he watched John Wall, Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, and Kelly Oubre highlights.

You may notice one name missing from that list. The same man who started the game hitting four out of five 3-pointers: Otto Porter, Jr.

It was only three weeks ago that Milwaukee Bucks rookie Malcolm Brogdon admitted that his teammates did not properly respect Otto’s game. Brogdon made those comments after Porter dropped 32 points on 13-for-18 shooting (5-for-9 on 3s).

Now, it was Tony Allen talking in his post-game interview as if he never even heard of Otto before the game:

“I didn’t even know he was on the scouting report today. I didn’t hear two words about him today in the shootaround. It was just a lot about (Bradley) Beal and (John) Wall, Beal and Wall. Like I said, we gotta pay better attention to our opponents and have a little better focus coming into games.”

At some point, defenses are going to start taking notice of Otto Porter, who Scott Brooks called the most consistent 3-point shooter in the NBA. When teams start game-planning for Otto, the court will open up even more for Wall, Beal and Marcin Gortat. Until then, Otto will be happy to take all the open 3-pointers he can get.

The Road Ahead

It’s no secret Washington has struggled on the road. They get a chance to right the ship on national television (TNT) against the New York Knicks on Thursday night. John Wall always seems to play well in the Garden, and he has bemoaned the team’s lack of national exposure on several occasions. Thursday night provides a prime-time opportunity for Wall to lobby for additional exposure.

In addition to struggling on the road, the Wizards have also struggled in back-to-backs. Markieff Morris was asked after the Memphis game why the team has had difficulty playing consecutive games—he suggested that the starters may be getting tired:

“Guys are playing big minutes and sometimes you run out of gas. It happens. We just got to figure out how to stay consistent and get those back-to-back wins.”

As previously chronicled, Wall, Beal and Gortat are all playing big minutes this season, and all five starters played over 34 minutes versus Memphis. The bench may be called upon to provide some relief with the quick turnaround in New York.

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Washington’s Star Guards Supernova in Blowout Win Over Blazers http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/washingtons-star-guards-supernova-in-blowout-win-over-blazers.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/washingtons-star-guards-supernova-in-blowout-win-over-blazers.html#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:23:40 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52606 This game was over six minutes into the third quarter. That feels so strange to write, not only because the Trail Blazers were playing .500 ball in their last 10 games, but also because it feels like the Wizards have had just two easy wins this entire season (Saturday night’s win against Philadelphia, and versus Boston on Nov. 9).

This is the play that ended it:

While you’re here, I’d like to bring your attention to a few things on this play.

First, Bradley Beal’s patience inside the 3-point arc, which was on display from the opening tip. The set-up on C.J. McCollum was pro, but the hesitation move after rounding Gortat’s screen was key, as it allowed Beal to survey the floor and find the best option. In previous seasons, you’d have expected him to pull-up for the short midrange jumper, but in this case he found Markieff Morris parked at the 3-point line, who then swung the ball to Wall to reset the offense.

Here’s where the story of the “dagger” above gets interesting. Wall was in full attack mode, starting his possession with a pump fake. While Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard feigned interest in contesting a 3-point shot from Wall, notice that both players immediately back off, not wanting to get beat off the dribble.

The reason: Wall, to this point in the action, had routinely burned the Blazers defense in the halfcourt and in transition situations. Lillard, in particular, was a regular victim of Wall’s forays to the hoop, as well as his drive-and-dish plays, like this one that ended the first half:

So, with acres of basketball space, Wall launched from the top of the 3-point line.

Swish.

I was less surprised that Wall hit the shot — he’s shooting 34.4 percent from that zone this season (league average is 35.4%) — than the fact he launched the trey in the first place. After all, he turned down a similar opportunity early in the first quarter, but perhaps that’s to be expected from Optimus Dime, the NBA’s premier pass-first point guard (with apologies to Chris Paul).

Last thing about the play highlighted at the top of this post: It’s a shining example of what the Wizards offense could look like were Bradley Beal to continue to develop his floor game. TAI’s Adam Rubin wrote about the team leaning on Beal-Gortat pick-and-rolls earlier this season:

“The beauty of this newly-effective offensive weapon is that Wall and Beal each benefit from the other’s success. The more defenses are forced to shade the Beal-Gortat screen-and-roll, the more space is created for Wall to use his speed on the weak side. Conversely, as Wall eloquently explains, the more jumpers he hits from the weak side, the harder it is for his defender to cheat into the lane to stop Beal’s penetration.”

Offense is the story of the game. The Wizards, who hit 13 treys in this one (third-most this season), had 75 points at halftime, and they finished the game with 120. The Blazers ended up scoring 101, Washington’s total after three quarters. Add in the fact the Blazers never once led and it all adds up to domination.

The Wizards’ defensive game plan deserves some credit, too. From the opening tip, they sent bodies at Portland’s star guards, forcing Lillard and McCollum to handle pressure from the primary defender and a hedging big (or rotating help), then navigate a third defender if they wanted anything close to a clean look near the rim. Because the Blazers lack a traditional post scorer to run the offense through (Plumlee had particularly rough day at the office), the visitors were forced to improvise with limited results. At one point in the second quarter, the Blazers had seven total field goals (to 8 turnovers), and were shooting 7-for-25 overall (28%).

So, that’s that. The Wizards are officially two games over .500, and once again just about all credit goes to John Wall and Bradley Beal, who combined for 49 points. The “House of Guards,” or whatever you’d like to call them, is one of only four guard combos in the NBA to both average over 20 points per game (Lillard and McCollum, Lowry and DeRozan, and Curry and Thompson are the others).

Washington is now 15-4 when leading after three quarters, and 17-6 at home — only the Warriors and Cavaliers have more wins at home.

The Grizzlies (and fast-forward playoffs) are next.

 

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Opening Statements 40: Wizards vs Trail Blazers http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/opening-statements-40-wizards-vs-trail-blazers.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/opening-statements-40-wizards-vs-trail-blazers.html#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 19:00:22 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52602 Washington Wizards vs Portland Trailblazers - Nov. 28, 2012

The Washington Wizards, I can’t say, have had a true turning point this season (yet). But I can tell you around when they stopped feeling too sorry for themselves to put forth a quality effort.

It was three-game road trip that ended November and started December — at Oklahoma City, at San Antonio, and at Brooklyn. The first two were heartbreaking losses that magnified yet-to-mature talent, and the last was an avoidance of disaster. They allowed a bottom-3 NBA offense to score 66 points in the first half, and later found a way to beat the Nets. Since, the Wizards have been better at avoiding slip-ups instead of finding ways to lose.

Sure, there have been head-smacking losses versus Orlando (Dec. 6), in Miami (Dec. 12), in Milwaukee (Dec. 23), and in Dallas (Jan. 3). But the Wizards have also quelled quality opponents such as Charlotte (Dec. 14), Detroit (Dec. 16), the L.A. Clippers (Dec. 18), and a few times against the Bulls (quality debatable); and the Wizards have also bounced back in situations to keep teams like Milwaukee, Indiana, and Minnesota at bay.

Small steps forward for Washington Wizards,” was the title of Ted Leonsis’ blog post on Sunday. He hasn’t blogged about his pro basketball team much this season — there have been less-than-glowing things to say, and there are likely transitive properties involved. When Leonsis hired Brian MacLellan to be GM of his Washington Capitals in May 2014, MacLellan suggested that Leonsis could be a better owner by blogging more about the team and less about individual players. It seemed to have a quieted Leonsis in general.

There’s nothing wrong with Leonsis’ recent post, nothing much to pick on. He celebrates team success with a few hand-picked stats (at least one of which touts John Wall and Bradley Beal both being in top 20 of the NBA in scoring). He mentions an 18-11 surge after a 2-8 start.

Since beating the Nets on Dec. 5 (entering the game 6-12), the Wizards are 14-7, tied with the Utah Jazz for the sixth-best winning percentage in the league (third in the East after Cleveland and Atlanta).

Leonsis’ essential conclusion:

“As noted, these stats are just a small sample size. We will be at the halfway point of the season 41 games when we conclude our current homestand with games against Portland tomorrow and Memphis on Wednesday. We are taking small steps forward, and hope to take a bigger step in the next month with the return of Ian Mahinmi to the lineup.”

The 20-19 Wizards have 16 games until the mid-February All-Star break — seven will be on the road versus the Knicks, Pistons, Hornets, Hawks, Pelicans, Nets, and Pacers. Including today, Portland, Memphis, Boston, New York, the L.A. Lakers, New Orleans, Cleveland, Indiana, and Oklahoma City visit the Verizon Center.

The sample size grows by the day, as does the opportunity for Washington to show they are serious about contending in the East. Success and maturity happen incrementally, game-by-game, even. Slightly bigger picture, if the Wizards fancy themselves a true contender in the East, their current 4-13 road record must be 8-16 or 9-15 by the break. They can’t slip up at home, either — currently 16-6 with an 11-game winning streak. They can’t be any worse than 22-9 at home at the break, potentially giving them more than 30 wins with a brutal stretch of 27 games left (17 on the road).

Every game is a chance not necessarily to “turn things around” but rather to build on what works. But only so much is under control of the players, and the coach, Scott Brooks. Issues with personnel and their limitations (i.e., Washington’s bench), even with the one-day presence of Ian Mahinmi, are not going away any time soon. The question of if these issues will drag everything else down still looms. But at least the foundation, leading stars and coach-wise, is more solid than ever.


 

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From The Other Side: The Re-Unveiling of Jahlil Okafor http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/from-the-other-side-the-re-unveiling-of-jahlil-okafor.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/from-the-other-side-the-re-unveiling-of-jahlil-okafor.html#comments Sun, 15 Jan 2017 16:15:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52578 okafor

 

 

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use that access to explore what’s going on with the opposing team. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @rashad20 focuses on the stellar performance of Jahlil Okafor.

Joel Embiid, with his 19 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, and the “Trust the Process movement that’s been launched as a result of his success, has become a phenomenon both on and off the court.  Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets, he had 24 points and 8 rebounds in just 28 minutes and led the Sixers to their third straight win and their fifth in six games. With Embiid’s emergence, and recent Ben Simmons sightings, there’s every reason for Sixers coaches, players, and fans to be elated about the remainder of this season and the future.

Jahlil Okafor, who led the Sixers in scoring last season at 17.5 points per game, has not been a factor in Philly’s recent winning.  In fact, Okafor racked up four DNP-CDs leading up to Saturday night’s game against the Washington Wizards. Embiid’s success, while good for the Sixers overall, came at the expense of Okafor’s playing time and more importantly his confidence. He did his best to suppress his feelings about not contributing as of late, but eventually even Okafor had to admit that the situation was a little “funky”:

“Obviously it’s a funky situation. It’s funky for all of us. Right now I’m the person who’s sitting out, so obviously not [the position I want to be in]. I know I’m not the type of player that’s a DNP, but that’s what it is right now. Coach Brown has been phenomenal with communicating with me, and I know in the long run I’m going to be fine. I just try to come in here every day and work as hard as I can.”

Embiid is on a minutes restriction and he does not play back-to-back games, which meant there was an opening at the center position. Coach Brown, in his effort to be as transparent with all the players involved in “the process,” told Okafor last week that he would start against the Wizards. Brown said he wanted to keep Nerlens Noel entrenched in his role off the bench, and that Okafor in the starting lineup allowed him to maintain some symmetry. He wanted Okafor to play 28 to 32 minitues, but he also had specific marching orders for Okafor in terms of what he was looking for:

“Just for him to remember who he is, to be reminded of his pedigree, to relax, for him to completely understand that we all look forward to putting him on the floor, and helping him play NBA basketball again.”

It took all of 13 seconds for Okafor’s impact to felt. Off the opening tip, he blocked Marcin Gortat’s shot. Ninety seconds later he faced up Gortat, drove right by him, scored a layup, drew the foul and completed the three-point play. Ninety more seconds after that, Okafor drew yet another foul on Gortat. And although he made just one of two free throws, his aggressiveness forced Wizards Coach Scott Brooks to remove Gortat and bring in Jason Smith with 8:31 left in the first quarter — nearly four to five minutes earlier than normal.

Unfortunately for Brooks, Smith was just as helpless against Okafor as Gortat. First Okafor stole the ball and hit a 10-foot fadeway, then he drew a foul against Smith, which sent him to the free throw line (he made both). A short while after that, Okafor was subbed out of the game for Nerlens Noel, but not before amassing nine points, a block, a steal, and three rebounds in just 6:20 of play. More importantly, when he exited the game the Sixers led 22-11.

Okafor re-entered the game with 10:55 left the second quarter when Noel went to the locker room with a left ankle sprain, and he immediately drew a foul on the third Wizards big man to guard him, Andrew Nicholson. Eventually Nicholson picked up his second foul (not via Okafor) and Gortat re-entered the game. By this point, John Wall and Bradley Beal began to heat up and the Sixers went from leading by 12 to trailing by one point by the time Okafor exited the game with 54.7 seconds left in the first half. Still, Okafor had 16 points at that point, and it wasn’t simply the fact that he was confident, but the diversity in which he was scoring his points. He scored on dunks, he hit turnaround jumpers, he had a sweeping hook, and layups. Since he was the focal point of the offense — Noel was a non-factor the entire night and Embiid was out resting — Okafor was afforded the luxury of taking his time in the post to decide if and how he was going to score.

Washington put the game out of reach in the third quarter by outscoring Philadelphia 30-15. This caused the Sixers to speed up the pace and rely unsuccessfully on outside shots, and not the inside scoring Okafor had reliably provided in the first half. The Sixers shot 28 percent in the third quarter; Okafor took just three shots and made two. He had 10 points and five rebounds in the second half, and although those points were meaningless in terms of affecting the outcome of the game, they went a long way in restoring the confidence that Okafor lost during his four DNPs. He finished with 26 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes — three more than Coach Brown intended to play him.

After the game, despite the fact that his team basically was a no-show in the second half, Brown still found time to share some complimentary words about Okafor’s performance:

 

And here was Okafor in his own words:

Okafor made it his business to inform the media that Coach Brown gave him no assurances on what his role would be for Monday’s game in Milwaukee or beyond. And to his credit, despite his personal achievement against the Wizards, Okafor was visibly disappointed that the Sixers’ three-game winning streak had come to close. But per Brown’s request at the start of the game, he was able to re-establish his identity, perhaps increase his trade value, and more importantly, make it more difficult for his coach to keep him on the bench.

One Last Note.

Shamus Clancy (@shamus_clancy), who writes for the SB Nation blog Liberty Ballers, tweeted about his displeasure on seeing Jahlil Okafor start, and not Joel Embid. Jahlil’s father, Chukwudi,  saw this tweet, and decided to let Shamus know what it was (as Jordan Crawford once said):

Jahlil’s father later said that was he was hacked but that isn’t as believable as his original offering.

 

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The Night that John Wall was Poked in the Nose http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/the-night-that-john-wall-was-poked-in-the-nose.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/the-night-that-john-wall-was-poked-in-the-nose.html#comments Sat, 14 Jan 2017 05:12:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52571 washington wizards, truth about it, adam mcginnis, pixel and roll, pixel and roll show, podcast, wizards podcast, john wall, john wall dance, all star

[Ed. Note: At the end of this story John Wall gets a finger in his nose.]

The latest back-to-back: they won one, they lost one. They are a .500 team and would be better — they have the talent — were it not for the facts: they are a wildcard. They are the Washington Wizards.

Now very fun to watch and learning how to win. We’re seeing it more than ever in two stars, John Wall and Bradley Beal. Take time to think about that and appreciate it [Ed. note: franchise history].

Against Boston, the focus has been on the after-game antics, but the beauty is in the slugfest that preceded all that. Each team led by at least 10 points at parts, and there were 19 total lead changes and ties.

Washington flubbed some fastbreak opportunities as Brad Stevens’ gritty bunch (short five players, including All-Star candidate Avery Bradley) scrambled to catch-up. Boston targeted that Wall-Morris pick-and-roll defense a couple times with Isaiah Thomas. These two teams exchanged 7-0, 8-0 (both the Wizards), and a 9-0 run in the first quarter alone, the latter being Boston’s. What was key for Washington: the continued distance shots Bradley Beal hit for his confidence. Beal went 6-for-10 on 3s for the evening, his second most makes on the season (7-13 in that OT win versus the Kings in D.C.). The Celts, surrounded by a quieted crowd but manufactured crowd noise (*per Buckhantz), were down 8 to the visitors with 100 seconds left in the first — but the Celts ended the period up 36-35.

The second quarter can best be described by Markieff Morris’ night in total. Fourteen points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals seems fine for one of the latter fiddles on the team. But 21 of the team’s 105 shots were used to do that, and, meh. Like his season. Morris was part of the problem early-on (in the season), but his November 41.1 eFG% climbed to 48.0 in December and 51.8 so far in January. So, sure. He’s not the reason, but what is?

Facts are fax, in that technology is dead: Scott Brooks is trying. Using undrafted free agent rookie Sheldon McClellan to boost his bench. (Not Marcus Terrell Thornton.) And it’s kinda working! McClellan has a lot to learn but he’s no deer, or doe, under NBA headlights.

Third quarter. Bradley Beal scored 10 of his 35 points (4-7 FGs, 2-2 3s in the period). In some weird way, he picked up a technical foul after Marcus Smart figured out a way to drag him to the ground. To Bradley Beal’s credit — first of all praise his lord and savior Jesus Christ — he went right back at Smart. But later Beal would pick up his fourth foul and after the game John Wall called that “key,” which, in this day in age, is a reminder to stay woke: some doors you don’t want to enter.

In the end, John Wall had the exact kind of night that you’d figure Boston fans in McHale jerseys would want: 4-for-21 shooting, 0-for-5 from deep, 9 points. And the Celtics, well, they adeptly countered Washington’s peripherals making noise (Markieff rebound-dunking, Jason Smith dunking, and the what-not), with gosh darned Al Horford hitting 3-for-3 shots (including a 3), and Isaiah Thomas scoring a Donald F-ing Trump 20 points in the fourth quarter alone.

The Wizards melted under a barrage of fourth quarter 3s — 5-for-11 was Boston, 3-for-5 coming from Thomas. Their good ole weakness, even in positive times, defending the 3. This is a talented, fun, yet just clearly struggling with being OK team.

What’s next for the Wizards? Most immediately, the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. The future? Ernie Grunfeld is not going down called on strikes.

Oh yeah, there was this scuffle after the game, you might have heard. Jae Crowder who?

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Crowder Pushes Wall’s Button As Road Woes Continue http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/crowder-pushes-walls-button-as-road-woes-continue.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/crowder-pushes-walls-button-as-road-woes-continue.html#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2017 21:53:20 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52562

im dead pic.twitter.com/caWWGBSJe6

— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) January 12, 2017

The story of the game has a hell of a lot more to do with the things that took place during the 48 minutes of actual game action than what transpired in the few moments after the final buzzer. Alas, we live in a world where “clickbait” isn’t just a term used by internet trolls, but also a medium in which the mainstream media pays the bills.

The very second Jae Crowder’s finger touched John Wall’s nose, all diplomacy went out of the window, and John Wall turned into a Middleweight Slap Boxing Champion. Whether or not Wall’s transgression will cost himself (and his team) a suspension from the NBA league office remains to be seen. But Crowder’s role as both the instigator and the aggressor should be considered much more heavily than Wall’s recent reputation as a technical foul magnet.

This is not the first time that the Wizards and Jae Crowder have gotten into a dispute during or after a game. Just last season, the Celtics came to Washington and barely got out of he building without a bunch of “woofing,” as then-head coach Randy Wittman described it.  Wittman even got into a shouting match with the player, and Crowder accused the Washington coach of cursing him out. When Wittman was asked about Crowder’s comments, all he could respond with is: “What’s profanity?”

Let’s talk basketball. For much of the game, the Wizards were able to compete with one of the better teams in the NBA. When the Wizards opened up a 10-point lead on the Celtics in the third quarter, it appeared as if Bradley Beal would continue his hot shooting en route to a career night and the Wizards would notch their fifth road win of the season. On a night when it appeared early on that John Wall did not have a lot left in the reserve tank after his masterful-but-draining 40-minute performance against the depleted Chicago Bulls, the Wizards needed their other “max player” to take over the game and bail out another poor bench performance, just as Wall had done in the previous two games.

Beal had 28 of his team-high 35 points before the fourth quarter started, and scored five points in the waning moments of a near double digit-deficit defeat. That means that from the time he entered the game at the 9:30 mark of the fourth quarter and the time he scored garbage-time points with under two minutes to play, he had seven minutes of uninspiring play. Beal has always had the tendency to float in and out of games, but on a night when he was shooting 10-for-18 (55%), it is a bit perplexing as to why he was reluctant to display the killer instinct that his Alpha dog counterpart has become known for. In other words, Beal let down the Wiz when they needed him most.

Also, Beal—for much of the game—was outmatched on the defensive end by a more powerful and bruising Marcus Smart, who started in place of Avery Bradley (Achilles). Smart was able to force Beal to chase throughout the game, and finished around the basket with the deft touch of an ’80s power forward. This was one of Boston’s go-to plays, and once Washington began to send help Beal’s way, Smart skipped the ball to open 3-point shooters. The Celtics shot 17-for-41 from 3-point range, and made seven more 3s than the Wizards.

nba all-star

John Wall wasn’t the only All-Star on the floor in this game: the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas dazzled the Boston home crowd with an exciting brand of play which arguably has not been seen since Allen Iverson’s corn-rows were flapping in the wind. Today, the NBA released the current fan voting results for the 2017 All-Star game in New Orleans, and Thomas’ name appears fourth among Eastern Conference guards. Wall is not so prominently featured, as the seventh most popular guard, despite being named the conference’s Player of the Month in December. Thomas may not be a better player than Wall, but even the most avid Wizard faithful would have to put down his or her rose-colored lenses and admit that Thomas has been a match-up nightmare for Wall in the past—on Wednesday night, too.

Thomas scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 38 points. He has a knack for creating space, using his low center of gravity and diminutive frame (he’s listed at a generous 5-foot-9) to make it difficult for bigger players to contest his shots at the rim. Combine that with the fact that he’s a knockdown 3-point shooter, he becomes one of the more unstoppable forces in the NBA when he is locked in. He also provided positive ancillary play with five assists and six rebounds, including TWO plays where he tipped in his own 3-point miss. He’s a big-time athlete, but shame on Wizards defenders who sit around waiting for Marcin Gortat to grab all of the rebounds.


Role Player Roll Call

Markieff Morris: Keef struggled to start the game, shooting 1-for-9 in the first half, and not taking advantage of a clear talent gap between he and his Celtics counterpart Jordan Mickey, who started the game in place of Amir Johnson. Even though Keef was able to get into a rhythm at the beginning of the third quarter, he wound up bricking and air-balling his way to a 6-for-21 finish from the field. As CSN’s Ben Standig pointed out, the Wizards are not a very good team when Markieff is a volume shooter.

At some point Markieff has to realize that teams are leaving him open for a reason and work a little bit harder to create for others, instead of jacking up every shot that comes his way. One of Keef’s most underrated skills is his ability to pass out of the post, and that aspect of his game can’t exist if he doesn’t get down there.

Otto Porter: Porter was the silent assasin that Wizards fans have come to expect over the course of this season, and he finished the game an efficient 9-for-12 from the field. (This game could have gone a little bit differently if Otto could have taken 20 shots and Keef 12.) Defensively, Porter left a little bit to be desired on the floor in Boston because he just couldn’t seem to keep up with Jae Crowder in the first half. Crowder finished the game with 20 points and shot 4-for-6 from 3-point range. If Porter wants to be the third “max player” on this team, he has to do a much better job of limiting a non shot-creating player such as Jae Crowder to relax and take practice-level shots without being driven off of that 3-point line.

Kelly Oubre: Oubre was not as attentive as he has been in the last few games, and coach Scott Brooks ended up pulling him from the lineup in the fourth quarter in favor of Sheldon McClellan. It’s one thing for Oubre’s shot to not be falling and another thing entirely for him to lack the intensity (especially on defense) that he has shown over the last few games. Maybe the young fella just experienced a lull because of the back-to-back, but he’ll learn soon enough that this team lacks the talent to have the 6th man post a dud. Unacceptable.

Jason Smith: Jason Smith was active as hell all night and played one of his better games as a Wizard, going 5-for-9 from the field and also adding five rebounds. It’s a shame that his contributions went to waste, and even more of a shame that he can’t feel good on a night where he put one of the NBA’s more electric dunkers and a former slam dunk champion (Gerald Green) on a poster:

 

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Another Trap Game Avoided — Wizards Over Bulls, 101-99 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/another-trap-game-avoided-wizards-over-bulls-101-99.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/another-trap-game-avoided-wizards-over-bulls-101-99.html#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2017 14:44:15 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52556

For the second time in three nights, the Wizards found themselves facing a dreaded trap game. Sunday, the Wizards faced the Giannis-less Milwaukee Bucks and won 107-101, despite a slow start which saw them surrender 57 first-half points. Last night, the Wizards faced the Chicago Bulls—without Dwyane Wade, who was resting on the second night of a back to back, and Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic due to sickness. (Wizards guard Tomas Satoransky left the Verizon Center prior to the game with a similar illness.)

The basketball flu, along the sidelining of the Bulls’ top offensive threats, meant that Rajon Rondo was in charge. He’d previously not set foot on the floor for the Bulls since the first half of the December 28th game against the Brooklyn Nets. Rondo’s absence had been a bit of a distraction leading up to last night’s game, and he exacerbated the situation by being quite candid to the media before tip-off.

Six minutes into the game it appeared as if the Wizards had listened to their coach’s warning about the trap game and decided to take care of business. They led 19-12, all of the starters scored except Wall (who had four assists during that span), and they committed just one turnover. Then Rondo and Denzel Valentine checked in for Michael Carter-Williams and Doug McDermott, and the Bulls’ momentum shifted drastically.

First, Valentine hit a wide open 3-pointer, then Wall fell victim to a reach-around steal (the very move he’s become so adept at), which led to a breakaway dunk by Rondo. The Wizards called timeout and attempted to regroup, but turned the ball over yet again due to a three-second violation by Marcin Gortat, which led to wide-open corner 3 by Taj Gibson—his first of the season. By the 2:44 mark of the first quarter, Rondo and the Bulls had gone on a 14-0 run to lead the Wizards by seven points. By the end of the quarter, the Bulls led by 10, mainly due to the Wizards’ six turnovers.

The second quarter began even worse than the first quarter had ended, as the Wizards turned the ball over in four of their first seven offensive possessions, and the Bulls converted those turnovers into six points. First, Trey Burke was late closing out on Bobby Portis, who hit a corner 3-pointer, and then a short while later both Jason Smith and Sheldon McClellan lost Valentine in the corner—he hit a 3-pointer of his own to put Chicago up 42-26. Coach Brooks jumped off the bench, threw his hands up and called a timeout to stop the bleeding. That ebb and flow continued the remainder of the second quarter, and the Wizards trailed 61-49 at halftime. The Wizards allowed the Bulls to shoot 8-for-10 from the 3-point line, and they didn’t help their own case by committing 13 turnovers—seven coming from Beal and Wall.

Beal said that while he and his teammates walked into the locker room, they knew before the coach said anything that they needed to improve their level of play on both ends of the floor.

Markieff Morris was a little more blunt with his assessment of the play of he and his colleagues:

Once the third quarter began, the roles reversed, and the Bulls played like the shorthanded team they were, allowing the Wizards to establish the dominance they should have demonstrated from the opening tip. The Bulls committed four turnovers in the first four minutes of the quarter, and the Wizards converted that into seven points and cut the lead from 12 points to five. Wall and Beal combined to score 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting and the Wizards committed just two turnovers in the quarter, while the Bulls went 0-for-9 from 3-point range while committing six turnovers of their own. The Wizards led 81-77 and it appeared as if they we were well on their way to establishing a bit of separation in the fourth quarter.

Then the mercurial Wizards bench decided to show off their bad side:

After a Gortat hook shot put the Wizards up by five points—their largest lead since the first quarter—Jason Smith and Trey Burke missed consecutive shots, and Michael Carter-Williams and Portis hit both of their attempts to cut the lead to one point. Then Burke turned the ball over on consecutive possessions and Portis and Valentine scored to give the Bulls a one-point lead. Markieff Morris (a starter), then lost Portis in the corner for a wide open 3-pointer, and Burke committed a reach-in foul after Carter-Williams drove right by him and hit both free throws. After a missed Beal layup, Valentine hit yet another step back 3-pointer, which Oubre lazily contested and the Wizards suddenly trailed by seven points.

Coach Brooks angrily called a timeout, and Valentine went a bit overboard in his celebration which drew the ire of John Wall, who said after the game that he went up to Valentine and said, “That’s how you feel?”

Morris said after the game he didn’t hear or see Valentine’s excessive celebration, but he added that if he had seen it he would have “been pissed the fuck off, and fouled the shit out of [Valentine].”

After Brooks’s timeout and Valentine’s demonstrative actions, the Wizards proceeded to go on a game-ending 16-7 run. Morris scored eight of the Wizards’ next 1o points to give the Wizards a three-point lead before fouling out of the game on a questionable offensive foul. Then, after a Gortat putback layup, John Wall scored four points on two tough fadeaway jumpers, the last of which gave the Wizards the lead for good:

As Coach Brooks said after the game “a win is a win,” and ultimately it doesn’t matter how much the Wizards struggled to beat a shorthanded, troubled, depleted team—all terms used to describe the Bulls on Tuesday night. The victory pushed the Wizards over .500 for the first time since November of 2015, and they are now sixth in the Eastern Conference standings, ahead of the Bucks and just a half game behind the Indiana Pacers for fifth place.

Wall, who Brooks called “a winner” after the game, had a team-high five turnovers, but he also had 26 points, 14 assists, and six rebounds in the win. Beal and Morris (more on him later) had 19 points each and both Jason Smith gave the bench a boost with seven points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots.

As my colleague Conor Dirks wrote in the Bulls/Wizards opening statements, beating shorthanded teams does not a great team make; however, Eddie Jordan once told the media that nut harvesting—aka racking up wins against struggling teams—comes in handy later in the season when games get tougher and banged-up teams get healthier. The Wizards have racked up two such wins this week and tonight they can balance that out by trying to win a measuring stick game against the Boston Celtics, who are coming off a tough eight-point loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Notes:

  • The good and bad traits of Markieff Morris were on display last night against the Bulls. The bad? He fouled out of the game in just 21 minutes of play.  The last foul was looked like more of a flop on Taj Gibson than a real foul, but the other five were less ambiguous. But offensively, Morris was efficient by scoring 19 timely points. Eight of them came at the start of the third quarter the when the Wizards cut the Bulls lead from 10 points to five, and eight of the his points came in the middle of the fourth quarter when the Wizards went from trailing by four. Here was Scott Brooks on the play of Morris:

And here is Morris on finally getting above .500 and how the Wizards should have played in the       first half:

  • Jason Smith had eight points and six rebounds but it was his three blocked shots that impacted the game the most. The first blocked shot came in the third quarter when the Wizards were in the midst of making a run and trying to reclaim the lead. He thwarted a Robin Lopez drive, which led to a Trey Burke 3-pointer and a Fred Hoiberg timeout:

Smith’s other two blocks did not lead to points, but they did keep the Bulls from regaining any momentum in the pivotal final quarter. Collectively, the Wizards bench has lacked consistent offensive and defensive punch but it must be semi-comforting to Coach Brooks that in the past two weeks Oubre, Burke and now Smith have all shown they are capable of carrying the bench and assisting the team to victory. Baby steps.

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Opening Statements 37: Wizards vs Bulls — Washington’s Muddy Identity No Clearer After Bucks Win http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/opening-statements-37-wizards-vs-bulls-washingtons-muddy-identity-no-clearer-after-bucks-win.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/opening-statements-37-wizards-vs-bulls-washingtons-muddy-identity-no-clearer-after-bucks-win.html#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 20:47:05 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52552 dc-logo-over-bulls-logo


Teams: Wizards vs. Bulls
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: 1500 AM, WLS-AM 890
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 10.5 points


With the Wizards back to .500 (18-18) for the second time this season, it is tempting to declare the worst over and invite the magnetic future of your dreams to the present. To that end, Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis, ever quick to celebrate and slow to mourn, requested the Wizards (along with his hockey Wizards) be a renewed focus of local interest on Twitter, likely judging that the end of Washington’s football season provided an opportunity for increased market share.

On Sunday, Washington moved back into the presumptive playoff picture as well, knocking off the 8th-seeded Bucks (playing without star Giannis Antetokounmpo) to steal their spot in the octet. But the dual assumption (that the worst is over and that the best is yet to come) will be soft-tested swiftly, with the Bulls careening wildly on the Jacob’s Ladder of the Eastern Conference playoffs, losing its grip on the 7th rung among a plague of maladies. Jimmy Butler is sick. Dwyane Wade is resting. Rajon Rondo is excommunicated. It holds, then, that Washington has another chance to beat a middling Eastern Conference team playing without its star(s). And another chance for temporary aggrandizement in the shifting eyes of the public. With a win, the Wizards would move up to 7th and their first winning record of the season (19-18) and the Bulls would drop to 8th or 9th depending on the outcome of the Milwaukee-San Antonio game.   

Beating the Bucks, and owning the season series against Milwaukee (3-1), does prove something. Washington’s six or seven best players can compete long and hard enough to scrap their way into a win against a team that makes an average amount of mistakes. Beating Milwaukee or Chicago is what a good team would do. But beating Milwaukee or Chicago, even when those teams are full strength, is not the measure of a good team. A win against the Clippers and a loss against the Sixers may both be anomalies by season’s end, or one or the other could end up looking more like the truth. Don’t fault the Wizards for beating teams like Milwaukee, or Chicago, but don’t cherish it much either.

This is a team that has tinkered away a chance to be special after not fucking up three top 3 picks (Wall, Beal, and Porter), all of whom will soon be max-level players, and close to deservingly so.(1) And that battle was lost on the fringes, the complicated shit, the players that round out a roster and provide value in short, high-voltage doses. It’s perhaps too easy to blame it all on the bench, especially when we see John Wall turn the ball over four times in the first quarter against the Bucks, hastening a hefty lead for Milwaukee that he himself would later conquer in heroic fashion.

But Washington’s best bench player is Kelly Oubre, a second-year player, a talented baby who was seen as a long-term project when he was drafted. Washington’s offseason additions, through bad luck or poor scouting, have been awful. For context, Oubre is Washington’s 11th-most compensated player. After Beal (#1) and Wall (#2), the Wizards pay Ian Mahinmi, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, Andrew Nicholson, Otto Porter, Jason Smith, Trey Burke, and Tomas Satoransky are all paid more than Oubre (in that order). The only veteran player paid less than Oubre is Marcus Thornton, with Washington’s roster rounded out by three undrafted rookies (Ochefu, McLellan, House) paid $543,471 each. The only one of those three to see any time has been Sheldon McLellan, a fill-in for Bradley Beal when times are tight.

Mahinmi, the team’s third-highest paid player, has played in only one game, and is currently receiving an alien blood transfusion. Morris has been disappointingly inconsistent. Nicholson may as well not be on the team, while Smith and Burke are trying their damndest, and have improved slightly after a truly ugly start. Satoransky, for his part, started strong and faded fast, now completely out of the rotation.

With Washington’s best players playing extra minutes to shield the team from its own reserves (still perhaps the worst bunch in the NBA), and Scott Brooks constantly experimenting—valiantly so, in this writer’s opinion—with lineup combinations, nothing is yet settled. Brooks could crack the code, or a hairline fracture could reappear in Beal’s leg, or Wall’s knee could swell up and never go down.

And yet, real improvements have emerged. Under Scott Brooks’ tutelage, Bradley Beal’s 3-point attempts per game have gone from 4.9 to 7.3, a number that more resembles the role he always should have been playing for the Wizards. But that hasn’t dampened Beal’s ability to handle the ball and get to the line, long a reason proffered by the Randy Wittman regime as to why Beal wasn’t Washington’s Klay Thompson. Beal’s free throw attempts have risen from 3.2 per game to 5.0 per game. As a result, Beal is having his best season, far improved from last year’s campaign, scoring 22.2 points per game compared to last season’s 17.4. Brooks may not be behind each tweak in Beal’s game, but a series of small improvements in Beal’s line of attack has given Washington a true second threat.

Porter, too, has improved, even if his defense on Andrew Wiggins last week against Minnesota left much to be desired (Wiggins hung 41 on him). What’s noticeable about both Beal and Porter’s improvements have been how they’ve been wrung out of what they already did well. It’s the mark, dare I say, of competent and assured coaching.

All of which is to say that Washington has the talent at the top to beat a decent team on an off-night, even without help. Against the Bucks, the only Wizards bench players to score were Oubre (17 points) and McLellan (8 points). Perhaps more tellingly, Milwaukee’s bench played around 84 minutes while Washington’s played only 54.

The Wizards will have the opportunity, eventually, to rack up a few quality wins, to prove that the pieces can be put together this year rather than in another summer remake. Wednesday’s game against Boston will be the right kind of test. Until then, beating teams like Milwaukee and (hopefully) Chicago will have to do.


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Wizards Take Advantage of Giannis-less Bucks to Steal Season Series http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wizards-take-advantage-of-giannis-less-bucks-to-steal-season-series.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wizards-take-advantage-of-giannis-less-bucks-to-steal-season-series.html#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2017 23:21:41 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52540

Coach Kidd: Giannis Antetokounmpo is out today (illness). pic.twitter.com/6PBYOW5t6Q

— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 8, 2017

When the Milwaukee Bucks announced that budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo would be missing the game against the Wizards because of an undisclosed illness, the Vegas “sharks” adjusted the betting line accordingly, driving the Bucks from five-point favorites at home down to 1.5-point frontrunners.

Giannis’ absence, of course, did not guarantee Washington victory, and when the Bucks were up 12 points in the third quarter, another road loss seemed likely. The Wizards found themselves in the position of having to dig out of another double-digit deficit because of poor ball-security—they committed 19 turnovers in the game. Fortunately for Washington, the Bucks could not capitalize on the takeaways. Milwaukee only scored 20 points off 19 turnovers, and the Wizards were able to make more out of less: 27 points from 16 Bucks turnovers.

Turnovers have been almost as much of an Achilles’ heel for this team as the sub-par bench play. Also, at some point we have to acknowledge that John Wall has to do a much better job of maintaining possession of the ball since he leads the team with a usage rate of 30.7 percent and is currently third in the in NBA with 4.44 turnovers per game. Wall committed five turnovers in this contest (four in the first quarter alone) to just seven assists, and he looked to be out of sorts for the majority of the time.

Then the fourth quarter came, and Wall turned into the laser-focused closer that has kept the season afloat. The All-Star hopeful scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, dazzling the road crowd with a bevy of crossover moves that were capped off by pin-point midrange jumpers. Wall continues to show confidence in his midrange game—it’s nearly a go-to shot for pressure situations when plays break down (a crutch, to be sure, but a helpful one). According to NBAminer.com, Wall is sixth in the NBA with 77 points in clutch time (during the fourth quarter or overtime, with less than five minutes remaining and neither team ahead by more than five points). So while Wall can definitely improve on his ball-security issues, he continues to show real growth as the clutch scorer this team desperately needs.

For the other three quarters of the game, the Wizards other All-Star hopeful, Bradley Beal(a long-shot, at best), asserted himself. Beal shot 10-for-19 from the floor (nearly reaching Scott Brooks’ optimal amount of shots per game of 20 for Beal). Even more impressive about Beal’s 26-point scoring day was the fact that he shot just 2-for-10 from 3-point range, but he did not allow that to affect his aggressiveness elsewhere. Beal, like Wall has shown a remarkable improvement in his midrange shot this season, shooting a career high 47.1 percent from between 16 feet from the basket and the 3-point line.

Beal was able to take advantage of an over-aggressive Tony Snell for a majority of the game by keeping his dribble alive and stepping inside the arc to hit a few of those midrange jumpers. When the Bucks moved Snell over to defend Wall in the waning moments of the game, Beal was able to make life difficult for Malcolm Brogdon by forcing him to chase around the perimeter.

Role Player Roll Call.

It wasn’t just Wall and Beal who led Washington to their fourth road win of the season. The Wizards got some abnormally solid contributions from a few role players that ultimately was the key difference in the outcome.

Markieff Morris had one of his better outings, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes. The amount of playing time is important because it is well above his season average of 31.4 minutes per game. Keef saw an uptick in minutes because he avoided getting into foul trouble and demonstrated very early on that he would be a force to reckoned with in the low post against a weak Bucks frontline. Morris a few times displayed his power game against Mirza Teletovic, a matchup the Wizards tried to exploit. Teletovic wasn’t the only Bucks big man who failed to slow down Markieff, John Henson also seemed overmatched and Greg Monroe was just too slow. Give credit to Brooks for recognizing early that Markieff brought his A-game. The coach subsequently adjusted his lineup to spot Morris minutes at the 5 spot in the second half to take advantage of Milwaukee’s lack of rim-protection with Giannis’ freakish wingspan not on the floor.

Kelly Oubre also had himself a game, his first quality outing since suffering a concussion a few weeks back. Oubre finished with 17 points and five rebounds on 7-for-14 shooting and played with a level of confidence not seen since his breakout performance against the Bucks in early December when he scored a season-high 19 points.

Who knew that maybe all Oubre needed to get him out of his post-concussion slump was a little YMCA lunch time conflict?

Oubre is shooting 12-for-23 from the field and averaging 10.3 points in the three games since working out with his trainer Drew Hanlan in Dallas. Not only is Oubre shooting the ball better, but he seems to be a lot more attentive to the small details going on around him. On Sunday, he made a few nice cuts to the basket which resulted in easy dunks, which further allowed him to get into a rhythm and build his confidence.

Sheldon McClellan is quietly increasing his reliability and has even separated himself from Marcus Thornton in the rotation—just a little. McClellan rarely forces the issue and often allows the game to come to him, rare for a rookie. He scored eight points on 3-for-5 shooting and also played extraordinary defense on Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon in his 12 minutes of game action. Brooks has given McClellan a string of consistent minutes since he returned from a stint with the Delaware 87ers, so consistent that Thornton has received two consecutive DNP’s. We have reached the point of the season where coaches are beginning to shun veterans who aren’t contributing to winning basketball, and it appears as if Brooks is willing to give the young fella a chance to prove himself.

Otto Porter did not have his best game, but he hit three big 3-pointers despite struggling to guard Jabari Parker on the defensive end. Parker finished with a game-high 28 points and appeared to be a little bit too much for Otto to handle in the opportunities he had to defend the Duke product.

Trey Burke failed to score but did finish with a season high five assists, including one steal and assist to a Sheldon McClellan and-1 that was a big momentum changer. That play created a five-point swing in the fourth quarter and allowed he Wizards to maintain a lead over the Bucks until Wall was able to close out the last 7:30 of the contest.

Big Picture.

There is no doubt that the Wizards have had better outings than the on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, but at the end of the season this win may be one of the more important results in terms playoff positioning. Washington was able to steal the season series against the Bucks, 3-1, and now hold a very critical tie-breaker over an up-and-coming team should they both finish with the same record. The Wizards got themselves back to .500 mark and on Tuesday will look to have a winning record for the first time since November of 2015 (6-5).

 

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Friday Night Drive on Fun Street — Wizards Over Wolves, 112-105 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/friday-night-drive-on-fun-street-wizards-over-wolves-112-105.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/friday-night-drive-on-fun-street-wizards-over-wolves-112-105.html#comments Sun, 08 Jan 2017 15:55:17 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52532

Yo this John Wall pass! #NBAVOTE pic.twitter.com/gfeKeSLDLj

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) January 7, 2017

The Wizards won themselves a ball game on Friday night. Their stars carried them — all we ever wanted. They, like veterans, countered the punch of young pups — did you ever dream this would be the day? It was fun basketball! — a nice reminder of what it can be with this team and the upteenth tease of potential.

It was an important 112-105 victory, only if it makes the ghosts of last year’s home triple-overtime loss to Minnesota stir — just a nail in Randy Wittman’s coffin. Also on Friday night: the Wizards’ bench was still bad, and in other news, a broken clock is right at least once a day, sometimes twice.

But a win is a win and this was a particularly positive one, even if against a bottom 8 team in the league. Minnesota has got to be the most dangerous bottom 8 team.

Observations.

  • I probably wouldn’t be off in thinking the latest ‘rah-rah’ about Otto Porter’s career (or breakout) season wasn’t on Andrew Wiggin’s mind in some regard. He dropped 41 points on Otto and friends, and that started with four layups/dunks in the first quarter. Porter can stick with Wiggins but he clearly can’t jump as quick as Wiggins, and the Timberpup always seemed to have one last counter-move and Otto’s body could not keep up.
  • Marcin Gortat picked up two early fouls, Jason Smith replaced him and holy crap blocked Karl Anthony-Towns.

  • Andrew Nicholson picked up three fouls in five minutes. Spare me, please.
  • The bench was it’s most terrible in the second quarter. And the starters played even better to bail them out. Get this: they were plus-11 over 6 second quarter minutes. Beal hit a 3, Wall was aggressive, Gortat got a slam (and even drew two charges while in foul trouble himself), and maybe even Markieff Morris did something great.
  • Minnesota took a one point lead with 7:15 left in the second (after Washington led by 9 with 3:05 left in the first), but then the starters’ push gave the Wizards an eight-point halftime lead, 56-48.
  • The starters went plus-1 in the first quarter, minus-6 in the third, and plus-6 in the fourth.

  • And so Wiggins scored 16 of his 41 in the third, going hard at Otto Porter again.
  • Wiggins, amped, bombed a 3 with space from Markieff Morris after what seemed to be a planned switch (which Morris did a good job of against James Harden in Houston). It was Wiggins’ only made 3-pointer of the night in three attempts, but hard to fault Morris for making him shoot.
  • Still, I wonder when the stats will tell us: the chance of player X taking (and making) a 3 on a screen-and-roll switch versus someone 6-foot-9 and above (player Z) when player X has already taken Y amount of drives to the basket so far and that ultimately, player Z should give player X no more than 2.3 feet of space to limited points allowed per possession on such occurrences.
  • Washington built a 14-point lead early in the third and Wiggins and his team came storming back. Zach LaVine hit a couple 3s in a row and Steve Buckhantz was incredulous (Classic Buckhantz). The flurry continued, and somewhere within the Timberwolves scoring 13 points in about 90 seconds, John Wall peppered in three consecutive buckets for his team.
  • Otto Porter helped save some grace in the third quarter with two 3-pointers of his own but the Wizards were outscored 37-24 and the Wolves held a five-point lead entering the fourth.
  • The Wizards scored 32 points in the final period to 20 for the Wolves. But it was a tight contest — tie game at 101 — until 2:30 left.
  • Wiggins still shined in the fourth (9 points), and Karl Anthony-Towns scored six (18 on the night). But after those two, only Gorgui Deng scored in the fourth (5, 15 points total).
  • Zach LaVine scored eight total points (0 in the fourth) and was a game-worst minus-18 (Trey Burke was second-worst at minus-13). Ricky Rubio scored four points on three shots the entire game.
  • John Wall was too amazing. He scored 8 points of his own in the fourth, procured 8 points for Gortat (assisted all of them), and otherwise picked up 2 other assists in the final period — 18 total assists and 18 total points on the night. Six points and two assists came over the last 130 seconds of the game.

The Wizards are back to being as near but below .500 as they can be with a chance today to get back to even in the cold, frozen tundra of … MILWAUKEE. [extreme Steve Sabol voice]

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The Wizards Chemistry Is … Something To Envy? http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/the-wizards-chemistry-is-something-to-envy.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/the-wizards-chemistry-is-something-to-envy.html#comments Sat, 07 Jan 2017 20:50:52 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52523 John Wall and Bradley Beal have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. Just don’t tell that to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Washington’s core of Wall, Beal, and Otto Porter has been intact (relatively speaking) for three full seasons and nearly half of a fourth. Wall and Beal have been the co-future pillars since the latter was drafted in 2012, and Wall has been a Wizard since 2010. With all those years as magic practitioners under their collective belt, it’s easy to forget that each of those players was born in the 1990s.  Between Wall (26), Beal (23), and Porter (23), the average age of the Wizards’ Biggish Three is just 24 years.

Yet, compared to the trio of Timberpups that lead the Minneapolis hoops squad, the Wizards trio is a group of seasoned vets. The Wolves’ Biggish Three of Karl-Anthony Towns (21), Andrew Wiggins (21), and Zach LaVine (21) has a collective 63 years under its belt, and backup point guards Tyus Jones (20) and Kris Dunn (22) round out a group of five players below the age of 23.

This is the second season Minnesota’s core has been in place. Towns is in his second year as a pro, Wiggins and LaVine are in their third. The team, as a whole, has nine players who have played fewer than four complete NBA seasons — in other words, nine players who entered the league either the same year Porter did, or later.

Compared to the Timberwolves’ experience, John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter might as well be Andre Miller, Rasual Butler, and Paul Pierce. Per Basketball-Reference, the Wizards are the 13th-youngest team, with an average age of 26.1 years. The Wolves are the league’s youngest team by a full year, at the tender average age of 23.6 years. The Thunder (24.6) are the only other team with an average age below 25 years, and the league average is 26.7 years.

Washington showed off its wisdom (or something of that nature) on Friday night, outlasting Minnesota for a 112-105 win on the back of takeover-mode John Wall, who finished with 18 points and 18 assists in 40 minutes.

Marcin Gortat, Washington’s eldest statesman by both age and experience, has been with the team since the start of the 2012-13 season, and along with Porter, he’s the third-longest tenured player with the franchise behind Wall and Beal. Only Markieff Morris, who joined the team midway through last season, has fewer than 82 games in a Wizards uniform among the starters.

“They’ve also been playing with each other for awhile,” Towns said of the Wizards postgame. “That chemistry, you can see it on the court. As Wall’s going to the basket, Gortat knows when to stop rolling and to start rolling, or to really move glass. We’re building that chemistry, too, here with the Timberwolves. When we have that type of chemistry, we can really do special things, too.”

“That’s a big part of playing in this league is knowing the league, and knowing what teams do,” Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the loss. “You take things from everybody.”

Not only is the team’s primary trio right at the legal drinking age, but their seven leading players by minutes—Towns, Wiggins, Lavine, Dunn, Gorgui Dieng, Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad—are all 27 or younger. Oh, and they’re currently tied for the league’s fourth-worst record ahead of what is widely believed to be one of the strongest drafts in recent history. Meaning, they’ll likely soon add another top talent below the age of 22.

The Wizards have the benefit of experience and wisdom and (apparently) chemistry, but they’re not sleeping on the fledgling pups.

“We focused on those guys a lot. They have three players that average 20-plus [points per game],” Morris said after the game, referring specifically to Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine. “They have a great group of young guys. Scared to see those guys in the future on the West Coast, but other than that, all of their guys are capable.”

“It was great. It was fun,” Beal added. “We’re all young guys. We’re going to be competing for a long time in this league. Wiggins is a terrific player. He’s going to constantly get better. That whole core that they have is a group of young guys that play tremendously hard and that are extremely talented so you know you got to give credit to them.”

The question is: Will these Timberwolves come to hate each other’s style of play as much as the Wizards’ best players hate each other’s? I mean, check out the bitterness and resentment Beal threw out when he was asked how easy John Wall makes his life on the court:

“Too easy. All you gotta do is run the floor and you’re gonna get open shots. Cut hard and run your plays hard and he’ll find you. It’s just a matter of just playing hard, playing with energy and the rest will take care of itself.”

Savage. Pure and utter disdain.

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Wall, Beal and Gortat Paying the Price for Washington’s Bad Bench http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wall-beal-and-gortat-paying-the-price-for-washingtons-bad-bench.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wall-beal-and-gortat-paying-the-price-for-washingtons-bad-bench.html#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2017 17:18:56 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52510 wallgortatbeal

By any statistical measure the Washington Wizards bench has not played well this season. However, the biggest problem with the bench has nothing to do with their performance on the court. It’s the amount of time they spend off it. The Wizards bench is second to last in the league in minutes played at 14.4 per game.

As a result, Scott Brooks has been forced to lean heavily on his starters – most notably John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat.

The Wizards’ back-to-back games in Texas earlier this week provide the best and most troubling example – @Houston: John Wall (37 minutes), Marcin Gortat (40), Bradley Beal (35); @Dallas, John Wall (39), Marcin Gortat (40), Bradley Beal (35).

This is not good.

John Wall told me back on December 10 that he has played more minutes than he expected coming off knee surgery. At that time, he had played at least 37 minutes in nine of his last 10 games. Since that comment, Wall has averaged over 37 minutes in his last 13 games. For perspective, only three players average as many minutes for the season: Zach LaVine (37.6) Anthony Davis (37.3) and LeBron James (37.2). With his recent increase in playing time, Wall’s season average has climbed to 36.3 mpg, good for eighth in the league.

Joining Wall in the top ten is Marcin Gortat, who averages the 10th most minutes at 35.9. In an ominous sign, the only other team with two players in the top ten is the Minnesota Timberwolves (LaVine, 1st; Andrew Wiggins, 5th). Their coach, Tom Thibodeau, was notorious for running his starters into the ground during his prior stint in Chicago.

Gortat is playing almost six more minutes per game than he did last year and is easily averaging a career high at age 32. And he is spending his extra time on the court doing the kind of dirty work (setting screens and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds per game) that takes its toll on the body.

Beal is at 34.3 mpg, but that includes two injury-shortened games where he played 10:51 and 17:52. If Beal played his normal allotment during those games, he’d jump right into a tie with Karl-Anthony Towns, another one of Thibodeau’s players, at 14th in the league. Beal’s history of managing high workloads is not comforting.

The worst part is that the Wizards have so little to show for all these extra minutes. Brook’s over-reliance on Wall, Beal, and Gortat has not even resulted in a winning record. Brooks is doing this simply to stay afloat in the stagnant Eastern Conference.

If those guys have to play this many minutes in November and December just to chase .500, how much will they have left for a playoff push in March and April – let alone once the playoffs begin and starters minutes rise as rotations shorten.

During their two trips to the playoffs, Wall averaged 38.5 mpg while Beal averaged an eye-popping 41.7. That type of production is a lot harder after you have already played extended minutes over 82 games.

These guys need some quality time on the bench together. (Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

[These guys need some quality time on the bench together.
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.]


This is not to say that Brooks is making a mistake. He may not have a choice right now. Wall, Beal, and Gortat are all having career years. If this team is 16-18 with those three playing this many minutes, imagine Washington’s record without them.

But the fact remains that this type of production – while sustainable over 34 games – cannot continue for the entire season.

Gortat is the easiest fix. When (if?) Ian Mahinmi returns, Gortat’s playing time will return to normal. In fact, he will probably end up playing fewer minutes than he would like on most nights.

Wall’s situation is trickier and may require a roster move. Wall’s fate was sealed on July 3 when Washington agreed to trade for Trey Burke. Burke is not a point guard. That, in and of itself, is not a problem.

The problem is that Washington’s front office expected Burke to be Wall’s primary backup – they said so in his introductory press release – and in doing so they scratched “point guard” off their list of off-season needs without actually acquiring one.

If Brooks does not yet trust Tomas Satoransky to play meaningful minutes in relief of Wall – and Satoransky’s recent string of DNP’s suggests he doesn’t – the front office needs to replace one of its non-guaranteed rookie contracts with a playable backup point guard. Moving Burke to full-time shooting guard carries the added bonus of providing another bench scorer to relieve Beal.

Whichever direction the front office chooses, the current path is not an option. Washington has three roster spots that are producing zero or near-zero minutes (Danuel House, Daniel Ochefu and Andrew Nicholson) and two more producing only sporadic minutes (Satoransky and Sheldon McClellan). Brooks either needs to find a way to squeeze some minutes out of these five players or the front office needs to replace one or more with a player(s) (e.g, Hollis Thompson) who can find the court.

Otherwise, Wall, Beal and Gortat’s long winter will turn into an equally long spring.


 

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Wizards Get Texas Two-Stepped to Start 2017 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wizards-get-texas-two-stepped-to-start-2017.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wizards-get-texas-two-stepped-to-start-2017.html#comments Wed, 04 Jan 2017 23:45:13 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52501

Wall oop to Beal & a beautiful technical. Riiiiiiight. pic.twitter.com/fooql670bQ

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) January 4, 2017

It was all good just a week ago. The Wizards were one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference and on their way to finishing the month of December with a 10-5 record, fully cementing themselves in the conversation as serious playoff contenders in the East. Now the Wizards find themselves having to dig themselves out of a very familiar hole: trying to surpass .500.

The Dallas Mavericks are one of the worst teams in the NBA, and a lot of that has to do with injuries more than a lack of basketball talent. Future Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitizki has missed 25 games this season, but of course he was ready to play against a Washington team he has dominated over his career. The Wizards have just one win over the Mavericks in their previous 12 contests, and throwing current records out, they are still little brother to Mark Cuban’s squad. Dirk started the game at center, his second such start at the position since returning for the previous game against the Warriors. Rick Carlisle pulled a little bait-and-switch on Scott Brooks with his trickery, knowing that Brooks and the Wizards would not be able to help themselves from trying to attack a perceived weakness in Dallas’ lineup.

Instead of trying to attack Dirk with their bread-and-butter Wall/Gortat pick-and-roll, the Wizards ended up wasting many critical possessions of the game force feeding the Polish Hammer in the post. Even Wizards broadcaster Phil Chenier lamented the strategy of continuously going to Gortat in the post: “Marcin has to realize that just because [the ball] goes into him, he doesn’t have to shoot it every time.”

Gortat could not stop himself from taking advantage of his rare shot opportunities, as he is usually not a major priority for the Wizards in terms of offensive touches. Marc finished the game with a respectable stat line of 5-for-11 from the field with 12 points and 16 rebounds, and on many occasions appeared to be the only Wizard actually interested in chasing down rebounds. No other Wizard finished with more than five rebounds for the game, and as a team they were out-rebounded by the worst rebounding team in the NBA, 44-38.

Conversely on the defensive end, Gortat seemed to be confused for much of the night. He was too focused on not leaving Dirk open for jumpers. Instead of letting the defensive coverage roll naturally, Gortat would stick to Dirk all over the court, and that basically left Washington with no rim-protection.

To Gortat’s defense (no pun intended), the Wizards’ perimeter defense was piss-poor on this night. Scott Brooks seemed to think the team lacked a sense of effort.

“I haven’t said that a lot about this team, but we got outworked.”

The Wizards spent a majority of the game attempting to chase the Mavericks off the 3-point line, and after Dallas opened up the third quarter with a barrage of makes from behind the arc, it appeared as if Washington gave up trying to force misses. The Mavericks, sensing that the Wizards were being lazy on closeouts, found driving lanes and forced their way to the free throw line. Dallas shot 22-for-24 from the charity stripe — one of the key differences in the outcome of this game.

#WallStar Not Enough to Makeup for the Bench.

The Wizards found themselves down 11 in the second quarter and it looked as if this game would be getting out of hand quickly. Then John Wall swung the game like a pendulum with a foray of steals, drives, and jumpers.

Thirteen points in less than two minutes of game action is super human. Hours after the NBA announced Wall as December’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month (for the second straight year), Wall was dead-set on not allowing his team to be embarrassed on the road against a 10-win team. Wall finished the game with 27 points, eight assists, four rebounds, and three steals. He did a good job of helping his team avoid a large amount of embarrassment by leading them on a 20-3 run to end the second quarter, but it was still not enough.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Wizards bench was outscored 39-13 when all of the starters once again reached double figures in points. It definitely has something to do with that.

Washington cannot continue to allow the starters to carry the entire load and not receive proper contribution from the bench players. Kelly Oubre appeared as if he would get out of his shooting funk that he has been in since he suffered a concussion against the Detroit Pistons a few weeks back. Oubre scored all eight of his points in the first half, including hitting on two 3-point shots. He seemed to be confident in his shooting stroke coming into the game, and maybe it had something to do with the fact that he had spent the afternoon getting shots up at a local Dallas YMCA with his personal trainer Drew Hanlan.

Give Wave Papi credit for being proactive and not being content with his dip in production, and while the intention was great, it ultimately proved to be more of a distraction because of some whining professionals in Dallas who complained about their lunchtime 5-on-5 being ruined. The Wizards bench as a whole shot 6-for-15 from the floor and still remains on pace to have the worst overall point differential (-17) of any NBA bench in the modern NBA.

The Wizards are completely strapped when it comes to assets, so there is almost no way that they will be able to add a quality piece to complement their already struggling bench without giving something up, i.e., a future first round draft pick. Don’t put it past Ernie Grunfeld to pull the trigger on such a deal, as he has in two of the last three seasons. But it would be beyond idiotic given the approval of the new CBA and the importance emphasized on developing young/cheap labor through the draft. The only way that the Wizards bench will get better is from within, and that will include potentially adding Ian Mahinmi who will be able to spell Gortat, as well as the continuing development of Oubre and Sheldon McClellan.

Maybe it will soon be time for Brooks to turn back to Tomas Satoransky and pray that he has developed more confidence in his shooting stroke. If the Wizards are not able to get more out of the bench, this season will more than likely end up just like last season: Hanging around until the very end, just to fall short of one goal (playoffs), and having nothing to blame but poor performances against bad teams.

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Wizards Undone by Old Friends in Houston http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wizards-undone-by-old-friends-in-houston.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/wizards-undone-by-old-friends-in-houston.html#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2017 22:06:39 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52496 20170102-nene-houston-rockets

For two quarters on Monday night it appeared that the Washington Wizards were going to continue their string of strong December play (a month they finished 10-5 overall) and triumph over the Houston Rockets, one of the elite teams in the Western Conference. Holding a 53-41 lead at halftime, the Wizards seemed poised to take advantage of a listless Rockets team perhaps suffering from a New Year’s hangover after a blowout win over the New York Knicks. Houston’s symptoms included turnovers, rebounding without much conviction, and suffering from an unusually quiet night from superstar James Harden, whose shot was a fraction off a night after pouring in 54 points against the Knickerbockers.

Bradley Beal evidently thought the same: “At the beginning of the game, they were dead — I felt like we were going to win the game by double digits just by the way we were flowing and they had no rhythm.”

Unfortunately the Wizards were ultimately undone by three factors: old friends, Houston’s superior bench, and a superstar who turned it on in the second half. Let’s take each factor in order:

#1) Old Friends.

There is something oddly bracing when one looks at the Houston Rockets and notes that two key contributors to the team used to ply their trade in Washington — Trevor Ariza and Nene. It was almost as startling (and frustrating) that these same two players were responsible for bookending plays in the third quarter that saw Houston erase its 12-point deficit and stretch it to an eventual lead of eight. Following a layup by Harden (and a subsequent 3-point miss by Beal), the ball found its way into the hands of Ariza, who spotted up and drained the first 3-pointer of the quarter. From there, the Rockets began dropping bombs with Ariza hitting another and Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson adding two each to the eventual gaudy stats. The Wizards, meanwhile, were unable to counterpunch as Wall, Beal and Porter could not replicate the same slick shooting. Changing tactics, when the Wizards attempted to drive toward the basket, they were sent away by their former Wizards compatriots — with Nene swatting away an Otto Porter gliding layup and Ariza firmly rebuking Marcus Thornton at the rim.

The #RisenAgain throwback performance by Nene was especially galling, as the ice-encased Brazilian finished off the third quarter rout by scoring on three consecutive possessions at the end (cutting sharply through the lane for a dunk, hitting a Randy Wittman approved fadeaway, and then converting a layup over a Washington defense stretched thin from chasing Gordon and Anderson). Nene seemed seconds away from flexing in front of the Wizards.

The loss of both players are two of the more defensible decisions of the Grunfeld era (Ariza due to price, Nene to age), but it is hard to take that in stride when one compares their output to the Wizards who were signed to replace them. Jason Smith was one of the few players who coach Scott Brooks unleashed from the bench and in nine minutes was largely ineffective. Meanwhile, Andrew Nicholson resides deep within Brooks’ doghouse and his play has yet to replicate Kevin Seraphin’s on a good night.

#2) It’s always the bench, stupid.

This could be summed up by relaying that the Rockets have Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson coming off the bench and the best the Wizards can muster is Marcus Thornton. But the fact that Houston’s bench is better than Washington’s isn’t a surprise — almost every bench in the league is superior to Washington. What Daryl Morey has done (after eons of tinkering) is develop a bench that falls in line with the system of play that his coach employs and one which he demands from his obsessive fixation with analytics. In part, it’s the bench that John Wall dreams of when he goes to bed at night — an entire pine bench full of people who can spot up behind the arc or make sharp cuts to the basket. That Harden is being considered a “better player” this year is not so much that he has dialed down his selfishness (he leads the league in touches), but that he is surrounded by a cast of teammates who are able to convert on the chances he creates for them, if and when he deigns to pass the ball.

#3) The most frustrating superstar.

Watching James Harden right now as a fan of the opposing team must be similar to the experience that other fans had watching Gilbert Arenas at the apex of his abilities — only Harden is much better. Harden recorded another triple double, but most of his damage on the scoring side was done from the free throw line as both Porter and Kelly Oubre were unable to contain the bearded superstar in the fourth quarter. Oubre looked especially perplexed as he was constantly turned inside-out by Harden’s bullrushes to the lane. The difference between Harden and Arenas, however, is that Harden, despite possessing the same allergic reaction to defense, never completely takes the rest of his team out his game. Harden has a more instinctive feel for when his shot is off, which is why he allowed Gordon and Anderson to take the lead in the third quarter before reasserting his presence in the fourth when the whistles of the zebras were more liable to be blown.

If there is a silver lining in this loss (and there rarely are), it is that the Wizards stood toe-to-toe with one of the league’s elite teams for two quarters before being undone by problems that have plagued them for multiple seasons: the inability to defend the 3-point shot and the overextended starters. Both are issues that can be addressed — one through the coaching of Scott Brooks and the other through the acquisition of better talent by Ernie Grunfeld. The latter question is at what cost do the Wizards mortgage the future to improve upon a team that is in the middle class of the Eastern Conference? One can understand the hesitation to allow Grunfeld to work any further “magic,” as that often comes at the loss of future draft picks, roster flexibility, and the sanity of Wizards fans. However, one has to also wonder how long the surgically repaired knees of Wall and the balky legs of Beal can hold up under the pressure of a team that is only 10 men deep and whether it’s worth continuing to run each player out on the court for 35-plus minutes a night when a salve is only one skillfully executed trade away.


 

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The Wizards Fly In and Out of Comfort Zone in Houston http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/the-wizards-fly-in-and-out-of-comfort-zone-in-houston.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/the-wizards-fly-in-and-out-of-comfort-zone-in-houston.html#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2017 16:37:47 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52487

John Wall blasting past the old gods Trevor Ariza & Nene. #Wizards-#Rockets pic.twitter.com/TdOQj07C8v

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) January 3, 2017

With 2:37 left in the 2nd quarter, the Houston Rockets drew a delay of game penalty. Possession went back to the Wizards and an official timeout was called. As the Comcast SportsNet duo of Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier came back from commercial, they both pointed to how impressed with they were with the Wizards’ play up to that point (they led 51-38):

“I dare say that so far, this is the best performance we have seen from this Washington team this year. They’ve had some good games, but right now they are playing crisp on both ends of the court.” —Buckhantz

“What I like about it is offensively, they are not going outside of their own world. They are doing those things that they’ve been doing during that stretch that they’ve been playing so well. Defensively they stuck to the border (the 3-point line). One thing I’d like to see them do is cut down on the turnovers.” —Chenier

The Wizards had six turnovers but Houston (43% from the floor and just 22% from behind the arc up to that point) could not make the Wizards pay for their carelessness. A minute after Chenier made his comment, Wall dribbled the ball off his foot. It was picked up by Trevor Ariza, who then passed it up to James Harden, who was unable to convert the easy layup.

The sequence was emblematic of Houston’s entire first half. The Rockets were out of rhythm on offense, Harden was just 2-of-11 from the field, but Washington grew stagnant at the end and was unable to extend their lead while Houston was down. Wall missed a tip, Bradley Beal missed a layup (he was hit but no foul was called), Marcin Gortat missed a tough turnaround jumper in the lane, and Wall underestimated the length of Montrezl Harrell and got his shot blocked. Yes, the Wizards led by 12 at halftime, but their shooting fell off a cliff, from 59 to 37 percent, and despite Washington’s dominance for much of the quarter, the lead should have been closer to 20, not 12.

Once the third quarter began it was clear that the Wizards’ slowed pace and increased turnover rate was not at an anomaly. It was a trend that cost them the lead before it cost them the game.

Markieff Morris made a bad pass to Gortat on one end, and then committed a bad foul on Harden on the other end, which cut the lead to 10 points. After Beal hit a tough 3, Ariza matched him by hitting a tough 3 in the face of Wall to cut the lead to nine points.

Beal, caught up in the competition with his former teammates Ariza and Nene, took a contested 3-pointer just three seconds into the shot clock on his next trip down the floor and missed. The next offensive possession, Gortat and Beal had two-man game opportunity, but instead of rolling toward the basket for a layup as he had done in the first half, Gortat tried to kick the ball out to the perimeter. It instead landed out of bounds in between Wall and Morris. After a kicked ball by the Wizards, Ryan Anderson drilled a 3-pointer over the outstretched hands of Morris, and the Wizards lead was down to 55-49. Why, you ask?

The Wizards stopped running because Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni clearly implored his team to get back on defense as a whole, and he must have told his big men to keep one foot in the lane to keep Wall out. The driving and cutting lanes were clogged, forcing Washington into traditional halfcourt sets. This shift nullified Wall’s creativity/speed and put the onus on Gortat, Morris, and Porter to make good decisions. Wall and Beal drifted into hero ball, which created even more turnovers.

Washington’s slowed offensive output allowed the Rockets to dictate the pace, and the cold shooting that was so pervasive in the first half turned into the polar opposite. Houston shot 72 percent in the third quarter, led by Eric Gordon who entered the game with 6:27 left in the quarter and proceeded to go 4-for-4 from the field, including 3-for-3 from the 3-point line.

The sequence that best demonstrated how much mojo the Wizards had lost since the first quarter came with 5:50 left in the third. For one possession, Wall shunned the slow pace he’d been showing in the second and third quarters and sprinted down the court after a missed shot by Harden. He got in the lane and absorbed a slight bump from Gordon but missed the layup. Gordon then got the ball, sprinted down the court, faked a 3-pointer, leaving Morris biting on air, and then drove the ball to the basket to cut the Wizards’ lead to six points.

That sequence was seemingly the catalyst for Houston’s progression and Washington’s total regression. The Rockets — led by Harden (3 points) and Gordon (6 points) — went on a 12-2 run and were up by five points after starting the half trailing by 12. The Wizards stopping the running and cutting which had gotten them their seemingly cushy double-digit lead and instead opted for a more sedentary version of offense which involved Porter, Wall, and Beal taking and missing 3s that weren’t in the flow of the offense. Their lead was gone, as was their confidence, and the Rockets were more than happy to take control of the game.

It sounds cliché when athletes tell journalists that if they simply play their game, they will be victorious regardless of what the other team does, but this Rockets/Wizards game may have proved the theory.  Had the Wizards kept running, cutting, and pushing the pace, the Rockets would have to overcome a 20-point lead, an uphill task even with 72 percent shooting from the field in a quarter. Instead, they fell in love with their 3-point shot, they didn’t adjust to the Rockets intensity, and they lost a very winnable game on the road.

To the untrained eye, this loss could quite easily be placed at the feet of the bench. After a sparkling performance against the Brooklyn Nets (50 points), the Wizards bench mustered just 13 points (Kelly Oubre went scoreless in 23 minutes but made meaningful contributions in the intangibles department) — especially when Gordon gave the Rockets 31 points off the bench. But on a night when Harden went just 6-for-24, and the Rockets played about as poorly as humanly possible for the first 20 minutes of the game, the Wizards starters should have been enough.

The Wizards now have less than 24 hours to shun that disappointment and get ready for a matchup against a lowly but dangerous and increasingly hungry Dallas Mavericks team.

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From the Other Side: Throwing Bullets and Finishing at the Rim http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/from-the-other-side-throwing-bullets-and-finishing-at-the-rim.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2017/01/from-the-other-side-throwing-bullets-and-finishing-at-the-rim.html#comments Mon, 02 Jan 2017 20:38:25 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52473 Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use our access to explore what is going on with the opposing team the Wizards are facing. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @TroyHalibur focuses on how the Brooklyn Nets and their adjustments were no match for the Washington Wizards during their 118-95 blowout victory.

The Wizards finally reached the .500 mark by thrashing a pseudo-NBA team in the Brooklyn Nets should not take away from the luster surrounding this team, considering they can only beat the teams on their schedule. The Nets loss to the Wizards marked their 28th consecutive road loss against Eastern Conference opponents. Even with Bradley Beal sitting with a sprained ankle, the Wizards were still eight point favorites. Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson knew that if his team had any chance of winning that they would have to put forth a miraculous effort of slowing down John Wall. Atkinson described the Nets planned pick-and-roll coverage and the in-game adjustments that his team made in his post game press conference:

“I thought John Wall, he creates havoc and created havoc in the pick-and-roll, he was open and then we started sucking in and helping on their roller and he was throwing bullets out there. When he’s scoring the ball like that, which he was in the pick-and-roll and we didn’t do a great job in the pick-and-roll but he had his scoring going. Then you try to really get in there and try to show a crowd against him, he was finding shooters. [Trey] Burke really gave him a huge [lift], hitting those threes and now you’re playing the cat and mouse game, ‘Do you get in? Do you just stay out?’ It’s a great game by John Wall and they shot the heck out of it.”

John Wall’s ability to score the basketball almost single handily foiled the Nets’ gameplan, and as Atkinson said, “We changed our pick-and-roll coverage in the third quarter, I thought it helped us. We forced seven turnovers and became more aggressive doubling the ball, but that wasn’t enough.” When the Nets forced the ball out of Wall’s hands and dared one of the NBA’s best passers to make plays for his teammates, the game turned into a dunk contest for the Wizards in the second half.

The main benefactor of those passes was Marcin Gortat, who went into Friday night’s game just 9 of 17 on dunk attempts for the season. He had five dunks in the second half of the game and he appeared to gain confidence as the game progressed.

It wasn’t just Gortat’s dunks that impacted the game, but Coach Atkinson was even more complimentary of Gortat’s screening ability:

“He’s a very good player. Great screener. One of the best screeners in the league and you say ‘why does John have a lot of those open shots’ well Gortat is screening. On our side of the ball we better do a better job of shedding those screens, avoiding screens but again I’ve seen it. Seen it multiple times. He does a great job screening. He’s a tough guy. He plays hard.”

Gortat is building a solid reputation for himself as being the best screener in basketball, and the Wizards recent success can be attributed to the players taking full advantage of the big man’s nimbleness on the floor. Usually it is Beal running opposing players around until they run into the wall that is a Gortat screen, but on this day it was Trey Burke who took full advantage of an increased opportunity.

Burke had his best game in a Wizards uniform by far, scoring 27 points on 10-12 shooting from the field and 5-5 from beyond the 3-point line. I asked Burke about his confidence in his game lately because of a receiving more consistent minutes and he relished the opportunity to step up in Beal’s absence.

When Scott Brooks was asked about Burke’s breakout performance, he seemed just as surprised as anyone else in the arena:

“I wish I could take credit for some of the rotations, but Trey just had an amazing night. We were just hoping that somebody would come in and give us 10-12 points, and to my surprise, it was 27. I know Trey can score, but you don’t expect 27. I thought he played an excellent ballgame, both sides of the floor – I thought he was defensively really good.”

Jason Smith also continued his streak of consistent play (10 points and 8 rebounds in just 18 minutes, and the Wizards bench led by Burke and Smith scored a season high 50 points. Without the services of Bradley Beal, the Wizards’ bench–one of the worst units in the league (with a scoring average of 24.3 points per game, second to last in the NBA) rose to the occasion and allowed the Wizards to beat a team that should not be seriously contesting them, regardless of any circumstance. As maligned as the Wizards bench has been all season (mostly deserving), the one thing that can not be questioned about them is their effort. The second-unit has played extremely hard all season, despite their clear talent deficit and lack of continuity — for that, they should be applauded.

 

Final Note

  • The Wizards have won eight games in a row at the Verizon Center and we can only assume that some of that success at home has to do with the buzzing atmosphere created by the D.C. faithful. Maybe this recent spike in attendance and crowd involvement has to do with all of the free time fans have over the holiday season, or maybe the Wizards organization is finding a groove at being more proactive in getting fans involved. Two weeks ago it was Wizards Social Media Night and last night the Wizards kicked off their post-game concert series with performances from R&B singers Johnny Gill and Tank.

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Wizards Over Nets — A Return to .500 in Blowout Fashion http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-over-nets-a-return-to-500-in-blowout-fashion.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/wizards-over-nets-a-return-to-500-in-blowout-fashion.html#comments Sat, 31 Dec 2016 14:37:55 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52471

Wizards baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack

— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 31, 2016

It took 32 games, and it didn’t happen until the second-to-last day of 2016, but the Wizards finally hit the .500 milestone for the first time in the 2016-17 season, via a 118-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets — Washington’s largest margin of victory this season. It was their eighth straight home victory, their 10th victory in month of December, their third in a row, and their seventh in the last ten games. The Wizards are now tied for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and if the season ended today — it won’t but people find comfort in using that as a litmus test regardless — the Wizards would be in the playoffs.

Coach Scott Brooks tried to downplay the milestones by saying, “If this was a 32 game season, we’d be really happy”, but he later walked those comments back by admitting that his team’s .500 record was a testament to their ability to “keep chipping away.”

Prior to the victory, there were certainly reasons to be concerned about Washington’s ability to win this home game. Bradley Beal’s sprained ankle was not quite as serious as it initially looked, but he was still a game-time scratch after testing it during warmups. Yes, the Wizards were just playing the lowly 8-23 Nets who were 1-15 on the road with 11 straight losses, but Washington only won by five when the teams played three weeks ago (and the Wizards had to climb back from a 16-point halftime deficit). As usual with this team, Friday night was far from a gimme.

The Wizards began in the most inauspicious of ways when Sheldon McClellan, who started in place of the injured Beal, bit on a head fake by Sean Kilpatrick and committed a foul that was hard enough to be noticed by the referees, but not hard enough to prevent Kilpatrick from scoring, then hitting the free throw. After a missed layup by Marcin Gortat, Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead drove down the heart of the Wizards defense to put the Nets up 5-0. Then they woke up.

The teams were tied at 5, 7 and 11, and then John Wall took over — and he kept taking over all night. First he pulled up and hit a 19-footer, leaving his hand up for a effect after the shot went through. Then he successfully pulled off a heat check by hitting a 3-pointer. Then he stole a pass from former Wizard Trevor Booker, which led to a cutting layup by Otto Porter, and the Wizards were up seven points. The last 1:52 of the first quarter, Jason Smith caught fire with six points to put the Wizards up 29-23, and Twitter was giving him podium status:

Then Trey Burke decided it was his turn to make the much maligned Wizards bench look like gold. He scored the last two points of the first quarter on two free throws and he kept that momentum going in the second quarter. Burke hit his first seven shots, including all four of his 3-point attempts, scoring 18 points (with no assists) in the second, his 20 first half points being a season-high for him. Wall peppered in 10 points of his own, but the quarter belonged to Burke.

Coach Brooks admitted that he had to stop treating Burke like a traditional point guard and acknowledge that his talents would be best utilized in a combo guard capacity. Here’s Brooks speaking on Burke’s 18 point second quarter, and his 27 points overall:

The first three minutes of the third quarter unequivocally belonged to the Wizards. The first quarter saw McClellan surrender a three-point play to the Nets, but in the third, he righted that wrong by drawing a three-point play of his own to put the Wizards up 19. Then Gortat scored seven points on three dunks and a free throw to put the Wizards up 21 points. The next time down the floor Wall, who single-handedly controlled the tempo the entire third period, got a bit too cute and called his own number in the post against Isaiah Whitehead, and then lost the ball.

That turnover seemed to energize Trevor Booker, who scored five straight points. Then the Wizards had a major defensive lapse — a lapse that has assistant coach Sidney Lowe leaping off the bench and imploring someone to rotate. They didn’t and Bojan Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer in the corner. Brooks called timeout to correct his squad.

The remainder of the quarter featured a mix of Wall’s passing and scoring brilliance, along with his carelessness with the ball. The Wizards committed seven turnovers during the third, and Wall was responsible for four of them, which allowed the Nets to stay within 14 points — striking distance for any NBA team. Still, it was difficult to hold Wall accountable for his sloppy play, because he was doing things like this:

And this:

The Nets whittled Washington’s lead down to 12 points with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, which prompted Brooks to put Wall back on the court. But five minutes later, thanks to Marcus Thornton, McClellan and Burke, the Wizards went back up by 21 points and Wall was able to rest the final 4:41 of the game.

The bench, led by Burke (27 points) and Jason Smith (10 points) contributed 50 of the Wizards’ 118 points, which was much needed with Beal out. Yes, Washington was aided by the deplorable Nets defense, but they won a symbolic game, which put them at .500 before a two-game Texas road trip. It appears as if the Wizards are trusting each other and more importantly trusting the system Coach Brooks is attempting to instill. They actually look close to a respectable team, in the East.

Jason Smith on the state of the Wizards and their bench:

The Wizards will have two days to rest, reflect and ponder before they take on the Rockets in Houston on January 2nd, and then the lowly Mavericks in Dallas the next night. The Rockets have won three straight and eight out of the last 10, and the Mavericks are last in the Western Conference with a 10-24 record, but have played much better of late. Two wins will push them further up the playoff food chain, while two losses will marginalize the Wizards as pretenders to the Cavs’ throne.

But for now, fans of this team deserve to bask in the glory of this victory on the Eve of New Year’s Eve.

Final Note.

Marcin Gortat scored an inordinate amount of his points on dunks, which is surprising considering how many bunnies he’s missed during his tenure in Washington. Wall on Gortat’s athletic prowess or lack thereof:

 

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How the New NBA All-Star Voting Rules May Save John Wall http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/how-the-new-nba-all-star-voting-rules-may-save-john-wall.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/how-the-new-nba-all-star-voting-rules-may-save-john-wall.html#comments Thu, 29 Dec 2016 22:38:07 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52460 wallallstar

It’s crazy, but John Wall’s spot on the 2016-17 All-Star team is not guaranteed. For anyone who has watched Wall’s brilliant play this season, the notion that he is not among the top back-court players in the Eastern Conference is patently absurd.

But here’s the problem: the universe of people who have actually watched Wall play this season is depressingly small.

So small, in fact, that ESPN has taken notice and removed Washington’s January 11 game against Boston from its broadcast schedule in favor of a game between small market teams in Oklahoma City and Memphis. John Wall said it best: “If you don’t have League Pass or NBA TV, you don’t see the Wizards.”

The lack of national exposure has real-world consequences in the fake-world of picking All-Star teams.

Case in point: Boston Celtics reporter and twitter-verified NBA writer Michael Pina recently published his proposed All-Star roster for Vice Sports, along with a list of the biggest snubs. Headlining the All-Snub Team … none other than John Wall. The following five guards made Pina’s hypothetical All-Star Team ahead of Wall: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, and Kyrie Irving.

Lest you think Pina is an outlier, he is not. NBA.com asked nine of the most high-profile national writers to list their All-Star starters. None selected Wall. And only two even mentioned him in their notes.

I know what you are thinking: Just because no one named him a starter doesn’t mean he won’t be a reserve.

While you are technically correct, there is a troubling trend in the nine-writer survey. It’s not as if all nine writers chose the same starting back-court. Five different guards made at least one of the nine teams: DeRozan (7), Kyrie (5), Kemba (3), Thomas (1) and Lowry (1).

That puts these national NBA writers squarely in line with Pina’s projections.

Here’s where the new NBA All-Star voting rules might help Wall. For the first time, the All-Star starters will not be selected exclusively by the fans. Instead, fans will account for 50 percent of the vote, and NBA players and media will count for 25 percent each.

This change is huge for Wall for one very big reason: his name is Dwyane Wade.

Wade has been selected by the fans as a starter for 10 of the past 11 years. His only absence was the 2014-15 season when he missed 17 games before All-Star weekend and lost to Lowry by fewer than 16,000 votes – coincidentally, that was the year Wall was voted as a starter.

The new voting structure almost certainly prevents fans from continuing the annual tradition of gifting a starting spot to an undeserving veteran – in this case, Wade. This is a huge boost for Wall’s chances. The only thing harder than fighting five other guards for an All-Star roster spot is having one of those precious spots thrown away on a declining superstar who would not otherwise make the team.

It’s like the Eastern Conference guards are in a high-stakes game of musical chairs and the NBA just added another seat.

Just Win Baby.

There is another way Wall can significantly increase his chances of making his fourth All-Star appearance: Keep winning. The case for Kemba Walker over Wall is based purely on the Charlotte Hornets position atop the Wizards in the Eastern Conference. Just listen to NBA.com writer Fran Blinebury’s reasoning for Kemba’s selection in his piece on deserving first-time All-Stars:

His 22.3 points per game is a career best and goes along with averages of 5.5 assists and 1.4 steals. Walker has worked hard through five NBA seasons to become a better shooter and is now at a career-best clip of 45.4 FG percentage and 41.1 on 3-pointers. He is unquestionably the leader of the team with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference and he should get the nod over Boston’s Isaiah Thomas based on defense and because John Wall can’t ever seem to lift the Wizards out of mediocrity.

Those numbers are nice, but Wall is playing on a whole different level while carrying a much bigger weight on his shoulders. The only stat that skews in Kemba’s favor is the Hornets record: 18-14. The All-Star reserves are selected by NBA coaches and when it comes time to cast their votes, Wall will be considerably more attractive if Washington’s record places them firmly in the playoff picture.

Hopefully that’s the case. Because it would be a shame if Wall’s brilliant season continues to be ignored on the national stage.


 

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Man Down, Fans Up — Wizards Extend Home Winning Streak to 7 http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/man-down-fans-up-wizards-extend-home-winning-streak-to-7.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/man-down-fans-up-wizards-extend-home-winning-streak-to-7.html#comments Thu, 29 Dec 2016 17:09:34 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52436

John Wall & Bradley Beal: fun to watch, probable All Star snubs, #NBAVOTE pic.twitter.com/IPSIlIqvw4

— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 29, 2016

When Bradley Beal did not join the rest of his teammates for the second half of Wednesday’s game against the Pacers, the built-in excuse for an impending loss seemed to be forthcoming. The Wizards are in the process of trying to establish themselves as an above average NBA team, and the anchor must be the consistency of the starting five. Washington’s starting unit of John Wall, Brad Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat play together more often than any other five-man unit in the Association, sans the Minnesota Timberwolves starting lineup. The 19.4 minutes per game that the Wizards starting unit plays has an overall plus/minus of plus-3.6 and when they are on the floor, you can actually see the resemblance of a playoff-caliber NBA team. When a key cog such as Beal is not playing (due to a sprained ankle on this night), the Wizards’ magic carriage turns into a pumpkin, leaving them relying on one of the worst bench units in the league to bail them out.

The true sign that the 2016-17 Wizards might be turning a corner is their ability to finish a game that they probably should not win, given the circumstance. This time, John Wall would not allow his team to succumb to the excuses. Wall went above and beyond to take over the game in the third quarter, when the Wizards were suddenly without Beal and vulnerable, and he out-dueled fellow All-Star Paul George to extend Washington’s home winning streak to seven games.

Playing at home definitely helped. The Phone Booth, with an announced crowd of 16,172, was actively participating and creating momentum with waves of positive energy. Scott Brooks recognized the fact that the Wizards playing hard was the reason for the increased crowd involvement:

“We feel comfortable playing here. The other night [and] good crowds. But they’re excited, we’re playing hard. We’re leaving everything on the floor, and this is a classic example of how we have to continue to play.”

Even Pacers media members had to give credit where credit was due:

The Wizards combatted playing without one of their best players by simply playing harder than the Pacers, and the biggest illustration of that effort showed up in the rebounding department. Washington did not rely solely on Marcin Gortat; everyone pitched in — Gortat grabbed 16 boards, Wall 11, Markieff Morris 7 (1.2 above his season average), and Jason Smith 7. The Wizards out-rebounded the Pacers 54-34, and Indiana head coach Nate McMillan was not happy about it:

“I thought there were some times were we got pushed around and you got to man up down here and we need our guards, everybody to come down and get involved. That’s something that we’ve talked about all season long, we knew that was going to be a challenge. Tonight I thought they came in and just took a couple of offensive rebounds.”

The Pacers aren’t as big of a team as they have been in year’s past, that includes the backcourt that used to consist of Lance Stephenson and George Hill, two bigger guards who relished crashing the glass. On this night, it was John Wall who wanted the ball more when it was up in the air. In addition to his season-high 11 rebounds, Wall was just one assist away from recording his first triple-double of 2016-17 campaign.

For Wall to fail to reach the triple double because of assists is kind of surprising, given the fact that Optimus Dime is one of the more endearing nicknames for an assist maker in this league. Beal’s absence did not allow for Wall to sit back and create for others as he normally does, but it did call for him to takeover the game by finishing plays and making sure that the Wizards did not blow a double-digit halftime lead.

Wall scored 12 of his game-high 36 points in the third quarter, and the Pacers defenders sagged into the lane because of a lack of respect for Washington’s shooting ability without Beal. Not being frustrated with a clogged up painted area, Wall used increased confidence in his shooting stroke to make the Pacers pay. He is shooting a career-high 42 percent on long-two jumpers (36% career), and when I asked him about the confidence he has in his midrange game, he credited not being able to run this summer, forcing him to work on his shot and form.

Wall wasn’t the only Wizard who stepped up in Beal’s absence. Otto Porter scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, and that largely contributed to the Wizards ability to hold on for a much needed victory. Porter did not score his first basket until 20 minutes into the game because he spent a good portion of the first quarter in foul trouble after picking up two quick ones chasing Paul George. Porter is quietly turning himself into one of the more efficient scorers in the NBA. Anytime you can score 22 points on 10 shots, you are obviously doing something right. When I asked coach Brooks if there was a concerted effort to get Otto more involved with Brad out, Brooks complemented Otto’s shot selection:

“Well, Otto does a real good job of putting himself in the position to take good shots. He’s shooting over 50 percent because he takes good shots. I thought his 3 on the pass from Kelly was the shot that probably gave us the best chance to win this game tonight”

Porter does a great job of playing within the offense and not forcing the issue to get more looks for himself. He has always understood that if he constantly moves without the basketball, he will get great shots by cutting and crashing the glass. Otto did not have his typical great rebounding game against the Pacers (just 1 board), because he often had to keep up with George beyond the 3-point arc (10 of PG13’s 20 FGA attempts where 3s), plus the aforementioned foul trouble he had in the the first quarter.

Picking up the slack for Otto’s off rebounding night was the Wizards’ best free-agent acquisition of the summer, Jason Smith. Smith finished with seven points, seven rebounds, and a game-high plus/minus of plus-15. The pick-and-pop aspect of Smith’s game has been a pleasant surprise recently (he actually hit a corner 3 — over Kevin Seraphin!), and he is now showing exactly what the Wizards expected to receive when they signed him as a third big option. When Washington took the game over with a 19-8 run in the final 3:47 of the second quarter — after Paul George picked up his third foul — Smith was able to fill in the gap at the power forward position due to foul trouble from both Porter and Morris. With Kelly Oubre failing to find his groove since he suffered a concussion nearly two weeks ago against the Pistons, Smith has been a more dependable part of the rotation. Out of necessity, Brooks turned to a lineup of Wall, Beal, Oubre, Smith, and Gortat — maybe something the coach can go back to when he feels the need to create an advantage on the glass against smaller teams while still being able to spread the floor on offense. Smith played well enough to get down with a little radio party and get interviewed by Glen Consor after the game.

As of right now, the Wizards are still not holding down a playoff spot, but luckily it’s not a 31-game season. There is still plenty of time for this team to continue to improve and for the fans to grow with a developing team. Beal’s status will most certainly be up in the air for Friday’s contest against the lowly Nets, but as the Wizards proved tonight, one man will no longer stop the show.

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From The Other Side: Indiana Pacers Face An Existential Crisis in MidWestworld http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/from-the-other-side-indiana-pacers-face-an-existential-crisis-in-midwestworld.html http://www.truthaboutit.net/2016/12/from-the-other-side-indiana-pacers-face-an-existential-crisis-in-midwestworld.html#comments Thu, 29 Dec 2016 15:38:49 +0000 http://www.truthaboutit.net/?p=52437 Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use our access to explore what is going on with the opposing team the Wizards are facing. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @LedellsPlace focuses on how the Indiana Pacers coped with their 111-105 loss to the Washington Wizards.

doloresgeorge2

Paul George sat at his locker after the Pacers 111-105 loss to the Wizards with his feet in a bucket of ice, his uniform still on and a wistful look in his eyes. He was answering reporters’ questions in a crowded locker room, but he might as well have been sitting on a metal chair in a cold sterile room having a candid conversation about the world with Bernard.


This Pacers team… I think there might be something wrong with this team.


The Pacers, like Dolores, are facing an existential crisis. They are no longer a good defensive team or rebounding team but they also have not developed into the fast break team that was promised in the off-season. Paul George is coming to grips with the grim reality of his team’s place in NBA purgatory:

You can’t be a fast break team if you are not getting rebounds and not getting stops. That was the goal of this team was to get out and run and get in open lanes. You just can’t do that without the ball. We’re not getting stops well enough to do that. We’re not rebounding well enough to do that. So I think that part of our game is nonexistent.

Therein lies the problem. The Pacers can’t play big and they can’t play small. Paul George seems to yearn for the days of old when the Pacers had an identity. Count how many times George says that the Pacers are “not big” in the following 55 word quote:

I think teams understand that we’re not a big group. We’re not a big team, so they are sending everybody [to the offensive boards]. We are not a transition team. We are not a fast break team, so they are sending everybody. Again, we’re not a big team so in their eyes it’s fair game to get those rebounds.

George knows exactly what the Pacers are not, but no one knows what they are.

Washington continuously exploited the Pacers’ lack of size en route to a startling 54-34 rebounding advantage. The disparity was not lost on Pacers coach Nate McMillan:

They pounded us on the boards, just dominated. Beat us by 20 on the boards, 15 offensive rebounds. You can’t give teams second opportunities like that.

But it was not just a size advantage. For the second straight game, Washington out-muscled its opponent. McMillan wants to see his guys put up more of a fight:

I thought there were some times when we got pushed around and you got to ‘man up’ down there…  That ball is up in the air, it’s free for anybody to go get, we got to box out, scrap, and go get those balls.

All is not lost for the Pacers. The NBA regular season can feel like an eternity, an endless loop of hotels, plane rides and shoot-arounds. Indiana is stuck in a rut but there is still time for them to break free someday. Then again, ‘Someday’ sounds a lot like the thing people say when they actually mean ‘never.’

A Friendly Assist From The Men in Grey.

Nate McMillan and Paul George were fined a collective $25,000 for negative comments about the officiating after their loss to the Chicago Bulls the game before playing Washington. They didn’t get their money’s worth.

The Pacers were called for several questionable fouls in the fourth quarter, most notably against John Wall when he was driving wildly through the lane with little chance of scoring.

The entire Pacers team spent a lot of time chirping at the refs (often for good reason) and it took them out of their rhythm. McMillan commented after the game that his players need to learn to keep their composure.

Paul George did not want to pick up another fine after the game — opting instead for the ‘it is what it is’ stance — but he was clearly upset with a perceived lack of respect from the officials. He won’t find any sympathy from Washington, where John Wall has spent years getting knocked to the ground on drives to the rim with no whistle. For once, it was nice to see the home team get a few friendly calls when the game was on the line.

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